First of all, how is it that I'm old enough that I can have grown-up (well, close to grown-up; definitely not childhood) experiences that were twenty years ago?
I knew this person from youth orchestra. We were both in the woodwind section and part of a core group of close friends who were all geeky enough not to care that we were geeky. Youth orchestra was the highlight of my high-school years by a long shot. I don't know how I would have survived that era without that outlet and without the friends I had there.
Sadly, I'm not in touch with any of those friends anymore. We were true friends, but we went to different colleges, pursued different careers, and lost touch. It happens. I think back on that time and those people with great fondness, though, and while I have little to no interest in going to any of my high school reunions, I would love it if there were youth orchestra reunions.
But I digress. So, I got back in touch with this old friend. We have not been able to talk on the phone yet, but we've exchanged a couple of brief e-mails and we hope to chat soon.
I was able to look up his picture on his company's website. I have an image in my mind of what he looked like twenty years ago. Here's the thing: I never would have recognized him. If I'd seen him on the street, I would have walked on by. My friend, if you're reading this, don't take it the wrong way. You look great. You just look TWENTY YEARS OLDER.
Wow. When did we start to look like grown-ups? Do I look that different? I don't think I do, but I would guess that most of us don't think we do. I feel like I look essentially the same, that someone from that time in my life could easily recognize me. I'm thinner than I was back then, and I'm in better shape. I have a better haircut. A WAY better haircut. I also have better eyebrows, as in I started getting them waxed. (Why did I wait so long?) But I still look basically like I did twenty years ago, right? Maybe not.
I do know that I look older. I can tell you when that happened. Pictures of me the day before John's cancer diagnosis and the day after look palpably different, and the difference is that I aged years in those two days.
Self-perception is such a funny thing. Would people from high-school recognize me? How much have I changed over the years? And again: when did I start to look like a grown-up?
On a related note, I've been thinking a lot about my job. It bugs the crap out of me. I desperately want to quit and find a new job. Here's the thing: I've thought and thought about it all, and I feel like it's not worth the time and energy to switch jobs and stay in this line of work. I have a decent gig for what I do, pay-wise, time-wise, and responsibility-wise. The more I think about it, the more I feel like I'm looking for a big change.
I've always been the kind of person who gets bored easily. I like to do something for a while, then try something new. One of the few things in my life that's been constant it a love of languages and a love of travel. I think these interests have stuck with me because they inherently bring newness and change. In high school, I studied two languages. In college, I lived overseas twice. Then I was in Peace Corps. Then I got a Masters in Translation/Interpretation. I took and passed the Foreign Service exam. Then I moved to Boston and ended up in a career in publishing, using my English language skills.
I've been doing what I do since 1999. The skills I have are somewhat transferable to other careers, but not ones that hold much appeal to me. Project management? Been there, done that, hated it. Copy editing? I don't think I could copy edit all day, every day without going insane. Proofreading? Ditto, only the insanity would come faster. Teaching? I really miss teaching sometimes, but I'm not sure I could handle the pay cut.
I want to maintain (or improve) my standard of living in terms of pay, amount of hours worked, and flexibility. I would prefer something with fairly regular hours. I prefer not to work at home or be a freelancer. I like someone else to take care of my administrative tasks and my health insurance. I like to work with people (how trite!), use my brain (I guess toll collector is out), and would love to get back into languages. I've also completed the prerequisite classes for admission into acupuncture school, and could enroll in the fall if I wanted.
Options I'm very vaguely considering:
- Overseas teaching. I have friends who do this. Pros: travel. Relatively good pay depending on post. Challenging work. Lots of time off in the summer, with paid trips home to see family. Cons: being even further away from my family.
- Retaking Foreign Service exam (and, hopefully, passing again). Pros: high-rolling overseas life. Challenging work. Cons: high-rolling overseas life is insulated from host country nationals. Supporting US foreign policy whether I agree with it or not. Being even further away from my family.
- Acupuncture school. Pros: intriguing career. Going back to school! Doing something completely outside the box in terms of what I've done before. Transportable career; can live anywhere and practice (if licensed; depends on state). Cons: Student loans. Three years of paying to be in school while not having an income.
Who knows. I'm tossing a lot of ideas around in my head. I want to be careful of making any big changes so soon after John's death, too. I know the conventional wisdom is to not make major life changes in the first six months to a year after losing someone close to you. So I'm sitting with all this, thinking it over, seeing where it leads.
To tie this back to getting older, it gets hard once you're this far in a career, though, to think about making a major change. I don't want to be at the bottom of the ladder again. And while I don't consider myself entirely risk-adverse, I don't do well at all with financial uncertainty. Not to mention that I have a lot at stake now with the twins. But I'm only thirty-five. A kernel of me—the kernel that's feeling older by the minute—has the sense that's too late to start over doing something new. That just can't be, though. Thirty-five is not old! But are the risks too great?
I'm feeling like I should meet with a career counselor. I'm sure there are tons of other options that would be interesting to me that I have not even considered, and maybe some more easily transfered skills I'm not taking into account. What I should really do now is the job I'm currently getting paid for.