Career Change is Risky Business

01Nov10

Call me spoiled or criticize me for want of instant gratification, but I’m getting a bit tired of this reinvent myself, change my life thing.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve since been medicated, so life doesn’t seem so bad (read: misery is motivating).  My exasperation may also stem from talking to lots of people who all sing the same chorus of “publishing is really competitive, there are people who have been doing this since the cradle, you have to be really aggressive, you’re not going to make any money, try doing x, y, and z which, by the way, you’ll never have time to do because you’re a Biglaw associate, etc., etc., etc.”   It’s also possible that I have a really, really short attention span.  Or maybe it’s a combination of all of the above, which, in the aggregate, is making the whole career transition thing just a little too risky for this corporate lawyer-type.  The whole situation reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from BBC’s The Office:

“If you look at life like rolling a dice, then my situation now, as it stands – yeah, it may only be a 3. If I jack that in now, go for something bigger and better, yeah, I could easily roll a six – no problem, I could roll a 6… I could also roll a 1. OK? So, I think sometimes… Just leave the dice alone.”

So what’s the risk?   Money.  Bad marriage.  Unstructured, meaningless existence that never amounts to anything for lack of talent/skill/luck/ability to execute/tenuous grasp on reality/poor people skills.  DOOM.

Money is a strange thing.  For instance, I don’t need my full corporate lawyer salary.   Most of what my husband and I don’t spend on vacations goes straight to my savings account.  I’m also fairly low maintenance — not even one of those high maintenance women with a low maintenance self-image, but genuinely low-maintenance by Manhattan standards.   I can name on one hand the luxuries that I don’t want to live without.  Given the savings that my husband and I already have, all of those luxuries are all within reach, assuming things go reasonably well.  But like I said, money is a strange thing.  More important than the things it can buy, money can impart power.  And with that, we arrive at the real concern:

What will financial dependence do to my marriage?  Not to mention, the way I was raised, leaving yourself that vulnerable is tantamount to becoming a porn star — loaded (no pun intended) with consequences.  You just don’t do shit like that.  While it is acceptable to give up your job temporarily to raise a couple of kids, in my family, you better keep up your professional license(s) while you do it, in case you wake up to find yourself widowed, divorced, extorted, beaten, or otherwise disempowered.   And just giving up a career, handing your partner all of that power, in the absence of procreation?  Risky business.  When I told shrink #1 that quitting my job would be easier if I were single, because then I could just move back in with my Dad, rent-free, while I figure out The Meaning of It All, she informed me that this sentiment is abnormal.  And for those of you who aren’t in the know, shrinks just don’t throw around the word “normal” (or words that include the word “normal”).  But is it abnormal?  This article makes me feel like it is actually kind of normal, at least up to a point.

I recognize, however, that after said point, my neuroses take me beyond your everyday marital politics.  This is exacerbated by the fact I married a young Scrooge.  In fact, I would say that most would be shocked at the amount of arms-length negotiating that goes on in our home.  Although with a corporate lawyer and a stockbroker, completely unleashed in only 800 sq. ft. of space, with only a dog to mediate, perhaps our dynamic isn’t shocking at all.  That said, a domestic power struggle wouldn’t be so daunting, and probably wouldn’t even cross my radar, if I knew I could get my shit together eventually.   Unfortunately, I have no such knowledge.

The truth:  I am a closest slacker.  A burnt-out closet slacker, to boot.  If given the opportunity, I’m afraid my inner slacker will escape and wreak havoc on the stable life that I’ve worked so hard to create.  My husband will be like, “Who the fuck are you?”  I will be like, “Fuck, I really am an underachiever.”  And in the back of my mind I will hear the constant echo of my grandmother’s voice saying, “She was doing so well and then she just quit!  To be a writer! (Scoff) Now she can’t find work and he’s stuck paying all the bills.  Thank god you taught her to marry well!” Reality check:  I’m sure I’d figure something out.  Knowing that I’m an intelligent, resourceful person, however, doesn’t change the way it feels.  When people suggest that I quit my job to freelance write, I feel nothing but terror.  Too unstructured.  Too risky.  Too much pressure.

So, given my particular baggage, I am refocusing my search.  While still open to editorial assistant jobs, I’m going to put more effort into finding a less demanding legal job that will allow me to make a living while I take journalism classes, freelance write and otherwise test the waters in my … (wait for it) … FREE TIME.   The fear here is the liklihood that this option will be a long road to nowhere, which, no matter where it leads, will inevitably will be cut short by my biological clock.   In response to that fear, I think of a comment to my Twilight post, which has stayed with me.  While calling my post “trite” (which we will ignore), commenter #226 advised that “[t]aking things for granted is a part of life … Epiphanies occur intermittently where some person suddenly realizes life is short and feels the need to carpe diem the hell out of it. Life is long, really long. If you can derive some joy from the littlest thing like a good piss then you’re on the right track.”  The point: perhaps the destination is less important than the journey.  Long road to nowhere, here I come.

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14 Responses to “Career Change is Risky Business”

  1. Before I read your wonderful post darls, let me just start by saying that I have THE WORLD’S fattest crush on Martin Freeman. He makes my panties tingle.
    Giggity.

  2. 4 Cara

    Finding a less demanding job that makes use of the skills you’ve worked so hard to develop makes sense to me. Maybe you’ll discover that you like it! Not needing your income puts you in an extremely powerful position. This guy who writes about how to be a better student wrote a post that this reminds me of; maybe you’ll find it ineteresting:

    http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/01/23/beyond-passion-the-science-of-loving-what-you-do/

    And hey, if you decide you don’t like the new path, you can always change it again as you get closer to figuring out what you really want to do.

