Love Your Work?
Women now go to school and get higher degrees to do jobs that challenge them and earn them a decent living. We have to because we have learned that we can rely on no one (except for ourselves) to pay our way. That's not a bad thing, in my opinion. I have a friend whose mother is divorced after 20 years of being married and being a home-maker. She never had to work before and doesn't understand the concept of it now, even though she needs to in order to do important things like pay the bills and eat. I have been in the position of needing to count on someone else for my financial comfort - it's not a good place to be in. You never know when your husband or your inheritance will run out on you (wasn't that from the "sunscreen" song?). This may seem pessimistic coming from me, but I think it's a more realistic view of things.
I am thankful that I have a good profession where I can always get a job, I can support myself and my son, and I can actually have a savings for the first time in my life. However, I'm not happy at what I'm doing. I don't like the fact that someone tells me I have to split myself between three different schools and provide services to 65+ children a week. I am not allowed to "recommend" anything (even if I think it's the right thing) because the school would be liable for picking up the tab. I watch teachers interact with children in ways that make me want to scream "get the hell out of the classroom and do us all a favor!" Yes, it's nice to have a paycheck I can count on and have benefits and some job security. Back in the days, that should have been enough for me - more than enough, even. But it's not.
Labor Day weekend, I was in the airport waiting for my son to arrive and I had some time to kill, so I was browsing in the little shops that most airports have. I always end up going to the magazine section, where I spotted the latest issue of "Oprah". Love her or hate her, she has some good stuff in her magazine. This issue has printed in big letters "What's next for you? The best ways to get unstuck". Now the reason I like Oprah is that her articles are helpful - they don't tell me 101 ways to please a man (do we really need more than a couple ways?) or how to "affair proof" my relationship (is any relationship "affair-proof? - I think not). Puhhhlease!
So I start reading the stories of these women who have the courage to assess their professional lives and dare ask the questions "Where is my life going?" and "Do I want it to go this way?" and "What am I willing to do to make a change?". Even though I love those questions, this very helpful issue of Oprah has been sitting on my table being used as a drink coaster since I bought it. It is one thing to get inspired and, yes, even teary-eyed while reading such inspirational thoughts as "So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable", which was spoken by the late Christopher Reeves. It's another thing to extract the lead from my ass, stop using information as drink coasters, and actually make a plan for my future - the future that I want to have, not the one I have to have.
The starting point is assessing where I am in my professional life by asking questions like these:
1. Does this job allow me to work with "my people" - individuals who share my sensibilities about life - or do I have to put on a persona to get through the day?
Hmm... this is a mixed answer for me. My job allows me to work with children who share a lot of my feelings about life and even teach me some things along the way, for whom I NEVER have to put on a persona. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the educators and administrators I work with. The attitudes of people who have been "educationalized" for a long period of time are hard to get out from under. I know if I don't make a break soon, I too will become "educationalized".
2. Does this job challenge, stretch, change, and otherwise make me smarter - or does it leave my brain in neutral?
This job definitely challenges me and makes me smarter - I need to constantly learn new ways of teaching, how to communicate with others so they will best be able to receive my message, and how to keep things fresh for my students. At the end of the day, though, I'm not sure my job always changes me for the better because of the stress and attitudes I bring home with me.
3. Does this job, because of the company's "brand" or my level of responsibility, open the door to future jobs?
Not future jobs in the system. I wouldn't want to go higher in the system - all the tea in China would not be worth being an administrator.
4. Does this job represent a considerable compromise for the sake of my family, and if so, do I sincerely accept that deal with all of its consequences?
The compromise to those close to me is that, when I'm working, I use all my energy and patience for work and I don't seem to have enough leftover when I come home. It's not a "time" compromise, as with some other professions. It's a "mental energy" compromise. I don't want to take this much energy away from my loved ones, and I can't imagine doing so for another 30+ years (or whenever it is that I'll retire).
5. Does this job - the stuff I actually do day-to-day - touch my heart and feed my soul in meaningful ways?
If I could answer this questions strictly based on the therapy I provide to students, then I would say "yes". However, it's all the other "stuff" that does not feed my heart and soul. It's the other "stuff" that sucks the life out of me.
So, what is my next step? I've actually taken a few, but realized quickly that I don't want to spend another three years in college just to get a PhD. From my answers to the above questions, I realize some important things - I love working with kids, but I have to be able to do it under my own terms. I don't want to do something brainless (even though on some days, it seems really appealing) - I like making a difference. So, back to my next steps? Get my small business license, get my SLP license for CA state, make an inventory of what I need in order to start my own business and how much it will cost, investigate the possiblity of using a billing service, save up enough dough for startup costs, and find an office space for rent. End goal? To have my own private practice within the next two years.