Deep Thoughts: Careers

March 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm 59 comments

A’ight, you guys. Thanks for giving me your blessing to proceed with posting my Deep Thoughts. In fact, I created a special category for these posts on my blog, so you know right away when shit’s about to get all contemplative up in here, and you can read on/navigate away to Selleck Waterfall Sandwich accordingly.

Lest we forget our inspiration.

But first: an update! Remember how I was going to audition for a show, and then it snowed and the audition was canceled? And then it got rescheduled, and I was shitting my frilly little drama pants with nerves about the new and improved audition? Well, I ended up not making it to THAT audition either, because (GUESS WHAT) it fucking snowed again that night too. BUT: as I have worked with the fine folks producing this show before, they gave me a call and asked me to read at the callbacks. Score! So I sloshed downtown amidst the snow and ice and gave a reading. SO much fun, and I was so glad to have the opportunity to get out and audition again, because I am a massive nerd. Fast forward a few days, when I got a call telling me I got the mothafuckin’ PART, yo! It’s a small part, but it is by all accounts an awesome show, and I cannot wait to get started in April.

And yes, I have already weathered my obligatory attack of maternal guilt over leaving my precious offspring to attend rehearsals.

This update actually segues quite nicely into this Deep Thoughts entry, because today I’ll be talking about careers.


Like most young kids, I had some grand ideas growing up about what I’d want to do for a living. Thanks to a Dr. Seuss-themed “All About Me” book that my parents still have, there is hard and fast proof that I gave some serious, 8-year-old thought to being a flight attendant or a veterinarian. But I would be remiss not to share with you my very first career goal, which I remember coming up with after watching a “J is for…” segment on Sesame Street:

A jaguar. I wanted to be A JAGUAR.

(In my defense, jaguars are badass. And in hindsight, this career goal was probably more attainable than my chosen path of “actor.”)

I liked school, and good grades came easily to me. It wasn’t until junior high and the advent of Algebra that I started to struggle in math (a struggle that would result in me earning a D in Trigonometry despite having two private tutors), but despite this I was still on the honor roll.

And fighting off the boys with a stick.

I remember having an ABSOLUTELY ABSURD “four year plan” meeting with my parents and a counselor in 8th grade, during which everyone discussed my grades and the counselor asked my parents to help me decide on a fucking CAREER PLAN so that I could focus my upcoming high school years accordingly. I distinctly recall my Dad being all “She’s in 8th grade, jackass,” to which the counselor responded with a long, pre-rehearsed speech about how important it was to have direction during these years and blah blah blah better take Calculus. My parents told me afterwards not to stress out about knowing what I wanted to do with my life that very instant, and I was relieved. And then I probably went to a yearbook staff meeting or got a perm or whatever the hell it was I did when I was in 8th grade.

I’m guessing episodes of “A Different World” were involved.*

The career-related shit only got more intense when I entered high school. My school was very academically competitive; it wasn’t uncommon for each graduating class to have several ivy league-bound overachievers, and I’m still impressed when I think about how many of my classmates are doctors today. There was significant pressure to enroll in college placement (AP) classes, and I felt a certain amount of shame in the fact that the only AP class I took (because it was the only one in which I knew I’d have a chance at getting an A) was AP English.

Even though – as it turned out – I suffered through term papers about Cry, the Beloved Country and Beowulf only to get to college and realize that I didn’t need an English credit in my major, which rendered my fucking AP credit useless. WEEEE!

My insecurity about AP classes (and my ineptitude at math) aside, I did well in high school. I had dreams of becoming a lawyer early on (for no other reason than it just seemed grown-up, I think), which morphed into dreams of being a politician (based on a weekend trip to DC which spurred fantasies of working in all those fancy, columned buildings), but pretty soon I settled on art and theatre. I felt a little strange when I compared myself to my AP Calculus and AP Biology friends who seemed so casually confident about their medical school goals (I make the same good grades! I’m just as smart!), but I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to go in that direction. So off to theatre school I went. And I got cast in a show immediately!

And subsequently learned the meaning of “be careful what you wish for.”

Being a theatre major was a lot different than my academically-charged high school environment, naturally, but there was that same underlying optimism, that feeling of being able to achieve and succeed if you just worked hard enough and got good grades. After all, benchmarks of success aren’t hard to come by in school: getting an A on a test, earning a part in a play, being praised for creative thinking in class – it’s everywhere. Why wouldn’t you think the world is at your feet?

At the beginning of my junior year, I had a very uncharacteristic moment of uncertainty about my major. It was mostly due to my mother’s constant worries about my post-graduation plans (“Why don’t you switch majors to Arts Administration? Then you’ll be able to find a job!” “Because I’m an ACTOR, Mom, GOD!”), but I panicked and decided to take up a minor…in Communications.

Yes, Communications. The degree second only to Theatre in its vagueness and uselessness. This was my safety net.

A week into my Communications minor (long enough for me to have sat through two horrifically boring two-hour evening classes about…something. Communicating? I don’t know), I dropped it. Feeling flaky and aimless, I made an appointment to talk to my advisor, who was also my very favorite director and acting teacher, Russell.

Think Rip Taylor meets Joan Crawford meets Maxine from the Hallmark cards. (Thanks, Brad, for helping me put my finger on that one.)

Our conversation went like this:

Me: I think I need a back up plan.

Russell: What in God’s name for?

Me: Because…I might need a job?

Russell: You have a job. It’s being an actor.

Me: I like animals, and there’s a two year veterinary tech program at [college two hours away]…

Russell: You’re an actor.

Me: But –

Russell: You like animals? Go get cast in a show where you play a veterinarian – maybe some James Herriot adaptation or something. That’ll get it out of your system.

Me: What if –



And Internet, I knew he was right. I definitely had other interests – astronomy, Egyptology, even fucking equine management, for Christ’s sake – but there was only one thing I really wanted to do for the long run. Just like my friends who knew their skills = doctor or scientist, I knew my skills = actor, and that was that.

I’ve already written at length about what happened after college, and while I’m mostly at peace with where I’ve ended up acting-wise, sometimes when I re-frame my life in more traditional terms and realize that I do not and most likely will not ever have an actual career

It feels a little like this.

Bear with me here, Internet, because this is where my thoughts get very disorganized and rapid-fire and hard to communicate.

DAMMIT! I knew I should have stuck with it!

These attacks of OMG NO CAREER hit me every 6 months or so, and are usually brought on by something like, oh, asking to book travel for someone at work. Someone younger than me who has a Ph.D. Someone who wanted a career in whatever discipline, then went to school, worked for it, and achieved it. And then I think:

  • I could have done that.
  • But I didn’t.
  • But I didn’t want to.
  • Did I?
  • Or I guess I DID, but then I dropped out.
  • I blew my chance.

And then I realize that part of what’s rankling me is my hurt pride. I wonder if the person I work for looks at me and thinks I was probably just not smart enough to do anything other than this job; that I had no other ambitions. I feel desperate to let them know I’m just as capable as they are, that I can probably spell better and read faster and think more creatively. I just didn’t feel the drive to put my skills to use in a way that would win me a high powered job or a lot of initials after my name. And it’s obvious the person who has the biggest issue with this is me, not them.

The obvious solution, then, would be to just fucking suck it up and GET a damn career already, right? If it’s such a fucking big deal to me? But Internet, as I admitted to Brad a few weeks ago, even if you told me I could go to school for any degree absolutely free of charge, I can’t think of a thing in the world I’d actually have the drive to study. Sure, I’d like my MFA just because it bugs me that I didn’t get the first time around, but it’s not like I’d actually DO anything with it. I don’t want to teach, I don’t want to uproot my family to act, I just…I don’t know. I don’t think I want anything career-wise, and I don’t know what that says about me.

Most days, I’m OK with this. I’m OK with my very ordinary office job (the only kind of job I have the experience to get), because it allows me to act and pay the bills. But so help me, I can’t help but wonder if my high school friends – all lawyers and doctors and scientists and professionals – look down on me. Feel sorry for me. Although, like the situation with my coworkers, chances are I’m probably just doing those things to myself.

My mother and I had an argument in the car (always the best place for unsteady emotions) one day during The Year That Will Live in Infamy. I was complaining about the office job at the bank that I’d taken in order to save up for our wedding and grad school (HAR HAR HAR). I’m entirely confident I was being unreasonable and overly dramatic, but I felt like such a sell-out. Working as a glorified receptionist after four years in college being a SERIOUS AC-TOR was, like, SO humiliating, Mom, GOD! So, yeah, I can understand why my mother had little patience for fucking Meryl Streep over here, but I felt so trapped at that job (even though it was always just a temporary arrangement). I felt like the world was seeing me as someone I wasn’t, someone I never, ever wanted to be. I pouted and wailed about how this job WAS SO NOT ME, and my mother told me to suck it up (as she should have). Internet, sometimes I still feel like I am that annoying, petulant 22-year-old, whining in the car to her mother when it comes to my work situation. Except I’m 11 years older. Holy shit, if 22-year-old me could fast forward 11 years and see that I was still working an office job?

Incidentally, Brad looks hot in this picture, doesn’t he? Check out that, uh, womanly ass…?

So here’s what I want to know: people who are dentists and doctors and lawyers and such – those jobs that take years of studying and commitment and preparation – did they always just know they were born to drill teeth/examine unsavory body bits/use words like “tort”? Some of my high school friends have been on the medical school track since age 15. Now, I’m pretty sure we all change pretty drastically in the years between 15 and 33…


…so how is it that they managed to forge ahead through all those radical personal changes and pursue the career they wanted back before they could legally drive? Because I don’t understand that shit. Are they just more determined? Genetically predisposed to not having changing tastes or aspirations? Just really, really stoked about having to probe strangers’ no-no parts?

Someone please ‘splain.

But for every friend I have who’s managed to sail smoothly along in a single career track, I have another friend who, like me, still doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. And because I was alive and had ears in the late 90s (and especially because I was graduating from college at around that time), this reminds me of that annoying Sunscreen Song. You know, the one that sounds like a commencement speech set to a Casio keyboard, and trots out the old “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

I’m now realizing I was 22 when I heard that song, and I am now closer to 40 than I am to 22 HOLY MOTHER OF ASS.

(Also: how much do I love this photo? LOTS.)

Anyway, I guess I take comfort in that particular quote…but then I feel immediately pathetic for doing so. Because doesn’t that quote just reek of defensiveness? I can’t help but feel pretty damn sure the person who first uttered those words did so between sobs as he watched Judge Judy in his stained bathrobe at 3pm on a Tuesday.

I don’t know, Internet. What do you think? How do you feel about this? Any of you have one of those fancy careers I’ve heard so much about? Do you love it? Is it worth it?

Sometimes I feel like I wasted my potential, and that I owed it to my family to force myself into a successful career of some sort (no matter if I liked it or not) because they worked so hard to make my life so nice and to send me to college to earn a degree. I think about my parents and grandparents, whose main concern in life was not following their dreams, for fuck’s sake, but securing a steady job and providing for their family. They worked hard so that I could have the luxury of having and pursuing dreams, and I…fucked it up. Would I have been more successful with less opportunity? With less choices? Would I have been a more successful person if, like my parents and grandparents, I had fewer options when I graduated from high school? Is anyone out there still following this COMPLETELY INSANE line of thought?

I don’t really know how to wrap this up, except to say that – regardless of how much this career thing eludes and frustrates me – I think I’ve made the right decisions in my life when I look at where I am and who I’ve got there beside me.

Is totally over this career conversation. And, apparently, kisses from me.

*Do you guys remember Jaleesa? And Whitley? And Freddie?! They all seemed SO OLD AND MATURE to me back then, but in looking back at production shots from the show, they are BABIES, you guys. Sunrise, Sunset. Dwayne, Wayne.


Entry filed under: Deep Thoughts.

Wha’ Happened? Which Old Witch?

59 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HoST  |  March 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I don’t know whose glasses are more ridiculous… your’s or Dwayne Wayne’s.

    • 2. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      Mine, clearly, because mine don’t have a flip-up sunglasses attachment.

  • 3. HoST  |  March 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    OK, and now that I’ve finished reading the whole post, I’ll make a more informed and serious comment:

    Had you not chosen acting, I could never have met you. And Sadie wouldn’t be in this world.

    I think that’s all I need to write here.

    • 4. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      True dat.

  • 5. Brenna  |  March 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I’m 31 with no career to speak of, unless professional mothering is an official title now. A brief stint as an EMT, during which I realized that sick people freaked me out and I don’t like being responsible for people’s lives (says the mother of 3, HALLO!), put the kibosh on nursing school. And I never got any further than that. I’m a SAHm right now, so I guess it’s somewhat acceptable to be career-less, I don’t know what will happen later. I’d like to go back to school, but I don’t know for what. The things I like, (art, clay specifically) don’t seem to be very ‘career-y’.

    And as for the people who went on to be doctors and lawyers and never had a change of heart: I bet a lot of them DID lose interest, but didn’t know what else to do, so they just went with plan A, so to speak.

    Long comment short; no, you’re not the only one with career angst.

    • 6. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I, too, could NEVER take a job where, if I fucked up, someone might fucking DIE. I mean, what?

      And I do have a friend who lost interest in her medical career halfway through med school (meant to include this in the post, but forgot), but it was one of those “well, I can’t quit NOW” sort of things. She is OK with her career now, but does have some pretty serious regrets about investing most of her 20s in the pursuit of the MD.

  • 7. amy  |  March 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    You are not alone – I changed majors so often that I ended up with an Education degree (because you could get a job with it) because that would take the least number of additional credits.

    I do not teach – I have the same type of crap/it pay the bills type of job that you have.

    & I almost would not change it because I also have a super lovely 15 month year old boy who loves me completely!

    • 8. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:42 pm

      And he’s lucky to have you.

  • 9. Alyce  |  March 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    There is nothing wrong with working a job that affords you the freedom to pursue your dream to the extent that it makes you happy. I love to belly dance. I work a menial office job that pays my mortgage & keeps me supplied with sequins & belly dance classes. I teach & I perform as much as my schedule will allow, and my job has vacation time, which I usually take for some belly dance event. I may not always like my job, and it’s certainly beneath my ability, but being able to ‘make it’ as a belly dancer would require uprooting myself & being broke for a long time. I’m comfortable like this, and I plan to keep it this way until I am truly dissatisfied.
    Sadie is awesome.

    • 10. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      When you’re right, you’re right. Thanks.

  • 11. SF Reader  |  March 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Oooooooh, sweetie.

    Beware. As long as these Deep Thoughts posts keep popping up I’m going to be a commenting maniac. Because I feel like my entire internal dialogue is some version of “Deep Thoughts,” and every time I get to move those thoughts outside of my own skull I take that opportunity and I make it wish it had never been born.

    So here we go.

    I think I have what you’d call a “career.”

    I have always been driven and sure of myself, including being sure what I wanted to do for a job, even as it changed over the years. I had some very, very specific goals for myself (I wanted to be an ED of a nonprofit before 30), which I met (at 25, bitches!) yadda yadda yadda.

