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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finding a way to live Unstuck

I'm going to be 39 in November. This means I'm almost to the dreaded 40. It doesn't seem like I should be this age, and yet, here I am. Almost middle-aged and I still haven't figured out what to do with my life.

This is my biggest regret in life. The thing I haven't done. Which is, find work that satisfies me and at the same time, pays enough to live comfortably. 

I have done lots of cool shit with my life. I've moved around. I've made interesting friends. I've had enlightening conversations about tough topics with intelligent people. I have visited foreign places and gotten to know the culture. I have read good books. I have held many jobs. And hated most of them. I have also had a few that I loved. I have faced many of my fears.

I don't regret any of the shit I was always told I would live to regret. I have a tattoo. I smoked for 18 years. (Ok, I do regret that one, mostly because I worry that it will affect my health negatively someday.) I've dyed my hair every possible pseudo-natural color. I married a guy I barely knew and moved to a country (Japan) that ate rice at every meal even though I hated rice. (Love it now.) I had sex before I got married. I got divorced. I did drugs. I drank lots of booze. I have an illegitimate child.

Let's see. I'm sure there's more.

My point is, I don't regret any of that shit. All the crap that older people tell younger people they will live to regret, young people, no you won't. You won't regret any of that stuff, unless it leaves you maimed for life or kills you, and even then, you might not regret it. You won't regret it because none of that shit matters in the long run.

Insertion of Disclaimer: I do not advocate drug use or alcohol abuse, in any way shape or form. Doing that stuff has very likely done some physical damage to my body that I'm sure I will regret some day, and well, I'm pretty sure I'm missing some brain cells. I'm lucky to have survived those years relatively intact.

Back to the topic:

But mostly, the stuff I regret are the things I didn't do. The boys I was scared to talk to. The vacations I didn't go on because I was single and had nobody to go with. The fashions I didn't try because I thought it wasn't "me." The jobs I didn't apply for.The degrees I didn't get.

Several years ago a co-worker, who was 50, while talking about our jobs, told me that she wasn't planning on "doing this forever" that she had plans in life, she just hadn't put them into action yet. I thought to myself, "This may not have been what you planned to do with your life, but this is what you've done. It's done. This is what you did." She was stuck. She had been stuck for 20 some-odd years.

I don't want that to be me. Not that I think it will. Because the one thing I am right now is, Not Stuck.

Becoming a mom is sort of like taking a vacation from life. It gives you a chance to reflect on what you will do when the child is grown. There's no way to deny that the time you are in, will end one day. There's no way to get stuck raising children. That job always ends.

Right now I'm in a position to set the tone for the second half of my life. I've been trying to figure out what the hell kind of work I'm going to do for the next few years. My time at home with Annika is coming to an end. Some people in my life think it should have already come to an end. One of the reasons I haven't started back to work yet is because I don't want to just settle for any old job. I don't want to get stuck again. It happened to me once and I have been avoiding it ever since.

This isn't just for me. I think it's important to model the kind of life I want for Annika, and I don't want to model Being Stuck. I want Annika to feel free to do what she wants in her life. I want her to find the right work. Work that makes her feel happy. Work that frees her mind. Not work that makes her want to tune out, but tune in.

In order to do that, I need to ensure that I like what I do. I don't want to spend the rest of my life pounding away for a company that doesn't give two shits about me and will boot me out the door if they think it will earn an extra 50 bucks a year for each stockholder. Nor do I want to work for a company that will take out an insurance policy on me when I start dying of lung cancer and then rush to up the premiums every time I take a turn for the worse. 

Unfortunately for me, the economy is in the fucking toilet, thanks Bush, I blame you for this mess we're in, you fucking moron. So, in all reality, I may have to do some settling. In all likelihood, I will. And that sucks. Because what I want in life is to spend time with my kid; do work that stimulates me; and feel like I've given something good to the world. Instead, if I'm not careful I could easily end up pushing some sort of drivel through some sort of chain of command, as some sort of white collar workhorse.

I jerked around during my 20s instead of launching a firm career plan. Because of that, now, at almost 40, I have only a few years experience in a dying industry where all my competition for jobs are younger than me, and don't have children.

As a kid all I was ever told about working was, "You gotta have a job. If you are married and have children, you need to have something to fall back on." Nobody ever told me that work should be interesting, or passionately motivate me.

I didn't figure that out until I was in my 30s and so then I started down a career path in journalism, which was cut short by a dying economy, which was killing an industry that was being ruined by idiots who don't understand technology.

The current society is not forgiving. Competition is stiff for crappy jobs. Jobs that I don't even want, and have little chance to go anywhere even if I got one of them. When I was young, I always thought that if you wanted to work, you could work. I was too young during the recession in the 80s to realize what was going on. Plus, nobody in my family got laid off, so it didn't hit home for me.

As a young married woman in the 90s, the economy was good. My husband was in the military, so we never worried about him losing his job, and I always managed to find work.

So what do I do? I don't know yet. I have more thoughts on all of this, but I am going to stop for now and pick it up later. Or not. Which is pretty much my M.O.

For those of you who are following my series on Attachment Theory, I apologize for not posting this week. I'll pick it back up on Monday.

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