As anybody reading this blog probably knows, I recently left my job. Not for any particular reason, other than that it was making me unhappy, making me question if I was even in the right field. It was not the right place for me. I am torn on whether I believe that it was because the environment was toxic (which is the leading theory) or if it was just a poor fit for me. I still don’t know the answer. I was not the first person to leave without any solid future plans; I was merely one in a long string of people frustrated and angered by the lack of leadership or promise of recognition. It was (and I believe it still is) an unhappy place to be. This makes me sad. On paper, it was a very good job for me.
But now I’m faced with some very important questions, which I ask myself daily, hourly, sometimes every couple of minutes: What next? Where do I go from here? What do I want to do? What will make me happy.
I have been applying for jobs. I don’t know that my heart is in it, which is perhaps why I’m not getting any interviews (or my blatant lack of qualifications, one of the other). Every once in a while, I’ll find something that I get really excited about. For example, I applied for an online content-type at WagJag.com, one of those sites that sends out daily deals for random stuff. I love a good sale, and I the concept of the cheap group buy is really cool. I’ve bought a few coupons, haven’t used any of them yet… Speaking of which, I should go get that mani-pedi I bought back in May before it expires…
I hate applying for jobs. I almost wish I could apply for each job twice – once with the standard, formal, dry and overly-respectful cover letter, and again with some charm. I don’t know which is the right approach. I’ve been going for charm lately, mainly because I’ve been applying for jobs with a bit more of a writing focus and don’t want to sound like I’ve been jailed by medical textbooks for the past three years. But nothing yet. No choice but to keep slagging away.
I might like a change, though. A few months ago, while I was still in the “should I quit my job” phase, I went for some vocational assessments. It came out saying that technical writing would be a good choice for me. And I guess it might be. But I’m taking the classes, and really not feeling it. Maybe it’s just taking classes that’s irksome. Maybe it’s that the instructor for the course comes across as a bit of a douche (not sure that he actually is… a tag would make his communication much clearer).
Going back and re-taking some of those assessments, I get completely different answers now. When I took the assessments in the summer, technical writer was top of the list. When I took it yesterday, it said oncologist. Of course, that’s unreasonable. I don’t think I want to go back to university at all, let alone years of med school, residency, fellowships and so on. I don’t want to be 40 by the time I actually start my career.
One of the biggest problems I had during my career assessment is that I’m generally apathetic/easy-going on a lot of things. They would present me with two cards and say pick one, and I would rarely have a strong preference one way or the other. Maybe it’s that I don’t know myself well. Or maybe it’s a flaw in the process. I look at a lot of qualities in a rather binary way. Either it’s important to me or it’s not. If choosing between two options when I find both distasteful, the answer will be fairly random, and probably different each time. And forcing me to rank a list of ten things puts me in a position of assigning more value to one thing over another when I may really feel that they are all equal. For example, my ten most important work values from when I did the assessments (out of a large list of things) are:
- Ethical workplace
- Moral fulfillment
- Supportive supervisor
- Job security
At this point, I would take job security off the list. I’m less opposed to doing contract work these days and have enough life stability that I can afford to be out of work for a bit (as evidenced by the fact that my work for the last few days has involved watching BBC miniseries and doing laundry). But otherwise, it’s a list of equally important things. Example, if a job offered everything on that list except being ethical, I couldn’t do it. Everything except a supportive supervisor – well, an unsupportive supervisor can feel like sabotage. I couldn’t work in a job that didn’t have all of those things. And I believe I started off with 15 qualities that I felt were important, and they asked me to cut it down to ten. Why? Because there are ten lines on the page. Not because ten is the magic number for on-the-job values. I just as easily could have started with six and been talked into adding things that I don’t actually care about to the list. And the entire process was influenced by the job I was doing at the time. I was more likely to choose the opposite of any quality of the job I was doing, simply because most things about the job made me miserable, in that context. In another context, maybe they wouldn’t have bothered me.
I’m curious what other people think I should do. I’m going to continue with this technical writing course, but I don’t know if it’ll take me anywhere that I can tolerate working. I’ll continue applying for the content-type jobs. I think in the right environment I could be happy with that. But I still feel like I’m drifting. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get somewhere that I feel good about.
Things I’ve thought about lately have been a bit of a change in focus, but none of them seem like a perfect fit, and would be a large upfront cost and commitment for me to find out that I don’t like them. I have thought about nursing before, but I know a lot of nurses, and they just don’t seem like happy people. After helping my cousin give birth, I thought about becoming a midwife, but I don’t think I’m quite right for that. I’m not quite enough of a hippie feminist to pull it off. I’m not opposed to epidurals, and I just don’t think I would be able to go back to work if a baby died on my watch. Medical school did cross my mind for awhile, but for the reasons I mentioned above, I decided against it.
I’ve always tried to pass myself off as a creative sort of person, but I’m starting to question if I actually am one. I have received a lot of praise for my writing (though I haven’t written much of anything in years). I don’t think I’m an exceptional writer. I don’t have imaginative stories to tell, generally all my writing has been extracted directly from my life. Perhaps it’s just the frankness and blatant honesty of my writing that people liked. Maybe part of it was being younger, when every event seems like an epic story, a tale worth telling. Maybe my life was just more compartmentalized into events that fit concisely into short stories when I was younger. I don’t feel the need to write anymore. Back when I had cancer, back when I thought a city was trying to kill me… that’s when I could write. Now I think I’m too normal and well-adjusted. My first-world problems don’t make for good reading. So… perhaps I am merely a wordsmith and not a writer. I can craft a pretty sentence or say the truth like it’s a proverb, but I can’t create people out of thin air. I can’t lie in fiction.
So here I am. Spending day to day trying to think of what to do next. I hope that it will just hit me (and do it soon), and I’ll have that moment of “Yes! This is what I am supposed to do with my life!” but I don’t feel like it will be that easy. I want to love what I do. I hate not working; I feel useless. But maybe that will just motivate me to figure this out faster.