Beyond taking care of immediate tasks, I've never really had anything specific planned out for myself. For many years, I never thought that I would make it "this far," though the reasons for that varied. Sixteen once seemed so far away! I never thought I would manage to live this long. When did I make it here? At times, all I wanted was just to get to the "next step" ... get to college. Get out of college. Get out of the Midwest.
In the end, about all I really want in life is a historic home, a cat, a job that doesn't mentally hurt and money enough to keep this small sanctuary stable. Beyond that, I go into extremely vague things, like "being alive is nice," or "I'd like to travel more," or things that aren't really goals, such as "I want to have lots of books."
In terms of occupation, I have been long confused.
I was raised as one of the best and the brightest. It was not uncommon for my classmates and I to hear that we were the best students that had come along in years. Now, nobody cares whether I'm brilliant or not, and I have had to adjust my expectations of how the world should treat me. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am average in many ways. Sometimes I still feel guilty that I am somehow not/no longer a "young leader," or the hopeful embodiment of the "future," instead, I am just another human being with small aims. It took me longer still to accept that my degree, which was supposed to open so many doors to me, accomplished nothing. Yet I am still touchy about it, as a truth my supervisor delivered ("I'm better educated than you") struck deeper than it should.
I worked with the school paper and creative magazine in high school, and from that developed my original career goal: to get into publications. The newspaper industry was already crumbling, and it never quite seemed to stabilize, so over time, I began to hope for finding work with a printing company instead. From the beginning, I was well aware that I lacked the temperament necessary for freelance work, and since then, I have become increasingly pressured by a need for health insurance. I was good at graphic design and layout, or at least, I was better than my peers. I was, as I learned later, a "big fish" in a very small pond. Now, I continually question the value of my decision. There were other dreams in my heart by the end of college, so why did I stick with this one?
First and foremost, I was, and am, terrified of my lack of money.
I was not ready to continue immediately into graduate school. I was painfully depressed and probably emotionally stunted, although I had matured somewhat.
I was continually incensed by people saying to me, "when you get to the real world ...", as if the breath I had drawn up to then was merely play.
Though I could not articulate it at the time, I had no sense of identity other than as a student, and was desperate to prove to myself that I could do something other than "school," somehow showing that it did not define me.
So I made the choice because I wasn't ready for the next step, and without that resolve, I had no strength to face money, scholarships, and debt.
Lately, I've come to think that I am capable of doing many things. I have certainly survived Cave Inc. much longer than I thought I could. It just happens that for better or for worse, I function very well in an academic environment. The schedule suits, the people are more like me in both habit and mind, I am usually interested in what I am doing, and the results of my work are usually top-notch (unless I am depressed and contrary, i.e., first college research paper, which tanked spectacularly, especially because I had to present the damn thing). Having finally created a self that does not require a good grade for value, having finally begun to face my depression ... I am stronger now. Why should I be ashamed of going back to what I am good at? If it is my world, then it is real enough, for I am alive just as anyone else is.
I've heard a lot of hints (and flat out statements) over the years that I'm in the wrong line of work. Back in college, anyone who wanted to get a B.F.A. over a B.A. needed to pass an "examination" before the faculty. I mostly wanted the B.F.A. for the extra letter because I had ideas it would make me more competitive later on. The faculty, however, told me straight out that I should give up on it and go to school for art history, and write, for that was my true skill. I had recently written a paper on Hokusai, and the chair said something to the effect that after reading it, he was blown away. The B.F.A., he said, would only be a distraction.
And lately at work, where I have been training staff on the thinkpad computers, many people have told me that I should be a teacher. A customer at Michael's told me that I had the temperament for it. (This is, however, only true when I am not PMSing.) These comments are honest ones, not drawn out by me in any way.
While I think academia is probably in my future, I need to think further on where I'd like to take this. Would I like to teach, doing research/writing on the side? Or would I prefer to go through a program that allows me to indulge my love for art and yet gives me more practical skills, like preservation or something pertaining to museums?
I also do not know when this process may begin. Perhaps in the next couple of years? I should set some sort of timeline, for I have a feeling that I will always say to myself, "I need to earn more money first," since the costs of higher education are only going to increase. I must also admit I am mortally terrified of the GRE, and fret that I have been out of the system for so long, the system won't let me back into it. I don't want to do the "adult evening classes" route preferred by so many looking to achieve their Masters in Business Administration. I want to delve back in, all the way back in, if I can, and I want to stay lodged in there. The ironically illogical world of professors seems to be the only place my brain gets to work at full capacity. I used to want to be dumber, but now I see that I can only blunt the edge, not remove it entirely. It's better to find some place where I can use what I've got.