13 February 2014

My Stupid Life When I Was 21 Bites Me in the Butt Now.


So, tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. After three months on maternity leave, I now have to get settled in my upstairs office and get chained to the desk for eight hours (at least) on internal conference calls, client calls, project planning calls, etc. Two or three weeks from now, I have to get back on the road to travel to my clients a total of one week a month (at least). Not just day trips, but overnighters instead, with a night or two in a hotel (at least). (That pesky "at least" seems to pepper my phrases extensively nowadays.) Working from home is certainly a plus, but the traveling has not been fun for years. And now, especially now, it will be even harder.

So I kick myself when I think back to my college days twenty years ago when I was an English and Creative Writing major. I had lofty dreams for my future, so when I walked across the stage at the University of Maryland and received my degree from a professor who loved my work, I was massively proud of myself, secure in my next steps in life. Another professor loudly applauded who even offered me an opportunity to send my work to him so he could help edit it and advise me.

I NEVER did ANYTHING. I squandered it. Life got in the way? Nah. More like I just let a whole bunch of silly things cloud my next steps and the years just flew by. I am ever the envious one of all my blogging friends who actually use their writing degrees in the real world and who stick with it. (In case you're wondering, I'm thinking of Write Meg! That young lass is just doing things right.)

My degree merely served as a piece of paper to get a "better" job, or so I thought. I never continued to practice the craft other than the occasional smash of stream of consciousness writing when I was bored. (And no, I do not count emails and PowerPoints and contract reviews as writing.) I didn't pursue any of the dreams I had at that time because, hell, I glamorized an image in my head that I needed a job to make a paycheck so I could eat. Woe is me. I just didn't have time, I told myself, to do what I needed to do to get into the job of my dreams later. I didn't want to sacrifice.

Now, twenty years later, I realize I have worked my ass off to have a job that is all tough corporate but, unfortunately, absolutely zero passion. It's important work, and I'm glad to have it, but why? WHY? Why wouldn't I have plugged away to be in an industry I loved, that made me thrilled to go to work each day? Instead, I strayed so far from it that now, as my sweet son sleeps next to me, I realize I have regretfully paid my dues for something which keeps me up late, very late at night. But my sleepless nights are not for the excitement of what I do every day, but simply because I dread the list of things that just have to get done. The list is never interesting. It is never fun. It just, well, is.

Yes, this post has a harsh title. In comparison to the rest of the world, it wasn't a stupid life at twenty-one, relatively speaking. But, oh, it is so cathartic to imagine what I would love to tell my silly and naive twenty-one-year-old self, so that perhaps the hands of time could be kinder now in an alternate universe. Piddly silly little stress at the time. One little girl who, at the time, did not respect the amazing things life would one day give her, and that if she absolutely had to be at work, away from these amazing things, then it better be for something she truly enjoyed. Pay your dues early for the things you want later, I should have repeated to myself. But no.

And, because a post should always have pictures. Behold, my son is introduced to the snow for the first time. I sort of like the photo in the top right as he, um, quietly... informs me that he's not pleased with his hat.

Hi, ho, hi, ho. It's off to work I go.


14 comments:

  1. *hug*
    Now that I'm a mom, I wish I could go back to young me and tell her a thing or two too about preparing for the future.

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  2. I'm so sorry you're having regrets now and I hope you get to try to realize those dreams one day. I'm sure you'll shed many tears today but I know things will work out and you and sweet little Dominic will be stronger for this.

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  3. Oh Natalie, my heart is sad for you. HUGS hon. Maybe think of the clients or colleagues that truly appreciate and recognize what you give to your job. I still think you should try to negotiate no traveling for another 6 months to a year but I know with some jobs if it is your client, they also want no one else. Good luck hon

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  4. You're very kind to think of me, but you have to know that, to some extent, we can all probably relate to this post! :) And it is never too late to jump back in and get inspired again, especially with writing. Work is work, but writing can always be a passion you enjoy separately from your day job. I'm sure you are awesome. Also, go Terps! :)

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  5. It must be such a difficult transition to go back to work and it's not surprising that it forces some questions about choices etc. It's great, though, that you have that perspective and, who knows, this could be a catalyst for a new direction in your life at some point! Good luck with the return to work and be kind to yourself as you make the transition.

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  6. I'm sorry to hear that you are struggling. :( He is so precious!

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  7. This is all hitting you because of the return to work, but your dreams are not gone forever. In fact, you may find yourself even more motivated now to dust off the degree and put it to use. I think once you get over the alarming change to routine, you will be just fine. It's impossible to think three months ahead but in just a few months time, you will be better about everything and that includes your current place in life. Your little one will thrive and you will be confident in your talents once again. I went through all of the same stuff.

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  8. Ditto to what Ti said. I DO get it, as you know. There were many days when I thought that if I was sacrificing my days with my kids, at least I should be doing it for something I care about. Crazy thing about my 21 year old self was that I didn't have any secret goals or dreams. I just wanted to make money, so I went for the major that would serve that purpose. STOOOOPID! Realistically, nobody could have talked sense into me back then, I had to figure it out for myself. You will figure this out. Babies have a great way of helping you do that!

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  9. Oh Natalie!! Big big hugs to you. I'm sure that yesterday was so hard and the next week will be hard and the week after. It does get a little bit easier with each passing day. I promise. But like some of the others said, it's not too late to make a change! It might be scary but your happiness is so much more important. Anyway, big hugs. I know how hard it is to be in a job that is taking you away from your child and all for something you have no passion for.

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  10. Thinking of you, I wonder if you have tomorrow off or if it's the official 1st full week, eek.

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  11. There are years and years and years ahead for you. Really. Take it from a semi-old person. Your son is adorable! You are writing (I count your blog...I'm a reader, so you must be a writer). You have a degree in English and Creative Writing? I will bet it wouldn't be that hard to transition to a career as a teacher. The pay is not great, but the schedule is great for parents. Just a thought :)

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  12. I'll be thinking of you in the coming weeks. I'm sure it's going to be a difficult transition and my heart aches for you. That adorable babe will lift your spirits, though. He truly is a beautiful little boy.

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  13. He is adorable! Sorry you're struggling but you have your degree under your belt and can go back to build on it when he is older. Never too late!

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  14. Oh, dear Natalie...it is painful to look at crossroads and see where one could have made a different choice. But, I stuck with the career of my degree, the teaching I felt so passionate about. Almost thirty years later I feel many of the things you described here: exhaustion, obligation, never ending requirements. Sometimes that happens even in the job of our dreams. Perhaps our job is to make joy where we find it, to some degree.

    So good to hear from you today. Sorry to have been such an absent friend.

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