    But here’s the thing. The benefit to me of achieving some of my goals early on has been that I’ve realized, early on, that ultimately it’s relationships that bring me joy and fulfillment, not career. It’s having a husband that loves me and who makes me laugh and who challenges me. And a baby who is so flippin’ cute I want to EAT HIM. And being a good daughter and sister and friend.

    Over the past two years I have chosen to take jobs that are “lower” than ones I’ve held previously. Because I like having a bunch of extra time for my family. I would be lying if I said my pride didn’t suffer a little bit (okay, a lot). But at the same time, I always end up essentially where you are — that it’s the people by my side that I want to invest in, not a career.

    My work has been a bunch easier over the past little while. Which means it’s been a lot less interesting to me. But also that I’ve been spending a bunch more time with B and W and Buddy.

    There may be a point when I’m ready to ramp back up and be really challenged by work (and who knows, when that day comes if anyone will take me? Maybe I’m limiting myself forever? I’m dooooomed!). But in the meantime, I feel like I have to focus on the only things that I KNOW will keep me sane and happy, and that’s the people that I love.

    Sixteen-year-old me HATES 30 year old me, BTW. With a passion. She thinks this person I’ve become is a lazy sell-out and a waste of the entire feminist movement. That’s the girl I have to fight with internally when my resolve starts to falter.

    • 12. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      Keep the comments coming. I love them. And 16 year old you probably also liked Hootie & the Blowfish, so what does she know?

      • 13. SF Reader  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:43 pm

        hmmm.. clearly you don’t know 16 year old me. Hootie was SOOOOOOOOOO establishment. I was only interested in bands that nobody had ever, ever, ever heard of. Because they were that BAD ASS. (or just bad…)

    • 14. Employee of SF Reader  |  March 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

      Please let me start off by saying that the above comment was posted BY MY BOSS. I actually look up to this woman as one of the most driven and successful ladies I know, and NOT because she made Executive Director at 25 (although that helps).

      Life is not one thing or the other. It’s not career or family or “side projects”, but a happy combination of all of these things. My mother always said that we were both very lucky and unlucky at the same time (for being artists and creative), because creative people can do LOTS of things, so why settle for one? But then it makes life hard when we live in a paradigm where we feel that we must chose one path at 18 (or 21 or 31) and are failing if we stray off that path. Lies.

      Take a page from my mother’s book and enjoy your crazy life however it unfolds.

      • 15. SF Reader  |  March 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm

        Let’s just have all our personal conversations on other peoples blogs, now. 🙂

        You’re right — life is not one thing or the other. And our work does have its moments of feeling SUPER rewarding when (like this week) we’re kicking ass and taking names. (Well, you are. I’m just taking credit for it.) 🙂

  • 16. Marcy  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I still don’t know what I want to do.

    • 17. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      I’m starting to think this is the norm.

  • 18. Holly Jane  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Sometimes you work a job so you can afford to stay alive while you do what you really want (hi, nighttime illustrator here). At 22, I was going from interview to interview with my Computer Animation degree and college promises of vast techie wealth (and 25k student debt), and was turned away again and again for having a womb. No shit, they said, “This is the best portfolio we’ve seen in years! But we don’t want to hire anyone who might have kids.” Asshats. So I wept into my mom’s lap and said I should have just been a librarian like my grandma, and she said, “So do it.” Hurr. 4 semesters of grad school and 5 years of librarianing later, I can say, yes, having a career is nicer than having a job. But it still isn’t what identifies you, not like acting or drawing hobos or what have you. Also, as soon as you HAVE to do what you love in order to pay the bills, you start to hate it. Best to have a normal job to hate, instead.

    Point is, you’ve got everything set up were they should be (hot husband, perfect bebe, steady income, active personal pursuits), and as soon as you’re back into rehearsals, the job/career won’t seem as pressing. But I’ll change my mind if you launch a career doing set design between acting gigs or something cool like that. Then I’ll have to break your legs.

    /end rambling

    • 19. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm


  • 20. Chicago Friend of Said Turkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Well I have a career that I didn’t know I wanted, but that I like. Some days I even love.

    But all that said, I think I’ve used my career as a work-around for the more important life things – family, babies, friends. Meaning, if I put my career first, no one can really hold me accountable for not having a fulfilling personal life, right?! Maybe I/you/we can’t have both.

    Not to be a downer, but I sometimes worry that when I’m at the end of my life, I won’t have anyone there to be with me. And you and Brad will have little Sadie bug holding your hand.

    For what it’s worth, I couldn’t be more proud of you and all you’ve achieved. And even if you had all the degrees in the world, it wouldn’t change how I feel about you. You’ve made my life for the last 15 years (holy shit!) more joyful.

    • 21. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      I love you, doll. And you will never be alone as long as I am around, lighting a cig off my birthday candles.

  • 22. kristin @ going country  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I’m not driven. At all. But you’d never have known it when I was working. I was a really good employee and good at both careers I started and abandoned (politics and editing). I could’ve advanced in both professions.

    I didn’t want to. What I wanted to do, turns out, is take care of a house and family. So I do. And I’m good at that, too. This is generally enough for me, though I occasionally have the moments of shame when I try to explain to OTHER people what it is I “do.”

