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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Frustration and Confusion

So yesterday was my birthday. I had a nice time with my sister and brother-in-law, low key but enjoyable.

Starting a few years ago I kind of battle a minor depression on my birthday. This is because I can't help but look back on my life and realize that I'm pushing 40, and I've really done nothing worthwhile by my estimation. By others' estimation I've done okay, but I don't measure success by my title or how much I'm making. The truth is, I'm not doing what I want to do with my life and have met failure at every turn in my efforts to do what I want to do.

I'm having to face the harsh, cold truth that I'm really not good at my current job. I'm trying. I'm trying really hard, but I'm very much not good at this, and by continuing to be not good at this (despite my best efforts) I'm doing harm to my department. So at this point I'm doing everything I can to hold it together here in hopes that either something clicks in a big way (unlikely at this point) or I can by some miracle find my way into a career path that I'm good at and that I find fulfilling on some level, instead of just physically and mentally exhausting. Please note that I'm not complaining about my job. I'm not saying I made a mistake coming here--indeed, I made the only choice open to me at the time. I love my co-workers. I love my department. They do great work here. The sad, simple truth is that I'm just not qualified for this job, and I have had zero success learning the incredibly complex skills set needed to perform here. I wanted more than anything to be good at this job. I wanted more than anything to make certain people--family, friends, and my current boss--proud of me.

I've failed. That hurts more than I can possibly express, to say. But I've failed.

So I guess it's back to the drawing board. But again, I'm pushing 40, and that's too goddamn old to be wandering in the forest.

There's been some hopeful news on the horizon, which I can't reveal just yet, but it's at least a good year or more away, so somehow I've got to hold it together until that glimmer of hope becomes any sort of potential reality.

Gods, the mistakes I've made. I'm so full of regret there's very little room for anything else. I've spent my entire life for the past 13-15 years doing what was expected of me instead of following the path I wanted. I spent the 90's blowing off school and sabotaging my own chances to enter a fulfilling career, so that I didn't have much other choice but to take what was available, and do what was expected of me. Now? I'm stuck in a room with no doors or windows.

I went to school and got a Master's Degree hoping that it might actually help to jump start a real career for me. That's the common wisdom, right? All I've gotten for it are doors slammed in my face and middle fingers. Oh, and people saying, "I know lots of people with graduate degrees that aren't working in their field of choice," as if that's supposed to somehow make me feel better--if that's the case, what's the point of a Master's Degree? No, the truth is, if I hadn't screwed around so much back in the 90's, if I'd done the path then, when I had the youth and ability to hold limited employment and do internships, I'd be in a very, very different place right now.

Unfortunately, self-sabotage is my super power. Too bad you can't make a good living doing that.

So where am I now? Back at the door of potentially making the same mistakes, thinking about going back to school to get ANOTHER certification to try and shift career paths. And I keep asking myself, "why bother?" It's not as though it'll make any bit of difference. Nobody wants educated people--they want experienced people. We've done a complete 180 from where we used to be. It used to be that a college degree was everything--doors opened for people with degrees. Now? Formal education isn't valued anymore. Only experience. Which nobody wants to open the door, to grant. Our society is rigid and immobile, the American Dream be damned. You end up in a career trajectory, and there's no way out. That's where you're stuck. Woe to those of us who aren't satisfied with the career into which we fell.

I get really, incredibly angry at people who fought and worked for a career of their choice, achieve what they wanted, working in the field they chose, and then complain about it. Some of us didn't get to choose our careers.

"So," you ask, "What exactly DO you want to do? What WOULD be fulfilling for you?"

Okay, maybe you're not asking that. In fact, given how I seem to go through this soul-searching bullshit once every year or two, it's really likely that you don't give a shit. But I'm going to pretend you do.

There are a number of career paths that I'd love to tackle, that would bring me joy. Most of them are closed to me for one reason or another.

1. Writing. I want to create. I want to write. I want to use my love of written language to pay my daily bills. Be it tech writing, fiction writing, game writing, or what have you. This is my talent. This is what I am best at. Sadly, game and fiction writing aren't realistic. Far less than 1% of game and fiction writers get to make a living at their talent. Tech writing, educational writing, or some such would be fine, except that again, we run into the "experience" roadblock. As my sister pointed out yesterday, tech writers tend to fall into their jobs by sheer luck, and there's no tech writers around here where I work, for that to happen. As it stands, writing is a hobby that doesn't even pay for itself, but pays a bill every so often and buys me coffee here and there. To be able to put out the amount of material I'd need to make a living these days through self-publishing, I'd have to write for 8 hours a day, and I don't have 8 hours a day to write. Now I'm not one of those phony writers who claims, "I'd write if I just had the time." That's not what I'm saying at all; I try to get in a couple hours every day as I can, but again, it results in a comparatively small word count against what I really would need to crank out if I wanted to try to make a living, and without a steady income, Julie and I would be out on the street, so I can't just quit my job to write full time until I have a steady income from writing. It's a terrible Catch-22.

2. Librarianship. This is what I went to school for. I'd give almost anything to be a teen/YA librarian. But again, everyone wants 5-10 years experience in addition to an MLIS. Which leaves that age old question, "how can I get experience if nobody will give it to me?" I have a laundry list of transferable skills and a very impressive GPA which I earned while working full time as a grants and research administrator. But transferable skills are meaningless nowadays, it seems. I can't even get a job interview for a library gig. Managing a book store would be satisfactory, but with no retail experience under my belt, that too is highly unlikely, though I have been looking at trying to land a part time evening/weekend bookseller gig to supplement my income and pay down some debts, so we shall see.

3. IT Services. This is what I'm considering getting certified to do. I would enjoy being a systems administrator very much. I love computers. I love to muck around with computer hardware. I have a passing knowledge of computer networks and would love to learn more. I love to solve the puzzles that come with IT troubleshooting--I've spent hours wrestling with viruses and malware rather than simply reformatting a PC, because I enjoy figuring out how to beat it and root it out of the system. I also think I have a better sense for customer service than most IT guys do. This one is still hanging out there. I'm deciding whether it's worthwhile to bother, or if I'll just end up with another useless degree/certification on my resume due to lack of experience.

4. Entrepreneurship. This is my ultimate dream. I want to run my own business that would be a combination book store, coffee house, New Age shop, and geek/gaming store. My Elevator Pitch for it is, "A small Barnes and Noble for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Geeks." I'd have a cafe area, a New Age shop that would host an apothecary (run by my wife), sell crystals, pendants, candles, etc., a book store that would sell gaming, sci-fi, fantasy, history, and religion books, and an area that would sell DVDs, Blu Rays, action figures, collectibles, board games, etc. The ONLY thing stopping me there is funding. I'd need a minimum of $250,000 to get open and keep running till I got solvent. I've planned this business for years; if I had the funds I could be up and running fast. But I've got no way to get the funds. It'd take a decade or more for me to even save a quarter of that, and see the "pushing 40," issue. I don't have decades to spend anymore.

So there you have it. Four different career paths I'd love to travel, and four different career paths that are pretty much closed, locked, and dead-bolted against me despite my best efforts. I could list others--acting, music, etc.--but those may as well just fall in with writing as pipe dream careers at which few get to make a living.

And here I am, facing another year full of false promises, fake blessings, and too much regret.

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Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart