Sunday, September 20, 2009


I am in a career crisis right now. For the last two years I have been unemployed/self-employed. At the encouragement of my husband, I stopped working after 16 years with the same company (earning a solid salary with awesome benefits). My husband and I had been married less than a year, and he was really struggling as a brand new work-at-home stepdad. I was working too many hours. The situation just wasn't working. The only solution we could find was for me to quit my job and start my own company doing independent IT consulting. Yeh, it's as boring as it sounds....

The first six months of staying at home, I felt lost. More of my identity than I ever thought possible was wrapped up in my work. Initially, I didn't find any work. I did interview for a couple of jobs and promptly walked out since I really would rather be at home than do the work they were offering. I got lots of calls for contracting jobs, but many of them didn't pay enough. I studied for certification exams in the programming language I use, which made me very sleepy.

One of my friends from work told me I should stop being a programmer and be a writer. Just do it. Don't worry about getting a master's degree.

During this first few months, I wrote only a couple of times. I made the mistake of letting my family read my writing and stopped. I didn't even write in a journal.

Just after I took a really great consulting job, I found myself very sick and unexpectantly pregnant at 40. I didn't handle pregnancy very well in my 20's or 30's. At 40 there was nothing good about it. I had contractions through the whole pregnancy and couldn't go anywhere since I felt like the baby was going to fall right out of me whenever I stood on cement. It sucked. My baby is beautiful and sweet as can be. He was well worth it, but that 9 months I was pregnant was pretty much a loss for me moving forward in my career as was the 6 months after I had him.

Last spring, I managed to pass my first certification exam (yeah me!), which made me feel great. It was on developing Windows Forms applications. Since I passed the exam, I haven't used it at all and haven't written even one application. Except for the line I can add on my resume (but haven't bothered to add yet), it may have been a worthless endeavor except to prove to myself I can do it.

As I studied for the next exam, I had an epiphany: If I had spent the same amount of time writing as I had spent on studying for certification exams, I would have written a novel by now.

My husband agreed. He said hesitantly that if I want, I can just write. I don't need to make any money, but I should be happy and do what I love. Sweet, but impractical. I do need to maintain the potential to make money.

I tried writing some articles on on-line sites that promise you can get up-front payments, etc. I made $5.09 after several articles and several hours of work. I don't think so. It became a diversion from writing what I want to write, a means of procrastination. I was consumed with getting a writing star. After two weeks, I got two stars then I stopped caring. It is also demoralizing to write on sites like this where fellow (mostly illiterate) writers, who can't use a comma properly to save their lives, judge your writing. I think I'll let a real editor or English professor do this for me.

Panicked over what I should do with my time (program, study, get a job in the real world, write, go to graduate school, twiddle my thumbs, stare at the walls, etc.), I signed up for a writing class at the feminist writing center that I heard was wonderful. I missed the first class but got a phone call from my instructor. The course is entitled something like "Coming Home to Self." It seems to be a course on writing that is actually geared toward writing as a means to find direction in your life. Perfect timing. The instructor explained to me that we should write in a journal daily, and also can opt to do things that inspire you every day. They suggest making a poster of who you want yourself to be - all I see on my poster is hippie symbols, although I'm not sure why - I may need to pass on the poster option although I'm guessing it will make the other people in the class laugh (or stare at me in bewilderment).

Writing practice is definitely good for me. It's like doing situps. The more you do, the more you can do. It hurts, it sucks, but it makes you strong. It must be done every day to make a difference. The best part is you can't do other things while you do it. The time is for you, not for your baby, your husband, or your older kids who don't appreciate your efforts anyway.

As for doing things that inspire me, I was a little stumped and had to think a little. I am inspired by gardening and beautifying my little yard. My obsession with my grass, however, can be more of a diversion than a source of inspiration since it has defeated me - it has become my white whale. I am inspired by walks with my baby, by going to parks, art museums, the zoo and acquarium, and poetry readings (yeh, seriously, there's nothing better). I am inspired going to plays (not musicals) and concerts(rock and orchestral). I am inspired to write by people-watching. I am inspired by quiet moments outside of my house, but I hardly ever leave my house which may be why I'm typically uninspired and sad. Inside of my house, I am happy baking but only if my kitchen is clean. I don't like cooking meals although I love cooking soup. I enjoy fixing things that don't involve tools. I am a caulking fool.

When I mentally prepared myself to write for the first time for my class, I thought about what I would do with my life if I had it to do over (I actually do have it to do over since I don't have to earn a living right now).

Things I would not do:
  • I would not get a degree in computer science or be a programmer at all. This was a very gratifying job for me because it was a great money-maker, and I was able to write software at a non-profit hospital that made me feel like I was doing good in the world. I did a lot of good until the last year.
  • I might not touch a computer except to write or to get directions.
  • I would not have gotten married at 21. However, I would have had my three kids and can't imagine life without them.
  • My new husband is awesome too - I would have married him again and wouldn't have changed one thing about the wedding.
  • I would not have quit karate class when I was so close to being a black-belt.
Things I would/will do given a second chance:
  • If I had to do it over and were 20 again, I would still have gotten a degree in English. I would have done it at a different college though. I would have gone to Miami or finished at Ohio University, and definitely would not have gone to UC, although it served its purpose.
  • I would get my masters degree in English and teach. So I will.
  • I would read great literature every day. I worked too much and didn't read at all until just lately. I was an avid reader of classic literature from the time I was 12 until I had my first child, who is now 13. I should be able to make time to read now, which also will inspire my writing.
  • I would work on getting a black belt, slowly, slowly. Class is on Monday at 8:10 - I just need to show up.
  • I would try to overcome my asthma and run 5K races or longer and travel everywhere to do it. If 400-pounders on The Biggest Loser can do it, so can I. I bought a very pricey new sports bra for the task (see my last entry).
  • I would take a retreat and go to the ocean alone to write for a week or a weekend. Maybe I can slip out of here today.... Maybe the Misty Mountains in the fall....
  • I would take a writing class.
  • I absolutely would do something that is good for the world if even on a small level. Maybe I could volunteer to teach writing to kids or help with a literacy program. Something positive. Not something to help a multi-million dollar company make more dollars. Something good for the environment, something good for people who need help, something I can be proud of and not just for the money it makes me.
  • I would teach writing and/or English to adults (why not kids? I don't know, just doesn't seem like me.)
  • I would write. It is the only thing I have done lately that makes me happy. I would write about whatever I think is interesting. I would make money at it if I can.
  • I would bake and open a small bakery if I were in my 20's again. Or I would bake and write about it. I never could cook or bake (or so I thought but never tried) until a couple of years ago. I am very happy and proud that I can cook now without measuring ingredients. I just throw it together and it's usually very good. (Sometimes, I just throw it away.)

My middle son, who is 8 and the eternal optimist, thought my baking idea was outstanding when I was thinking about this out loud with him. He decided we should make deserts and sell them at the end of our street lemonade-stand-style. We could sell a different desert every day, he suggested. He looked through all of the desert and baking cook books we have and helped me decide what to bake first. As he talked, I decided to go a little bit of a different route and bake things that are fun, write about the experience and post it on my blog. "Baking tips for sucky cooks with babies at their feet" could be the title. The thought of it makes me smile, so maybe that's inspiration enough.

Maybe I have accomplished my goal for the class without attending even the first class.

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