    Fucking other people. Always getting us down.

    Incidentally, I am married to a lawyer, and you know what? All lawyers hate the law and hate being lawyers. For real. The only person I know who really loves her chosen profession? My sister. She’s a vet. She wanted to be a vet when she was a kid, it was the only work she ever, ever did (even summers in high school and college she worked in kennels), she got the training, and she loves her job.

    Very few people are that lucky.

    • 23. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      While I’m not GLAD that A. hates his job, it does make me feel better to hear that having a law career isn’t all dramatic Law & Order court scenes and shit.

      Other people are the WORST, man.

  • 24. Rosie  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    How do you define success?

    • 25. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      I think a successful life is one that’s full of love & happiness, period. So, by that definition, I am successful out the ass, my friend. But when I get specific about the “happiness” part, that’s when I start to nitpick about careers…would I have been happier if I had pushed myself for a career in X, Y, or Z?

  • 26. Adlib  |  March 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Huge THANK YOU for this post. I feel like this a lot. Like, I got great grades in school, I’m super smart, but I feel like I’ve outgrown the job I have. I’m just glad it’s a M-F 8-5 gig because life is short, I want the most free time I can get. I also feel like I should be doing something more awesome with my life because I always expected to be, but I also don’t know what I actually WANT to do. I’m good at domestic stuff so I can see me being good at taking care of a family (but we’re not quite ready for a baby yet). Until then, I guess I languish in the hellhole I’m at. The real world is pretty good for taking the wind out of your sails anyway. I agree with a commenter above that I just do this for a job and will enjoy my personal interests outside of it.

    Just my 2 cents, and I also enjoy the Sadie pictures. She has great expressions!

    • 27. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:10 pm

      I can’t tell you how awesome it is to feel like I’m not alone in this.

  • 28. Adlib  |  March 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    I forgot this: thanks for the Ricky picture! I Love Lucy just rocks so much.

  • 29. MLE  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I have more thoughts about this than I think I can put into a reasonable-length comment, so let me sum up:

    GIrl, I hear you. I hear you, I hear you, I hear you. Except I *know* what I want to do for a career, but I have to go to grad school first, but I have to get into grad school first, so I have to take a bunch of refresher courses, which cost money, which we don’t have. My life in a nutshell.

    • 30. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      Fucking MONEY.

  • 31. bird  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    you have voiced what is the constant song in my mind.

    seriously, this shit is hard. and i think it is just in the wiring of a person. one brother is a banker and he doesn’t care what his job is, he just likes to go to work. the end. and i have another brother who worked for a year an a half and then went for as long as he could on his savings in an attempt not to work.

    and here i am in grad school and still questioning what i’m doing on a daily basis.

    but you are amazing. you are an actor. it still drives you. you’re still passionate about it. it sucks that it’s a career that first, everyone feels they could do and second, everyone feels free to judge where you are in your ‘success.’ you are successful. you are known and respected in your town – directors call you for parts or call backs. you have a husband you supports you and a baby who is so cute i want to kick something.

    i’m not saying not to question or not to wonder, but your sittin pretty, my friend.

    • 32. jiveturkey  |  March 3, 2010 at 5:26 pm

      Thank you, my friend.

  • 33. The New Girl  |  March 3, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I like this post. I have a career, I guess, such as it is (I work SUPER-DUPER part time since having kids). I went to school for art (‘You’ll never get a JOB! Why don’t you be an accountant like your cousin, Louie or a lawyer like your other cousin, Louie?’)

    I was adrift after undergrad and considered going back to school for a master’s in Social Work. Instead, I found art therapy and lo, here I am some 15 years later, still at it and loving it.

    I wonder what would have happened if I’d never heard of it. I don’t think I would have been brave enough or talented enough to make it as a fine artist, although I know lots of people who were/are/did.

    I think the shape of each person’s life is so different and unique and you’re making it every day. I think it’s super cool to have a day job that pays the bills and allows you the freedom to do what you REALLY love to do, what fills you up, at other times.

    I have a friend whose goal in life was to get married and have kids. She did that and sometimes she feels inadequate and undereducated and inferior but I have to tell you? When I’m looking for sage advice about how to be a more patient, more loving, more sensible mother? She’s the one I call. She got a Four-Point-OH in that shit.

    Holy shitoly, this is the longest comment EVER but let me add this: even though I have a good profession, a job I love and a hard-worked for ‘career,’ it still doesn’t stop me from feeling the same EXACT way that you describe about others’ lives/choices/careers. If that makes sense. There’s ALWAYS something/someone that when you look at it, you think, DAMN, I should be doing that. Why am I not doing that?

    THE END. omg.

