Thursday, April 23, 2009

Which Comes First

I'm not sure if it's the universe conspiring, aligning of the stars, just being more aware or drawn to certain ideas, actively, although unconsciously, seeking out similar thought processes, just part of the age that I am, or some weird twist of fate, but sometimes it feels a little too concidental that I find myself hearing, reading or thinking about similar issues that people around me seem to also be contemplating.

From learning to revamp our identity, live our dreams, quit a job, not get mentally old before our time, or find ways to make things fresh again, it strikes me that a lot of people around me are going through a variation of a similar identity contemplation phase. Maybe it's a pre-midlife crisis? Or a by-product of being part of a generation that has too many options and too much indecision? I don't know if I really agree with that statement wholeheartedly, but I don't really know what causes it. I just know that it seems to be very prevalent.

For me personally (I'm going to break my own blog rule here and talk about work), it manifests in the form of career questions. I have a great job. My coworkers are lovely, the pay is decent, the hours are stable, the students interesting and challenging. I'm encouraged to develop new ideas and given the opportunity to learn about issues related to education and I don't bring work home with me. I do work that makes a difference and effects academic learning. And yet, I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with it. Why?

There are 3 main reasons (and I guess they all center around one main issue: stability vs independence): the M-F 9-5 routine; less vacation time than if I taught full time; and the moments when there just isn't that much to do. The counter arguments: my job is stable; I have 4 weeks of vacation (which will be 5 starting next year) and that's more than many people; and if I was more self-disciplined I'd find things to do in those lull moments.

But then I think about teaching: I'd have summers off and could travel; I'd be only required to be on campus about 20hrs a week; and because of all this, could develop outside interests. Counter arguments: I have to bring work home; the pay is less; I'm still making a difference but only in the classroom, not necessarily institutionally.

What it all comes down to feels like petty grievances that reflect my anxiety about being tied down and commited to one career path. I'll admit it, it sort of freaks me out to realize that this is a permanent job. But I also know that if I left this and went into teaching, I'd eventually feel that way about teaching too. Every 3 months I start contemplating dropping everything and travelling the world, teaching ESL in foreign destinations, and embracing my inner new age flakey girl and living in an ashram in India for a year. Or something equally non-career oriented! I've recently come to the conclusion that none of this really has to do with this job, or any job, but rather with my own unwillingness to view myself as settled. Which is of course ironic given that I'm about to get married in 5 months. Turning into the white picket fence, surburban soccer mom who works a white collar 9-5 job and comes home to watch TV and cook dinner terrifies me.

As much as I long for security and a home of my own with an organic garden and a grey water system, I have to admit that stability also tends to translate into the idea of stagnation for me. And I feel that underlying a lot of what I've been reading, hearing, and talking about lately, there is a common thread that I'm picking up on (imagined or real): how do you settle into a secure, stable life in your 30s and not let being content lead to stagnation and lack of creativity? Again, although this seems to be the question beneath the surface, I find that it is tinged with irony because I'm also noticing that there seems to be new found/renewed creativity emerging in my life, despite and probably because of the fact that I'm stable and not partying like a fiend anymore. I've travelled more, learned more, earned more, explored more new ideas, started more new projects, and felt more inspired in the past few years than ever before.

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