Sunday, December 5, 2010

Alphabet Soup - C is for Career Change

I was planning on sharing that chicken curry recipe with you today, since it's Alphabet Soup Sunday and all. Then the reverb prompt came in.

Let go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

For me, this has been the year of letting go. I wrote about some of it in my first reverb post here. One of the biggest changes has been letting go of the career path I was on. The path that I was convincing myself I needed to be on. In oder to do that I needed to let go of many perceptions and ideals, mainly about myself, and my worth. Wouldn't a C for Chicken post be so much for fun, and light, to write about instead? Alas, I'm realizing through my current tension and tears, that this is what needs to come out, right now. Big breath, and here we go.

I was late to the career game. I left high school without finishing, partly because I wanted to prove that I didn't need an education (Bill Gates?) and partly because (what I am only understanding now) I was overwhelmed by the effects of trauma. I wanted to be an actress, or a filmmaker, and that lasted until my early twenties, when it became clear that if I wanted a grounded life, I needed a "career". Which meant that I needed an education. Sigh, give in.

It took me a year to decide on a diploma in Child and Youth Work. I was too afraid to tackle a degree and this program seemed like a good fit. I have a natural tendency to read people's behaviour, and I was so very good at taking care of others. I was working in the field before I was finished my first year. I loved it. I was challenged. It was intense and I could see the result of my work clearly in the teens I was helping. It took me five or six years to finish a three year program because I was determined not to take student loans. I Needed to work, and I needed to do it all. Needless to say, my health was not at its best. I found a way though, to work fewer hours, and finish that diploma.

And then I fell in love with the West Coast. And I Had to move, because it's what my heart wanted. I new immediately that it was the right decision. The slower pace of the city I moved to is so good for me. I am not being bombarded and overstimulated daily. And it came with a cost. That diploma I had freshly finished would only grant me a position as an Educational Assistant, since Child and Youth Workers aren't utilized in the classrooms here. Some schools have one Youth and Family Counselor, which would mean upgrading my diploma to a degree. Which I decided to do, because there was a great bridging agreement. And a degree would eventually grant me access to a (coveted) Masters in Counseling. And then, then, I would make decent money.

I didn't love the degree courses the way I really dug some of the diploma courses. There were a few, and they were more related to counseling in general. Also, my issues with writing and deadlines were really rearing their ugly head. It felt like I was slogging through mud. It didn't help that my job happiness was on a slow decline as well. There wasn't enough of a challenge for me, probably not enough gratification and validation, and the environment was toxic (dealing with the admin staff made me feel like I was back in high school). And again, reduced hours to help balance the school work load, frequent time off for health concerns. I remember Maverick asking me why I did the job I did, especially since the pay was so low. I told him that I really loved to help people, to which he responded that there were other ways to give of yourself. I couldn't see it. It needed to be my job.

Then the breakdown. Then the leave. Then the rebuilding. In the process I've been learning how easily I would offer my help to others, and how difficult it has been to consider helping myself. I was so good at my job because I was so tuned in to everybody else's needs, emotions, reactions. I thought I was an incredibly self-aware person, and in a way I was, except it was always reflective. Ask me in the moment how I was feeling, or what I was needing, and I would probably come up blank. Two fabulous words I've been incorporating more into my vocabulary are No and I. They come in handy when I feel swayed by the glory of someone needing me. Which is much less often now, since I'm learning that we gain so much more when we take care of ourselves first. Remember how they told you on the plane to put your oxygen mask on before helping with someone else's?

So what about a career? Here's what that process is going to look like now. For one, I'm not returning to work and will embrace student loan debt with open arms. I'm currently upgrading my missing high school puzzle pieces so I can complete a Bachelors of Science - a double major in Computer Science and Psychology! Computer Science is something I never would have considered if my world hadn't been turned upside down. And yet it's a perfect fit - creative and ordered :) Hopefully I can utilize some of the diploma and degree credits I already have for the Psychology requirements, and the door to the Masters in Counseling will be wide open. When I go through the course descriptions for both majors, I get excited. No trepidation, just simple eagerness to move forward.

And now I dream of finding a job that will bring me joy, and a lot of money so I can enjoy my life and all of its adventures. That's a whole lot of new for me. And it's okay. I've been volunteering since I've been on leave and I'm learning that giving back and being helpful can be found everywhere. I don't have to hand myself over with all of my energy, and get little in return, to believe that I'm making a difference.

So here's to letting go of dreams that were nothing more than poorly formed beliefs in disguise. And here's to grabbing on, and holding tight, to dreams that carry you to greater heights and allow you to soar.


Emily said...

It's so frustrating when you lose faith in everything you thought you were working so hard for; when illness is a factor, it's more than losing faith- often you physically HAVE to let go. I'll try not to be lame and offer one of those "another door always opens" kind of analogy (oops), but good for you for realizing and adapting to what life gives you! Sometimes I like to look at course catalogues just to get inspired:) I hope to one day get my Master's and PhD, but first must tackle my student loan debt to some degree!

Cinderita said...

Letting go of dreams we thought we should have leads to something even bigger and likely more fulfilling. I'm excited for you.


Creatively Sensitive said...

Thank you both for reading all the way through my Essay! I think we're all learning that life is way more satisfying when we let go of the vice grip we have on our expectations, and enjoy the ride :)