Friday, March 25, 2016

Inspired Choices

For the past six years, I've worked as an administrative assistant in some capacity. It hasn't always been called that—you can also call me a producer's assistant or an office manager—but it's been basically the same job. I set up the teleconference and make sure the coffee is hot. I answer the phones and order the printer paper. I do the mail merges and track the packages. I troubleshoot the website and manage the email list. When I first started, I thought these kinds of jobs would be stepping stones to more interesting work—that if I started in the mail room, I could work my way up to senior management, the way my dad did at IBM in 1981. Turns out that this type of job only lead to more jobs just like it.

I sometimes think about what my life would be like now if I had known myself better at the age of twenty. It's impossible to predict the future, true, but the interests I have at the age of thirty-two were all there in 2004: sexuality, craftiness, writing, fashion, art, design, community, good food and drink.

And if I had known myself better then, I would have known I'd never last in those administrative assistant jobs. The longest I've ever worked anywhere has been 15 months, at the most interesting of the bunch. The shortest? Six measly months. The average time worked at a non-profit job is 18 to 24 months, which means I'm on the skinny side of the bell curve, professionally speaking. Which, given the emotional satisfaction of the mail merges and the email lists, doesn't surprise me one bit.

In the last two or three months, I've felt a tug back towards those long-standing passions. It's almost nostalgic, honestly—since NS was born, I've had lots of time, and reason, to think about the person I want to be. The person I've always been, to some extent. But I've had very little time to actually come up with a plan to become that person, let alone enact it. I have these dreamy pictures of what I could be: a crafter, an educator, a writer, a chef. But the path to making any of it happen is fuzzy, even as it feels more and more urgent.

If I had known what I wanted twelve years ago, I might have finished school in a reasonable amount of time, instead of noodling around for eight years and through two nearly-complete minors (Jewish studies and urban planning, if you're keeping score at home). I might have gone to chef's school, or dived further into crafting. If I had been more confident ten years ago, who knows where I might be as a writer? It's not wasted time, exactly. It's just time I spent on other parts of my life: meeting my husband, getting my mental health to a good place, becoming a real part of my family.

So how do I make a living at any of this? My mom suggested M and I "start a business together," which is a lovely idea until I started to think about what we would do (hops farming? Woodcut prints? Weaving? Horror movie experts?), and how we would monetize it. Mom and I went to the One Of A Kind show today, and everywhere we looked, there was something interesting. From intergalactic travel agencies to chompy mugs, hundreds of people had found their passion, found their niche within that passion, and then gone for broke. It was cool. It was inspiring. And it's something I want to do in my own life.

In eighteen years, NS might well be heading off to college, and I'll be fifty years old. It feels like a lifetime away—indeed, it's his lifetime—but I can remember eighteen years ago in my own life, and it doesn't seem that far away. And honestly? Fifty sounds young to me. I know it sounds crazy to be talking about fifty as though it's just around the corner, but I need to start thinking about those birthdays like they're coming up, because otherwise, I'm going to be a forty-eight year old administrative assistant and that's not something I want. I'm at least twenty-five years away from any kind of retirement, and I might as well spend it doing something I love. Or, at least, something that inspires and challenges me, something that changes me, something that I enjoy and that I can learn from.

Image from Bad Vibes