Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The claw end of a hammer

I feel like I'm in the midst of a battle. I need advice.

When I was young, I was a head-in-the-clouds daydreamer with imaginary friends. I read fiction constantly and sculpted tiny animals out of clay. I delighted in anyone who was smart or weird or funny or talkative or thoughtful. By the time I got to high school, I was social butterfly. I joined clubs, made friends, and won awards for graphic design. I cried; I made best friends; I worked on a farm. I was Sensitive, and I was going to make the world a better place.

And yet.

I was also a straight-A student with a strong aptitude for math. When I was in elementary school, I saved most of my allowance for college and (I wish I were joking) retirement. In high school, my realistic and grounded side wrote and pushed through new bylaws for the National Honor Society. I did extremely well academically (despite my propensity for constantly losing important papers and forgetting homework assignments).

The older I got, the more I've felt like two people in one body.

My no-nonsense side got me into excellent colleges (with scholarships). It got me out of bed in the morning and to work on time day after day, year after year, and convinced me follow the rules for setting up IRAs and emergency funds and 401(k)s. It is the reason I have a great resume with upward progression and a decent amount of savings in the bank. My practical side has kept my feet nailed to the floor when my flighty side would have long ago filled me up with helium and carried me off into the clouds in search of something shiny and new.

I've never really trusted my flighty side. In my early and mid twenties, it had a habit of chasing bad boys and butterflies. But while my flighty side has perhaps been what has led me to periods of disorganization and depression, it has always also known what will make me happiest. It never let me get away with saying, "Hey, I know my boss is sort of a sociopath, but a few more months at this job will look great on my resume." Even after some truly awful dates (and, come to think of it, boyfriends) it never let me give up on the idea that one day I would meet a nice guy. It has always been the part of me that has said "Why not just try stand up comedy/horseback riding/making tiny birds for the top of your wedding cupcakes?" My flaky side, especially after a couple of beers, is a lot of fun. Heck, for the most part, Flaky writes this blog.

I was shaken last week when I found out that my position would be eliminated at the beginning of September. I am, after all, a person who plans, who makes lists, who wants to know what is going to happen next. However, I am also a person who enjoys - even thrives on - change. I felt trapped in my old job; it paid well, but I didn't enjoy the work. I spent most of my time alone with computer code that I found neither interesting nor inspiring. I lived for evenings, weekends, and vacations. As upset as I was last week, this week I'm beginning to realize that this job loss may be one of the best things to happen to me this year.

I have several options right now. Older, wiser people and many of my friends have suggested I get a job, in my current field, as soon as possible. Of course, they say, I may have to take a pay cut, but the important thing is to not have any gaps in my resume. My logical, reasonable side thinks they're right. My rational side, has, in fact, already talked me into applying for two jobs that seem somewhat interesting (although I did draw the line at applying for an opening at the organization where my stalker ex-boyfriend works).

Oh, but my flaky side... My flaky side dreams of finding a part time job at a coffee shop to keep me busy and cover my (admittedly low) expenses while I go back to school. (My flaky side, of course, found a perfect part time teaching program I'd planned to apply to long before I'd even caught wind of the layoffs.) Flaky reasons that I can get on Achilles' health insurance plan and count Job #2 as continuous employment, so I won't have to worry that much about a gap in my resume anyway.

Flaky is being awfully darn persuasive. To complicate matters, I got some potentially really exciting (but very tenuous) news about a hobby taking off. At this point, I am afraid to even dream that it might ever be more than a hobby, but right now, I love this hobby. I want to have time for it, and not only for it, but for Achilles, my friends, my nephew and niece, and the myriad other things that keep me sane by pulling me in a million directions. I am, after all, Distractible. I'm afraid that two jobs and school will lead me down the path where dreams go to die.

On one hand, I know that people gain wisdom through experience. The advice I'm receiving about getting a job NOW isn't being given lightly, or because people don't know or care about what's best for me. In fact, a lot of these people have probably spent time chasing dreams that didn't work out. On the other hand, though, I feel like I've been given a fantastic opportunity, and I'm afraid to let it pass me by.

Above all else, I'm tempted to shake myself and tell myself I'm too old to have my gaze so firmly fixed on my navel.

What do you think, Internets?


Diary of Why said...

I think you know, deep down, what the answer is. So listen to yourself!

bcsmithereens said...

I agree with Diary! Don't be rushed into deciding. Be at peace with whatever you decide.

D said...

The change, for me, was ceasing to define who I am by what I do to make money.

I like the job because it is interesting enough, pays well enough, has good benefits, and lets me have a life (my real life) outside of it. Plenty of time for you to pursue your hobby.

I haven't found someone, yet, who loves to go to work. Doesn't matter what the job is. So, sure, change your job. Do it. Just be realistic about how green the grass is.

texpat said...

So you know - taking time off and going back to school is NOT flaky. It's a hard decision that not everyone could do and it's not right for everyone, but if you really feel pulled to do it, then follow your instincts!

Do you think you can be a teacher? Is it something that you have wanted? Or dreamed about while doing your current job? At the end of the day, you have to do what will make you sleep better at night. Only you have to live with the results of your decision - and what better role model to your niece and nephew would you be to follow your dreams??

You've got to decide what is more important - making a lot of money doing something you don't necessarily love or making a bit less money doing something you really enjoy. I know the decision I made, but only you can decide it for yourself.

Kim said...

I think Flaky has a point. And gaps in your resume at this point in time aren't as big of a deal because everyone has been out of work at least once during this recession. And if you're going back to school, that's a perfect excuse.

I say go with Flaky.