  • 34. kdiddy  |  March 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I think we talked about this a little at our singular businesswomen’s lunch last summer (we need to repeat that shit soon, yo!). So, I have my MA and I kinda think I know what I would like to do, but I’m not sure, because I haven’t done it yet, and I’m 31 so how much longer can I really be unsure of such a thing? PLUS I had this big-time job interview last week and it went really well and I came from it and promptly LOST MY SHIT ENTIRELY because I’m not sure it’s what I want and mind you I don’t even have the job yet. This is all me freaking out about stuff that isn’t even a real issue yet.
    Anyway, we have sort of similar backgrounds because I was a ballet dancer but ballet isn’t really the sort of thing that you do on the side professionally. So when I walked away, I really walked away and that still bugs me. Just the other night, I was thinking, “I just didn’t want to try as hard as I needed to. I was just afraid of failing, so I quit before I could.” And I think this is the truth (though, yes, there were serious aspects of the profession that I don’t think I could have dealt with long-term) so now I’m paranoid about not doing that again and reevaluating everything since to see if I have. It’s exhausting being this much of a basket case.
    My point is that I’m totally lost and I think that my particular brand of perfectionism is so all or nothing. Like, if I can’t find the perfect career, then I’ll just go live in a cave or something.
    I also totally feel you on worrying about people looking down on me. I don’t want anyone to think that they have permission to feel superior to me. (Cue, I guess, that Eleanor Roosevelt quote about no one making you feel inferior without your permission.)

    • 35. SF Reader  |  March 3, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      Obviously I’m obsessed with this post. This is my 3rd comment.

      But I feel like I need to chime in here with something a friend of mine said that I’ve really, really held onto.

      She was 40 when she started med school. All her friends said “you won’t be a doctor until you’re 50.” And her response was: “yeah, but when I’m 50 I’ll be a doctor.” And now she is.

      What I’ve taken this to mean is that I’m allowed to change my mind on what I REALLY want multiple times. And I’m allowed to be right every time.

      And the only time it’s really “too late” to do anything is when I’m dead.

      • 36. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 10:27 am

        I love that perspective, SF Reader. One of the (MANY) things that makes my head explode in dealing with my Dad is his opinion that he’s “too old” to start anything new (at age 60!! Which does not = dead, for those of you keeping score). And I’m not even talking about pursuing a law degree – the man wants to LEARN SPANISH, for Chrissakes. I told him to up and buy the Rosetta Stone software already, and he says “I’m too old to learn that.” AAAAAGGHHH.

        Kdiddy, I get the all-or-nothingness. Although I think the “perfect career” is somewhat of a myth. I mean, people change SO MUCH and their lives take on so many different dimensions as the years pass, how can one job always be the right one?

        But there are those people – like Kristin’s sister up there – who do seem to have found the perfect career, so what do I know. Hm.

  • 37. Kylan  |  March 3, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Ok, M’Lady, we gotta get real. I have to share the perspective of one of those asshats who happened to know what they wanted to do since they were 15 years old. Literally. No exaggeration, what I do is what I have wanted to do since my first week of 10th grade.

    How did it happen that I found the one true thing that would make me want to get out of bed everyday for the last several years? Dumb luck. Seriously. Without getting into it too much here, I literally stumbled upon my field and thought to myself, they pay people to do this? I want to do this. And every decision I could make to have it happen was basically made without me needing to think twice about it.

    Now, here are some other things about me that will help you not feel quite so funny about the fact that you are not in a career you love at the moment:

    1) Before I found my chosen profession, I wanted to be an archaeologist and then, subsequently went through a very serious and intense phase of wanting to be an architect. I watched Indiana Jones and subscribed to Archaeology Digest (at 7) and then, while in my architect phase, drew up dream houses and mailed copies to contractors (seriously imagining that my swirly slide into the “great room” would be aesthetic and feasible. Ha. — Moral: I happen to be one of those people who really immerses myself into whatever it is I am interested in. Depending on the thing it is, this could have been a good situation or a bad one for me.

    2) As weird as it is to say this: I have always wanted a career to define my life (maybe because of my parents’ ultra-focused careers or something…). I don’t consider this to be an increased drive or exceptional talent on my part- just, quite simply, this is a trait I carry. In one respect, this could be viewed in the sense that I really depend on that career to be an indicator/definition of who I am. It’s efficient/convenient for me to have a career which defines me and my values in many different ways. Perhaps people who really seek that career (and those godforsaken letters after their name) need a niche where they have that member card to fit into. Perhaps I feel insecure not having that immediate way to describe myself. I don’t really know for sure.

    Bottom line: I was probably going to end up being a career-seeker regardless and probably would have stuck with whatever I found simply because it is less strenuous after a while to just stick with what you know. I just lucked out and stayed on the track. Do I regret what I chose? No way. I am exceedingly grateful. But, do I think it will give me ultimate and eternal happiness? Probably not. (That’s why I depend on great friends to expose me to life outside my niche. 😉

    Now, if we replace my career with, say, my passion for woodworking (another weird hobby of mine as an adolescent) I probably would have ended up with a job I hated that paid the bills and allowed me to create furniture on the side. I really could picture myself being proud to introduce myself as an artist in that way. I just happened to be very *lucky* by happening to find something I really love and it happening to be something that can afford me a living (well, only after I get those freakin’ annoying little letters after my name and pay of the residual debt). My point is that in some ways it is a hell of a lot easier to choose a conventional career because the path is laid out for you — but, if you didn’t like any of the conventional careers available, then there really was not a damn point in you pursuing them. (You would really only be back in the same boat, but with less time to do the thing you love: act.)

