When I Grow Up?

Oh how my priorities and interests have evolved. Evolved might not be the best word because it implies, at least to me, that there is improvement with each iteration, and I’m not sure it… or I, have necessarily ‘improved.’

When I was 12, I knew what I wanted to be. I had passion and drive. I’d endure harsh conditions to satiate my appetite for my passion. I woke up thinking about it, went to bed writing about it, saved newspaper clippings related to it, and I could name and understand concepts that most 12-year olds couldn’t even spell. I wanted to be an astronomer. I wanted to live my life around the science: read astronomy books, potentially teach astronomy to students, and spend my free time staring up in utter awe and absolute humility of the vast beauty of the night sky. But then, I hit a wall. It wasn’t a big wall; it wouldn’t have been all that challenging to overcome. I had aspirations of going to CalTech to study physics, to then follow up in some other grand school to learn about my specialty. Except when I didn’t know the very first thing about applying to college. I felt overwhelmed and incapable of making that leap. So instead of moving forward, I made a hard right… you know, followed the path of LESS resistance.

I joined the military. The Air Force to be precise. I mean, Astronomy… AIR force… it’s sort of related… right? RIGHT? I know, it’s not. I don’t regret joining the military at all. I have very fond memories of my time in the Air Force. Hell, I got to drive a tank. A TANK! IN THE AIR FORCE! That’s just nuts!

When people asked me why I joined, I never told them I joined because it was a new, potentially ‘creative’ route into the world of astrophysics (of course), I said that I joined for the education benefits (true) and the travel opportunities (true, but unfulfilled). But had I been completely honest, it was the easiest route to escape the current trajectory of my life thus far. It was a reset button that I was desperate to switch. Suddenly, my nerdy, awkward, walflowery past didn’t exist anymore, and I could create my image to be whatever I wanted it to be. I had a good job, and instead of being shy, I could grow confident (and I did- because the Air Force forced me to). It wasn’t a good fit for me long term; I got out after only four years.

By now, I was a parent. I had a decent contracting job that paid better than my enlisted pay, and enough prospects (yeah, in 2006) to keep my confidence up. Again, I was faced with, “where do you want to go? what do you want to do?” And again, I didn’t really have an answer. But thanks to the GI Bill, I had money for college, and figuring I should probably keep moving forward, I signed up for classes. Initially, I took classes in the first program that my counselor offerred: Psychology. After a few core credits, I was miserable. This was not what I wanted to do. I was in the top 10% of my High School graduating class in science and math scores. Solid, undeniable logic is what I understand. I can’t (nor do I have the patience to) study psychology. It’s simply not in me.

Redirect. I decided on another course, but silly me, this one was still mildy relating the world of psychology, although it was altruistic, so I wanted to like it… I wanted so badly to care… but ultimately, I couldn’t do it. So… redirect again. Management. Forget for a moment the psychology involved in leading a team of subordinates, I could handle Management a little easier, and it would jive with just about any future profession I could ever see myself embarking on: Win!

Maybe.

At 31, I feel like I should have figured this out by now.

Except that I don’t. I’m a veteran, a divorcee, and a single mom. There’s a lot of things there that just don’t seem to work out for me. Not that I would change anything, but it’s sort of indicitive of my situation as a whole. Joined the military– ended it. Got married– left him. If nothing else, at least these were things that I CHOSE to end, and didn’t end out of my own personal failure of seeing them through. So, I’m faced again with nothing holding me back. Where do I want to go? I STILL. DON’T. KNOW.

Now, things have changed. The things that I want, with zero uncertainty are: a home, and my daughter. Nothing else matters. My career, my so-called success? It’s all for naught if I have to continue to miss out on time with my baby girl. But to have a home, to have my daughter, I need to find something that will provide me with the money to sustain that life. Something that allows me flexibility to be a single mom that can attend school functions, pick her up when she’s sick, have time to help her do her homework, take her to after-school activities, make her dinner every night… The job I have will never be my passion. I have a passion and it’s just not in my work– it’s my girl. It’s in the world outside of work. I’ve tried to have passion for my work, and no one who knows me would call me less than 100% committed, but there’s little intrinsic reward in that. I do good for the purpose of doing good, but in the end, the only people who suffer are my family; in my case, my daughter.

Over the course of the past 12 years, I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to my patriotism- my country. Still, I have to politely decline colleague’s offers of drinks after work and outings with friends, because I am not financially comfortable enough for such luxuries; as a contractor I make far less than my colleagues, who in some cases, I do the same job, and I’ve done it longer. For what? So I can go home quietly to my studio apartment and miss my daughter and wonder when I’ll finally have enough money to afford a place big enough for both of us. If I sound bitter, maybe I am. I’ve given up a lot and all I’ve really wanted was some stability and consistent vestment.

So what do I want? I want to write… no, I DO write. I write regardless of whether or not I’d get paid to do it. I write because in many ways I have to. But I don’t write for anyone. Ultimately, I only write for me. It’s the only thing that gives me therapy- a much needed release of the craziness in my world. It’s hard and rewarding at the same time (as most ‘hard’ things are), but it’s also flexible. Since I do it anyways, I’m wondering now if it may be the answer to what I am in need of in my 32nd year. The next ‘reset’ button. I don’t know much about writing in the professional sense; but I acknowledge that it may not pay well; and certainly not in the beginning. It really doesn’t matter. I just don’t care about being rich. I know I can edit, and research, and fact-check, and I know that people will pay me to do that. I know that I can handle pressure well, and stick up for myself, and I know that I tend to do best with ‘difficult’ personalities. I’m used to egos and poor writing syles. I just don’t know though, because there’s a part of me that feels a little hypocritical about my writing and editing qualifications. I’m not a reader, but shouldn’t I be? I never have been (although I try).

And when people presume that I must be a TV addict since I’m not a reader, I have to laugh. I couldn’t be less of a fan. I have enough drama and absurdity in my life that it brings me no joy to watch the fabricated renderings on a television screen.

Which gives me ample time (and material) to write.

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