A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Around & Around & Around She Goes

[Note: This post is something of a continuation of my entry from Friday, January 14 – follow this link if you would like to read that posting.]

Once upon a time, I was living in the Land of Youthful Ignorance and planning to be an Important Author and Artist. I studied Creative Writing and Literature in college, making sure to take plenty of other extremely useful classes like choir, life drawing, mixed media arts and religious studies as well. During the summers, I worked as a camp counselor and made crafts along with the kids.

Then I decided that I wanted to do something more “significant” with my life. This idea was partly the result of a Bad Dating Experience, which led to a Stirring Religious Experience, all of which I now understand to be the epitome of cliché. (I’m over-simplifying more than a little bit, of course, but sometimes you have to make light of these kinds of things.) So, my next life plan was to become a church employee, providing social and emotional support to college students like myself who had encountered similar Rude Awakenings to Life.

Living with the protection and support of other church members, I was able to remain a fairly blissful resident of the Land of Youthful Ignorance. While I wasn’t able to make a very big paycheck—donations will only pay a fraction of the rent—my parents approved of my involvement with Christian campus ministries and agreed to pick up the financial slack. Not to mention my adorable grandparents, who never came to visit without bringing me a few sacks of groceries and a big jar of pickles for my roommate. So I never had to worry about whether the bills would get paid or that I might run out of food.

But when my love affair with church was disrupted by an Upsetting Religious Crisis, I had to find a new plan for my life. Again. Up until this point, my impressive resume had included employment as a waitress, a summer camp counselor, a church intern and an on-campus dining services employee. Not exactly any jobs that seemed as though they would help me to build a career. At this point in my life, this was a cause for concern—in another year, I would be graduating. I would have a four year liberal arts degree that had trained me to write bad poetry, and only too late into my degree had my boyfriend managed to convince me that as an Author, I wouldn’t even be able to afford Ramen.

When said boyfriend (now husband) suggested that I take a job as an on-campus tutor and try my hand at teaching, I balked. My mother is a teacher, and her many complaints about exhausting days and stacks of papers to correct had made a vivid impression on me. I had already decided that teaching was definitively not the way to go. Yet, the job as a tutor would let me sit in on some of my favorite literature classes with some of my favorite professors. Get paid to listen to lectures on books?! The job had some immediate upsides. And that’s why I took my first teaching gig.

Author. Artist. Childcare Professional. Church Employee. Food Industry worker. Tutor. There still didn’t seem to be a whole lot of direction to my vocational path. Around and around and around she goes. Where she stops, nobody knows.

Church Employee. Food Industry Worker. Tutor… and then came graduation—and I still had no clue what to do. In that last year of college, I had discovered that I liked teaching, but didn’t have a degree in Education, so that didn’t seem to be a long-term career option. I had a panic attack while looking at job postings on careerbuilder.com, finding that according to the list of desired credentials that accompanied each post, I wasn’t even qualified to be someone’s secretary. Apparently you need to have clerical experience to get hired for a gig like that—they need hard evidence that you can work the complicated office fax machine. But I figured that even if I did get a job like that, I would spend all day entering data and filing papers. This caused more panic—I pictured myself in a scene from Office Space, taking a baseball bat to the copier.

In hindsight, I have to admit that I was/am too spoiled—all I wanted to do was to play like I was a grown-up, but not actually be a grown-up. I don’t think I really felt up to the task. (If you are interested in this subject, please see my previous entry “The P-Word,” as well as “This Is Why I’ll Never Be An Adult” by Allie on her hilarious blog Hyperbole and a Half.) It has not been easy for me to admit that I have a spoiled attitude, though. Who wants to admit to such incredible immaturity? (Except Allie.)

As I chafed at the idea of working as a secretary, my husband and I came up with a plan—since a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature isn’t that useful on its own, I could go to graduate school! I started studying for the GREs, looking up various Literature graduate programs on the internet, and filling out applications. I was accepted at American University and devoted myself to the intense workload for two years, which took a significant toll on my health. Then after I graduated and we moved to New York, I came to the upsetting realization that I still wouldn’t be able to get a full-time job teaching at a college around here (another subject for another post). Teaching at a high school is only an option if I go back to school to earn a teaching certificate. So I have returned to the same question again—what do I do with my life?

I am back to skimming long lists of discouraging-looking job posts, trying to figure out if I have the qualifications necessary to be hired a rung or two up the ladder from the office filing clerk. Sometimes I want to give up and accept the title of “homemaker,” despite how that offends my (admittedly skewed) feminist sensibilities. And then I have strange thoughts, like “Maybe I should look into a career in restaurant management.”

Around and around and around she goes. Where she stops, nobody knows.

Does anyone have some Dramamine?

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