    I really get annoyed when career-y people pretend like there wasn’t an extraordinary amount of luck that comes with what they do. I am no more talented, smart or dedicated to my chosen field than you are to acting – I just landed in something that gives me different opportunities. My calling has a different role in my life than yours does for you – I believe you should still act and consider that your real career/calling. I always laugh my ass off when you’re on-stage… (Also, I am still pitching for this blog to become a freakin’ book… but that is a different comment all together.)

    I am sure I will wake up in a few years (post letters) and realize I want a new challenge and want to immerse myself in something equally adventurous (maybe with the raising of a little Sadie-like person) and then life will take on a different focus…

    I just felt I needed to present this perspective. Either way, the Sadester is ending up with a pretty fantastic mom who is both pragmatic and gifted. Not a lot of kids have that.

    • 38. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Kylan, this was an awesome comment. Like, I want to print it out and paste it in the baby book whenever Sadie is all “I don’t know what I wanna dooooooooo…”

      Your perspective is what I needed to hear, because I know you are both really driven and really passionate about what you do (and what she does, dear readers, is really very awesome), and now I can see how those traits are hard-wired into who you are…so maybe being a “career person” is just who some people are. This is not to say that people like me aren’t driven or passionate, but I think it just manifests itself differently.

      And I love that you acknowledge the “luck” aspect of it all. The older I get, the more I see how much luck is a factor in a lot of things.

  • 39. -R-  |  March 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I am a lawyer, and my lawyer friends and I have all gone through periods of wondering why the hell we’re lawyers. Questioning yourself is good sometimes, as long as it isn’t paralyzing. I think it is awesome that you found something you love, even if it is just your side job, not your full-time thing.

    Of course I remember Whitley and Dwayne Wayne. It’s a love story for the ages!

    • 40. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

      They were truly the Romeo and Juliet of our time. Remember that episode where they totally Did It? I know I do.

  • 41. Sara  |  March 4, 2010 at 1:02 am

    When I was a kid, all I ever dreamed of doing was acting. Long story short: It never happened. For a number of reasons (lack of encouragement, which really was discouragement, fear of humiliating myself, a dick of an acting professor in college). So I went from a bio major/theatre minor to a theatre major/bio minor (never declared or anything, but I was going to use bio as my “backup,” which I was told I needed to have, but fuck, you have to take chemistry! You can’t just be interested in the bio part!) to an English major, because that’s what I could do (sort of). And so three years out of college, after temping doing stuff I didn’t think I could do and knowing I didn’t want to (accounting offices), I landed a proofreading job. And that’s where I’ve been for the last six years (as of this past Monday; happy anniversary!). I’m good at my job, but I’m still there because it’s comfortable. I’m not motivated enough to do something else (for less pay, if that’s possible)…and I don’t know what else I could do anyway. Even if I have a dead-end job. But I have a really great personal life, right? Um…so can you have a mid-life crisis at 30 (almost 31)? That sucks for so many reasons.

    • 42. Sara  |  March 4, 2010 at 1:06 am

      Oh shit, I forgot: Who didn’t love Dwayne Wayne (please say his name like Whitley does) and Freddie and Marisa Tomei before she was famous but already famous to me because she had been on As The World Turns? They sure were babies. Except Jaleesa. Is it just me or did she look way older than the others?

      • 43. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 10:43 am

        Dude, I totally set out to comment about how Jaleesa always seemed, like, 45 years older than the rest of the kids, but that’s when I went and found the pictures and she was actually just as young-looking as them…but she had that short Mom haircut. I think it was the hair that did it. And they always dressed her older, as I recall.

        Anyway, Different World nostalgia aside, I honestly believe that a fulfilling personal life is a major achievement.

        Oh, and I also liked/was good at biology, but sucked ASS at chemistry. Like, I actually cheated in that class, which I’m not proud of. That is where my veterinary dreams truly ended.

      • 44. Sara  |  March 5, 2010 at 8:36 am

        Not only do I have to work on my personal life, but I also have to work on my communication skills because it seems you didn’t pick up on the sarcasm about said personal life. *Sigh.* Well, at least I have my vast knowledge of old TV shows. You may be right about Jaleesa; I just saw a picture of her with long hair (when Denise was still on the show!), and she doesn’t look old.

        I didn’t cheat in chemistry, but I should have. I remember being super proud of my 67 on the final exam in high school! Yay for passing! My mom didn’t even make me go to summer school (like she did for my brothers) because I think even she knew that there was no way I’d improve upon that.

  • 45. ponygirl  |  March 4, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I just want to say that I have one of those super fancy degrees that gives me extra initials at the end of my name. And… I hate it. I also knew halfway through getting those initials that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. But kept on going because, I can’t *quit* right?! I’ve always been one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason, and events have happened as a result of the fancy book learning that I wouldn’t trade. But… if I could do it all over, I’d go back in time, smack myself in the face, and tell myself to actually *think* about what I wanted to do. I would totally slap myself silly.

