Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Which I Use Copious Amounts of Text to Explore My Quarter Life Crisis

Somewhere in New Mexico, September 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do next. Or, I suppose, what to do *now*. In August of 09 I was laid off, having just made my last monthly payment to pay off all my debt in this world, save some student loans. I had some money in savings. I had no mortgage to hold me in one place, and no more outrageous monthly debt payments that required me to take the highest paying job I could find, regardless of whether it was anything I was even remotely interested in. I had no children, nor even any pets, so I was only responsible for taking care of myself, which allowed for much more creativity and flexibility in where I lived, and furthermore how I lived- couch surfing, for example, is much easier solo than with, say, 2 cats, a dog, and a 4 year old in tow. I was young and healthy, so despite being unemployed I was able to get fair health insurance for about $100 a month. So I spent the last semester of school writing my thesis, furiously applying for jobs, and taking advantage of my unemployed status by moving to California to live in Hollywood with my good friend Jess. I bookended my California stay with a 3 week long road trip to get there in the first place, and wrapped it up with an Amtrak ride from L.A. to Seattle, then back down to San Francisco, then back to L.A. to meet up with Bobby and road trip back home to Texas in time for Thanksgiving and a final edit of my thesis. When I graduated in December of 09 with my hard earned masters degree- until my unemployment I had worked full time and gone to school full time- I was finally closing in on a job lead. It was not my dream job, but a very good paying job that would allow me to live in my studio apartment downtown, 4 miles from work, and pay off my student loans while saving to leave the country (I’d been planning a one to two year jaunt that had been scheduled to begin May 2010, but would now be pushed back to May 2011). After several interviews over two months I landed the job in February, and started training in March. And halfway through March? Bobby got a job in Colorado…that started in two weeks. Since you all know I’m living in Colorado now it’s not hard to know that I chose to move to Colorado with Bobby. Our original plan was that we’d be here one year. I looked for jobs (and am still looking for jobs) but our college town is rather small and jobs are hard to come by. So, I took on the two internships I’m currently working through, as well as the volunteer shifts with the no-kill shelter, plus online classes towards a post-grad certificate. I assumed I’d keep myself busy this year, and come May 2011 we’d leave the country...

But now? We’re kind of re-thinking that plan. Bobby has a very good job with a tech company, doing all sorts of crazy computer science software development things that I’m pretty sure are witchcraft, and whatever magic he’s doing with programs makes him very happy. It seems foolish, in this terrible economy, to exit the job market without another job in hand. Unfortunately his job is not work from home friendly at the moment, so that isn’t an option. All of this led to us hanging out in the hot tub for about two hours a week ago, talking about potentially changing our “one year in Colorado” plan. Now, it looks like we’ll be here another year. Which leaves Bobby in the exact same position, working for the same company, good to go and happy about it. And I’m happy for him. But as for me? Interning and volunteering keep me busy, but I’m used to being VERY busy. I mean, I’m the girl that took 4 grad classes while working full time, serving as the Democratic Precinct chair in Dallas, campaigning weekends for Obama, and dating 3 or 4 boys at once while going to the gym 3 times a week and also somehow managing to do things like shower and eat and sleep sometimes. I thrive on busy. And while this year I’ve been clocking around 30 to 40 hours a week between my internships, volunteer duties, class work, and housework/cleaning/errands, I miss being breakneck, productive, I-am-a-mistress-of-productivity watch me work and bow in awe at my organizational skills kind of busy. I get so much more done the more I have to do.

