Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What the Hell Am I Doing with My Life?

Beyond the scope of motherhood, marriage, being a good friend and dutiful daughter, I feel like my sense of purpose has fallen off track during the past three and a half years--at least when it comes to my career.

I am a desk-jockey at a small satellite office for an enormous corporation. I push around paper, handle bills, contracts, and site-related planning, and occasionally I even handle issues for my boss, who works out of Philadelphia and is only in my office about a half dozen times a year. It's a good job with excellent pay, decent benefits, and a ton of flexibility. I'm grateful to have this job (thank you, Heide!), in the wake of last winter's layoff from a struggling local non-profit. I can put food on the table, pay my mortgage, rest assured that my medical costs are covered, and even buy some new clothes once in a while.

Why would I want more than that? Aren't my basic needs being met?

Yes and no. I was happiest in my career when I was a staff writer for a Stamford-based trade magazine, a job I took after fleeing the sharp edges of a public relations job in New York City. I lasted roughly a year in New York before I quit, realizing that I am just way too sensitive of a person to spend my days cold-calling, lying, and exaggerating for the sake of some expensive clients. At the glittery midtown firm, we were expected to outfit ourselves at Bergdorf's and live in the city on a salary of $20k. The only person in the office to whom I could relate was Christina, a sweet girl from Queens who was friends with Q-Tip. We often ate our brown-bagged lunches together at Bryant Park, talked about music, and shopped for make-up at Duane Reade. I still think about her from time to time and hope she's happy.

My shift to the magazine was an immense relief. I started as an ed assistant and worked my way up to special projects manager and staff writer in the space of year. I loved the people with whom I worked, I enjoyed spending the day interviewing sources and following leads, I was thrilled to be writing for a living, and I enjoyed going to work with regular people in regular clothes who lived regular lives. The only reason I ever left that job after four years was to stay home with Sean after he was born. My salary, as decent as it was, would barely cover daycare. And the commute from New Haven to Stamford would have kept me away from my new baby from sun-up to sundown. I couldn't handle that, and my ex-husband and I were in a position to live, tightly, on one salary. So I left, scoring occasional freelance work through my friend Melissa (thanks, Miss!), having a second baby, and enjoying the stay-at-home life.

Until I cracked.

Suffice to say, my life and my marriage blew apart in a category five hurricane that had been threatening off-coast for about 13 years. I found myself in need of--and ready for--a job. The boys, then ages 3 and 15 months, went in to full-time pre-K and daycare programs. I went back to work as an office manager for a medical researcher downtown, and within a year the house was on the market and the divorce date had been set (and reset, and reset...ah, lawyers and judges). Ironically, I considered applying to law school. Then, my divorce behind me and keys to my new apartment in hand, I took a job with a local nonprofit--and considered applying to an Urban Studies graduate program. Then I lost my job, scored this one, and here I am: A mother of two amazing boys who have thrived despite their brief ride on the Titanic; engaged to a wonderful guy; proud owner of a sweet little house; and once again considering applying to graduate school.

But for what?

Nursing would be my first choice, but it presents serious challenges. Nevermind the competitiveness of the local nursing programs and the intensity of the class schedule in addition to my already piled plate of full-time work and full-time motherhood. The sheer nature of the field, as much I am drawn to it, might not be for me. In all honesty, I'm not certain I could handle a patient dying on me. And that will happen at some point in a nursing career. So (if I say so myself) while I have the smarts, drive, compassion, and adrenaline needed for the field, I also have a serious predisposition to anxiety and panic. In short, I would struggle to turn off the adrenaline when not on shift. I would make a good nurse, but a lousy Moira. And that wouldn't help anyone--especially my kids.

So right now I have resolved to keep any graduate school ambitions on the back-burner, at least through next summer. Ian and I will get married this spring, and I look forward to watching that garden of ours bloom next summer, with the kids running through the sprinkler in the backyard and me enjoying summer hours and plentiful vacation time with them. I might--might--enroll in a non-matriculated education course next fall, to test the waters of a teacher certification degree, a program I abandoned in favor of a regular English B.A. in college. My recent stint as a "mystery reader" in both Nolan and Sean's classes has reminded me how happy I am in school--as a student, parent, or visitor. I love the way children look at the world, and I love witnessing them understand new concepts and ideas. Could I teach? Absolutely. Do I want to teach? Sure--don't I already?

I think the big lesson in all of this planning and unplanning is simple: I need to enjoy the moment more, and spend less time planning my next transition/challenge/achievement. In lieu of an urban studies program, I have become a member of a couple of local landtrust and preservation socities. Instead of going to nursing school, I can teach another yoga class and continue to tend to my Grandmother, who has a dressing that must be changed each week. Instead of going to law school, I can just pay my lawyer to entertain me. And if I want to teach, the answer will come. That's my problem: I am always chasing down answers. If I would just sit still for a little while, they'll find their way to me when I least expect it.

I'm doing a lot with my life, really. My career might not be spiritually fulfilling, but the little moments are. As Heide knows, my office is the place where people stop by to talk--about anything and everything. They vent, they rage, they cry, they laugh, they share chocolate, they ask for my help, they seek my opinion, and if they actually want something done around here, they know I'll do my best to make it happen. I was the first person told about a coworker's pregnancy and the first one on "the scene" when a coworker found out a relative had unexpectedly died. I share hugs, tissues, and a lot of really tasteless jokes. Heide said I'm the "Office Mom".

So... I'm Mom, at home and at work. Honestly, being the one my children, friends and coworkers turn to first in good times and in bad is a pretty high honor. I've been so busy trying to find my calling that I haven't heard it speaking to me every day.



kerry said...

What you don't make clear here is that you are already a teacher, not only to your beautiful boys, but to us, who love to hear your perspectives and musings on life and motherhood, and all the rest. Through your blogs, beieve it or not, I've learned a lot. And I've needed it lately. You'd be a wonderful teacher, you have so much to share, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who is glad you do. Love you! (BTW, on mashed pot. duty tomorrow, hopefully she delegated soemone to the g.b.c. Love you!

Milk Money said...

You made me cry. Thank you. :o)

How did the mashers goes? My gbc went over okay, even though I took a few liberties with it again.

Grandma: "Is this shredded parmesean on top?"

Me: "Yes, and some breadcrumbs."

Grandma: "Mmm. Sounds interesting."


julieb said...

im right there with ya lady!! maybe we can motivate eachother to go back to scsu for our teaching certifications. im sure there is a hip mom table in the student center.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to pop in and commend you for knowing that you can think about change/the future/more school, while also knowing that now is not the exact right time to make a commitment to a new path. This is why it's fun to read your blog - this was a satisfying thought process, laid out in print. I am coming up on the end of a very long year -- got married, finished literature MA coursework, got husband's green card, refinanced home/car/life, drove cross country, went to DC, NYC, Canada in the last two months . . . and my head is just now, this month, resembling something normal. You'll know when it's time to jump into something new ;-) (Julia)

Milk Money said...

Obviously, we'd be the coolest of the hip mamas.



Milk Money said...

Julia, I love you.