    • 5 Samantha Alexander

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and for the link. What a great job he did of crystallizing exactly what I’ve been grappling with! It’s liberating to think outside the box of misery vs. “following your passions”. That’s the direction I’ve been headed in, I think — thank you for sharing that insight!

  3. Despite your fears and neuroses (which sound completely normal to me but then again, I’ve had therapists call me a “liar” which is also something I don’t think they throw around too often) I think you’re on the right track with the thought of finding a less demanding job and slowly getting yourself into writing from there. To just up and quit and go to having all the free time in the world to freelance write-at least to me, would end up a mess. I don’t think any writing would get done unless grocery lists for my next batch of tv watching snacks counts.
    A little structure isn’t a bad thing so a less demanding job will give you some free time and some money of your own that you earned to alleviate any feelings of dependence. That little bit of free time is up to you to choose how to use it. Which, once settled, will hopefully be writing/journalism class time.
    Also, that comment you quoted at the end, despite the “trite” is both hilarious and kind of awesomely true. It’s definitely something I have to think more about though.

    • OMFG – a therapist called you a liar??? This needs to be elaborated…

      • I went to a therapist in my junior year who asked me if I was bulimic or anorexic. I told her I wasn’t and never was. She said I looked too small but I’m 5’1 and 100 pounds so I think that’s a pretty reasonable weight/height. She then said I was a liar and said really nastily “What’s wrong with your throat, it looks huge!”
        It was a pretty weird/funny/horrible experience and I never again used my college counseling center to get therapy and prescriptions.

    • 9 Samantha Alexander

      Thanks, Nina! I’m interested to hear what you think after you’ve had some time to chew on that comment. Maybe you can write a post on it, if you’re not too busy knitting. 🙂 Oh, and sorry you got such a wacko shrink! Feel free to out her here, if you’re feeling vindictive.

  4. 10 mk

    A slower job would be great. You need to have faith in yourself.

    • 11 Samantha Alexander

      Well, one thing at a time, I guess.

  5. Hope that posted as a vid ok. If not, you know what to do . . .

    ” . . .the stable life that I’ve worked so hard to create.” Really? You call this stable? Really? What meds did you say you were on? How many shrinks are you talking to these days? Feeling secure in your life are you? Really? Stable? Really?

    The truth is, it sounds a lot like everybody else’s voice is a lot louder in your head lately than yours is. And the truth is if there’s something you really would rather be doing, you will make it happen or die trying. And after that the truth it that life is pain highness, and anyone who says different is selling something. But in one version the pain is worth it.

    And that shrink that used the term “abnormal” apparently got her degree from a cracker Jack box and is so filled with her own ego she can’t see a human being in front of her when she’s looking at one. Of course you’re thinking about a time when it seemed a lot easier to make a decision that would have made you happier where you currently stand. That’s NORMAL. I sincerely hope this person isn’t the same one writing you prescriptions for drugs . . .

    Before you drop dead, there’s only one person who you will wish you had lived up to, and that’s you. If what will make you happiest is doing dishes with 14 children at your feet while smoking a cigarette and drinking wine out of a box, that’s you, and that’s ok. I don’t think that is you, but it does sound like there’s a voice somewhere inside of you that would like the people telling you who you should be to shut the Hell up so that you can carry on with a life you’ll actually enjoy; a life that makes you happy.

    If I were you, I’d get in touch with this lady, http://www.jeansmagazines.org/ , tell her Tygarjas said she might be able to impart a word of wisdom or two. I’ll warn you, she is very busy living a life she really enjoys, so if she’s slow to respond or short of response, you’ve been warned. But she seems to be a version of something vaguely resembling what you might want to be, and she’s got a good heart, a good mind, and might be able to give you something helpful.

    Now, I’m in the business peddling the divine. As is such I say unto you, just because you’re shifting gears doesn’t mean you need to drive off a cliff. There’s a tree in New Orleans we call “The Tree of Life.” When I finally climbed the tree successfully the first time, there was a place on it I call the “leap of faith.” It’s a place where one branch divides off from another and it looks like getting from one branch to the other might be really hard if one doesn’t time a slight jump just right; looks like it could land one too far below for comfort. Finally, when I resolved to take the “leap” and put my hand around the truck to steady myself as best I could, what I found was that there’s a handhold that you can’t see from that side of the tree until you feel around just before jumping and find it. It makes for a much more secure grip, and a lot safer passage. The point is if I hadn’t tried, I never would have found that it isn’t nearly as scary as when I didn’t try, and a lot easier too. You will be protected on this journey, just be sincere in wanting to be happy, and fuck ’em all if they don’t get that; it’s only because they’re also too afraid to be happy. And here’s the rub, when you’re successful at your own happiness, only then you can inspire them to be too. Or at least, when you start getting the knack sincerely at it will they begin to learn too.

    And as for your husband, if he can’t get behind your happiness, may he find someone whom he can.

    Peace sister, despite what they say, the universe is on your side. And if you need anything, just ask . . .

  6. 13 Samantha Alexander

    Tygerjas, while your quoting my words back to me never fails to mildly irritate me at first, it also never fails to give me perspective. So thank you for doing it. Honestly, I was waiting for someone to call me out on that. I love the story about the tree, too. I think I’ll get to where I want to be, it’s just going to go a little slower than I had originally planned. The new goal is an in-house legal job at publisher or other media outlet; so rest assured that I am headed in a good direction, just via a more circuitous route. I’m trying to find my handle in the tree, if you will. And, like I said, I’m still applying for editorial assistant jobs. All of that being said, I really appreciate your opinions and advice. And I will reach out to Jean — thank you for the lead!

    • The first philosophy to ever click with me was the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footfall.”

      I always took it as literal as I did figurative. But the bottom line, you will get there! Just please, wear sensible shoes 😉


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