So, the point of this insanely long navel gazing post is that I’m now wondering what I need to do next year. When we were just going to be here for one year before skipping off to back pack through Europe and pick fruit on organic farms in exchange for room and board, a “just for now to make money” job was fine. But bordering on two years seems to be presenting itself as an opportunity to start making some grown-up choices about future careers. I find myself perusing the course listings at the local university to see what kind of a “this is what I am, so hire me” degree I can get. Mostly, I’m trying to get licensed as a teacher. I would always say- back when my leave the country plan was May 2010, before the unemployment spell that set it back a year- that I wished I had a teaching degree before I left the country, because then I could teach at international schools, instead of just teaching English. I actually really enjoyed teaching English, but most of what I didn’t enjoy was directly related to not speaking the same language as my students, and not being able to build a rapport with them very easily as a result. If I was, say, teaching social studies in Germany at an international school like my friend did, most of my struggles with teaching would be gone. Not that teaching is ever going to be easy! I’ve had a manual labor job, driving a forklift for 6 days a week, sometimes up to 12 hours a day in Kansas summer heat, and I’ve worked long shifts as a waitress under a despotic boss who didn’t understand things like breaks and lunch time, yet teaching left me more exhausted most days than either of those jobs. But it was a good exhausted.

So right now I’m spending hours researching Colorado requirements, and tests, and costs. But I’m also second guessing spending that much time on getting certified, because while I enjoy teaching it still feels very much like a “just for now” career. I suppose that’s fine though. It’s something I enjoy, and if it allows us to live in an apartment instead of a tent while traveling all the better. Although, is it weird that a part of me prefers the tent? Really all this comes down to the fact that, ironically, the problem is precisely what I detailed waaaaaay up there in the first paragraph- I have too many options. I don’t have anything that is swaying my decision one way or the other. Bobby was enamored with the idea of my world traveling trip from our first date, so I know he’s on board, and he’s really the only other human in my direct sphere of interaction impacting what I do. He’s also so very supportive of anything I want to do- from law school to teaching to anything I happen to be talking about at the moment. He understands that he’s set, and I’m still figuring things out. The problem is that it’s truly all wide open. And sometimes all that wide open space, the endless possibilities, can be overwhelming. There isn’t a big, blatant, “This is the right way to go” sign. There is no right answer. It’s harder than you might think to deal with all that open space. With no fences or roads or blocked off areas the freedom sometimes paralyzes me with indecision, because I can’t automatically ignore this area or that possibility due to x,y,z constraints. Nope, it’s pretty much all available to me. There is no right answer. There is no right answer. I just need to say it enough until I believe it. That way I can make a decision about what to do next without immediately thinking “but is that the right thing to do?”

This long ramble was inspired by this post at a blog I love-


  1. I hear ya Cortney, I've been more or less in that place for the last 7 years.

    I'm beginning to get some sense as to what type of responsibilities I'd like and what drives me, but what I'd specifically like to do... no idea.

    It bothers me at times and more so right now, with school and all that needed to be prepped for. But I've gotten pretty good at remembering it's not the end of the world if plan A fails. I know I'm a good worker, I've never left a job with anything but a great reference, and at this last one I've had this half year, I left being told I had a steady job if things don't pan out in America.

    You're a very smart, very capable lady (frankly, too capable at times, but I know you like to stress around, we're just very different there), whatever you do, I think you'll be good at it, and I'm not one of those people who'll throw that statement around to everyone. Screw careers, do what makes you happy, if that were to be driving a forklift 12 hours a day, then do that (I know it's not, but you catch my drift). If you're unsure now, then do something that seems interesting to you, and figure out that way if it's something to go for. Either way, good luck... to the both of us.

  2. Thanks for reading that epic post, haha. Oh man, I so know the feeling you're having of trying to prep for school but not knowing what you want to do yet. Hence my getting two interdisciplinary studies degrees- yay jack of all trades, master of none! :)

    I can only imagine how you're feeling now, getting ready to head to America. I know you'll do great as well. Good luck to both of us indeed. I'm sure once we know what we want to do we'll be *awesome* at doing it. Thankfully we're both smart, hardworking people. That gets us at least half way compared to some folks.

  3. "There is no right answer" is right. Just pick something and do it. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just start something. Even if it's just for "right now" at least you are being productive with this time you have between now and when you go gallivanting around Europe. You're not going to be traveling forever so all this education you're getting will only help you once you finally settle down and decide on staying somewhere.

    Anyways, good luck figuring out where and what to start. But don't really think, just do it. Just start something and then you'll find it just might the right thing.

  4. Maybe you should pick up chess.

  5. Daniel, you'll have to teach me :)