Life Changes – It’s Complicated
My degree (undergraduate, I never ended up getting a graduate degree), is an English degree. Worse (as people who like to point out that degree is worthless like to say), it’s a bachelor of arts, not even a bachelor of sciences degree. My minor which started out in Computer Science, ended up being an “Interdisciplinary” minor, consisting mostly of lower level programming languages and a number of technical theater courses (mostly design type – set and lighting specifically). (This was due to both my inability to learn and therefore pass “Statistics and Probability” taught by a math instructor who should have been forcibly retired, and an unwillingness on the part of a department head to grant an exception in curriculum to a different statistics class (ie: the one taught by the business department, rather than the math department).) My original plan was to write manuals for people who wanted to learn how to make their computers do cool things. I figured that even though those teach yourself books weren’t huge yet, there seemed to be a market for them. (Cue hysterical laughter from the peanut gallery.) The computer science professor who taught several of the lower level languages courses I’d done well in was confident enough in me that she’d allowed me to take Assembly concurrently with the stats course. I was getting a low A in Assembly, even though stats made no sense. She went to bat for me on the exception request. We just couldn’t get it. So I had to drop the Assembly class and subsequently the minor. Because I’d been taking various theater classes (mostly technical but some history and speech based ones in there as well), it was easy enough to merge those “electives” into my existing courses for my original minor. Between the change and a reduction in class hours during a time when my mom was sick and I was working full-time, I was pretty happy to only graduate two summer terms “late”, as opposed to the end of the spring term.
In my working career, I have not written anything seriously. No manuals, no newspaper articles, no journals. Nothing like that. I’ve written a few blogs or contributed to advertising copy, and I’ve cleaned up some cover letters and occasionally contributed my opinion to making contracts and other documents easier to understand. But I’ve held jobs as a shelver at a public library, a catering waitress, pizza baker (and seller), university police dispatcher, retail clerk (and lower management – all the responsibility and hardly any perks) at video and music stores, an independent HTML copy/paste contractor, an office support staff at a residential construction company, an office support staff at a company that provided supplies for drug testing, eventually an administrative assistant (and bookkeeper) for a residential construction company, an office support staff at a financial office, an office support staff at a property management company and an accounting clerk for an affiliate marketing firm.
The only jobs even remotely related to my degree are the office jobs, and even those are stretching it a bit. Mostly, what undergraduate degrees are still good for (when they’re BA’s especially, but even some BS’s) are to show that the student/applicant to the job will stick to a decision long enough to complete the goal they set for themselves. Some people might say that’s a very cynical way of looking at things, but for some hiring managers, it’s also the truth.
I held the jobs at the residential construction company from spring of 2002 through late summer of 2005, then from late summer of 2006 until now – mid-summer of 2015. Really, for the last 7 years or so, I’ve been in some sort of part-time situation of 80% time or less. For the last couple years, I even tried a few secondary part-time office jobs to try to help make up the percentage to get to “full time” (or slightly over for a short time where I came very close to burning myself out). I probably should have looked for a true full-time job many times in the last 7 years. I couldn’t and wouldn’t, because I really actually felt as though I could retire at the residential construction company – if it could just complete recovery from the recession. I believe in the quality of the product, to the degree that I’d build a home with the company if I could afford it myself. It still hasn’t recovered though, quite. A lot of similar companies in our area have gone out of business, and mine is still limping along.
But I was offered full-time at one of those other part-time jobs, and the package (salaried, benefits – health and potential for more financial benefits) was such that I felt like I had no choice but to accept it.
It’s been a very surreal two weeks. On the one hand, I made the choice. No one forced me to decide what I did. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like I really had a choice because it was between the financially intelligent decision and the emotionally satisfying decision. I chose the financial one, because I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck, not having a true savings account, and having to pull money from what should be my retirement someday. I’m incredibly privileged to even HAVE that option. It isn’t even one I earned – it is entirely due to having lost my parents earlier than I would have liked.
Thursday was stressful, unnerving and exhausting as my final day. I feel like I’ve let people down who depend on me. It doesn’t help that more and more lately, people (clients, co-workers, subcontractors) would comment on how generalized my knowledge had become and how much I actually did. My co-workers are sad to see me go, and they’re probably a bit nervous about working together to take over my duties – but I know that after some awkward days coming – they will figure it out and be just fine. And they say it was a smart decision, and that they’re happy for me. They took me out to lunch and gave me a heartfelt card saying goodbye. And I believe that they want what’s best for me, but I’m still sad.
But, and, I’m also excited to see if the new job and it’s benefits will be all they are promised to be. I’m hopeful that by this time next year I will have amassed a small bit of savings. I’m even tentatively hopeful that we can be looking at buying a house. I’m already sure I’ll be thankful to have employer provided insurance (which will save me about $100 per month).
Overall, it will be a good choice. I will learn to find job satisfaction in things at the new job. It will be a different sort of satisfaction. It won’t be a satisfaction based in pleasing clients with a physical product, but I’m sure there will be something.
And maybe, since it uses such a different place in my brain, my creativity will flow better.