I’ve known the time was coming for awhile, the time to transition from a stay at home parent to the next phase of my life. My children are teenagers now, and the youngest two are fine to leave at home alone at this point. My oldest, while technically an adult, is a special case with a long history, and it’s his leaving (originally to college, and now the planned departure into the navy) that has spurred me into thinking about what’s next.
The thing is, I never really had a chance to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I went to college planning a psych degree and eventually wanted to become a therapist, while also dreaming about being a published author one day. Toward the end of my sophomore year, I had an epiphany – I didn’t actually want to be a therapist; I was studying psychology because I was trying to find an explanation for my own mental health condition. (Of course, complex PTSD is not something they really discussed or knew about in the late 90s, so I never did figure anything out…) I switched over to studying languages – French, Italian, and German – with the vague thought of possibly going into a linguistics career. Then I got pregnant, struggled through two semesters with pregnancy-brain, and decided I needed to switch to a practical course of study in order to support my family. Business, accounting, whatever, it didn’t matter, I hated school anyway and just wanted to get a job. A few months later, I had to drop out to work full time because we needed the money.
That was 18 years ago, and the only two times I’ve tried to go back to school since then were thwarted in one way or another. Both times, also, I dreaded the classes. I didn’t want to go back to school. I hated school. I was good at it, no doubt about that, got all the right grades and such, but I always felt so stifled and the classes felt pointless, and I preferred learning on my own. I did what no English class had ever done, and got myself excited about classics, reading hundreds of them and running a book club for years to discuss them. I taught myself geography and learned about cultures all around the world. I took language courses, and read hundreds of books about nutrition and physical health, and studied books on psychology and sociology, and began listening to topical lecture series that were literally college classes. In the last 18 years, what I decided about myself is that I love learning but hate formal academics.
So, to go back to where I originally began this post, I began looking at alternatives to school for a new career. Massage therapy, realty, yoga instructor? I looked into sign language interpretation through a great program we have here at one of the community colleges. And I just waffled, because nothing felt right, and because honestly, I think I needed to look back and readjust my perspective a little.
The thing is, I didn’t always hate school. I didn’t enjoy certain classes, particularly classes where I didn’t feel like I was learning anything, but I really did love some subjects and classes. And it wasn’t until I switched out of psychology that I began to grow disillusioned with academics. I’ve always attributed that to circumstances – that’s when Jason and I had met and were dating, when we got married, and then getting pregnant – but now I think it was more than that. I grew up without a career goal beyond a vague “wouldn’t it be cool to be a published author,” and it was psychology and becoming a therapist that gave me an end-goal to work toward. After that, without any real plan, I was just floundering around pointlessly taking classes that, whether or not I enjoyed them, weren’t leading anywhere. And so while I still enjoyed some classes, the rest – the ones I had to take simply to fulfill my degree – felt pointless, until college itself felt boring and pointless. Every time since then, when I’ve considered going back to school, the goal has purely been to finish a bachelor’s degree so that it would be easier to get a job, and every time, the prospect has filled me with dread.
I don’t do well without goals to work toward. I never have. I don’t like pointless work. So if this going-back-to-school thing is going to work for me, I’m going to need a better end-goal than just “to get my degree.”
This is what I’ve been working toward over the last few months, as the strain of being a stay at home parent has gotten ridiculous, and I’ve begun feeling, for the first time ever, like my job at home is done and currently pointless. I’m ready to take the next steps, but first, I had to figure out which direction those steps would be pointed toward.