    So, long story short, nope, you’re not alone, and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, either. (Except I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the initials after my name I will be paying for the rest of my life…) And I totally take comfort in that stupid sunscreen song, too.

    • 46. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

      Well, even if you’re less than crazy about what you do, don’t let that take away from the fact that you got those letters,which is a big deal, my friend.

      And also read SF Reader’s comment above re: it never being too late to switch tracks.

  • 47. FoST  |  March 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I know what you mean JT. But at one point in my life, I just decided that just because I can, doesn’t mean I have to. Meaning, just because I have mad skills, (haha) it doesn’t mean I have to actually have to use those skills at my job!

    And I told myself, after all, it’s a job – it’s what I do for money and to keep me from growing into the couch.

    If you get to spend your free time doing what you love (acting and being with your family) and your job affords you the ability to do that, you’re more “successful” than most people I know.

    I know it’s corny, but I love that saying, “No one on their deathbed ever said, I wish I spent more time at work.” I mean, I’m sure there are some people who LOVE their work and they have a passion for what they do. I just don’t happen to be one of them – and I’ve just decided to stop feeling bad about it.

    • 48. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

      YES. And you do have mad skillz, so much so that they require a “z” at the end.

  • 49. Austin  |  March 4, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I am totally in your boat, JT. And it sometimes paaaaains me. I will agonize over a career path and why I can’t seem to choose one. I feel inadequate at my completely generic desk job, where I’m paid well to pretty much be the catch-all for the tedious tasks no one else wants to do. I have many interests but no one major passion, except I am CRAZY EXCITED to be a mom in the (hopefully near-ish) future. My husband, on the other hand, is finishing up law school and is passionate about politics and has far-reaching goals and a whole big plan and man, I am exhausted just typing that.

    I bemoan the fact that I don’t have a solid career, but I also find freedom in that every choice I make doesn’t have to tie in to a specific path I am trying to follow. I feel like I can find a job that I like (we are about to move out of state so my days at the current job have always been numbered) and if I end up not liking that one, it’s not a big deal for me to find another (um, does that make me totally flaky?). I plan to be a SAHM and I already get a minor case of hives when I think about what my professional friends think of that because when I talk about it I feel less smart, less driven, less interesting. But the truth is that I put that on myself and SO MANY women wish they could stay home with their kids. It’s a different kind of gift.

    I guess my point is, I hear you. For a lot of people (like me) overall life fulfillment isn’t going to come from a job/career. I find the most joy in the people I love and the relationships I build. I also think Holly Jane’s comment might apply to me, and if I ever did something I was passionate about as a career I would end up not liking it as much or resenting that now I HAVE to do it. I think, as many people have stated in the comments above, that as long as you have other aspects of your life that make you happy (and it sounds like you do!) then you’re pretty lucky.

    And, Sadie? She’s pretty freaking awesome and adorable.

    • 50. jiveturkey  |  March 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

      Well, I think your future kid is pretty damn lucky to be getting a Mama so stoked to have her/him.

      I hate that people feel defensive about being SAH parents (and WANTING to be SAH parents). I mean, how awesome if that’s what you want to do? No one ever said it was for everyone, and no one ever said you’re less of a parent if, like me, you don’t think you’re cut out for it.

      And for the record, I don’t think it’s flaky for you to job-hop. I did it all throughout my 20s and while it would make some people very anxious, I rather enjoyed it.

      • 51. Austin  |  March 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

        I agree, about hating the defensiveness surrounding SAH motherhood (and fatherhood, though I haven’t personally encountered defensiveness about that) (yet). It’s dumb and I’m pissed when I feel that way.

        But if I keep going this conversation is going to spiral into how feminism is about having choices and my choice to be a SAHM will be made because it’s what *I* want, and I know it’s not for everyone but my choosing it doesn’t make me less enlightened or less of a feminist and I think it’s awesome that some women are career-driven and it’s just not for me and OH HAI, DEFENSIVENESS. And no one really wants that.

        Uh, whoops.

    • 52. Adlib  |  March 5, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      My mom was a SAHM, and I think my life as a kid rocked because of it. She’s one of the smartest people I know because I still call her to ask advice of her all the time. So, I’m just adding my kudos to you for going for it! 🙂

      • 53. Austin  |  March 5, 2010 at 2:35 pm

        Thanks, Adlib! My mom worked three jobs and we almost never saw her, which is something I know she really regrets. You don’t get do-overs when it comes to your kids so I just think if it’s something you think you MIGHT want to do and you can work it out financially, better to at least give it a try. You can always re-enter the workforce if you find being a SAH parent is not for you, but there’s no way to get that time back with your kid(s) 10 years later, you know?

  • 54. Mermanda  |  March 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    You already know that I hear you loud and clear and we share the “i don’t know what i want to be when i grow up” dilemma. But what you might not know is… Andrew’s sister wanted to be a steamboat or a whale when she grew up. At least I think she did.

  • 55. Amy  |  March 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I was a Communications major, piggy-backed with Rhetoric. Just as useless and vague.

  • 56. Amy  |  March 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    p.s. JT…I worked in music marketing forever, then graphic design. It was only last year (at the age of 40, cripes) that I realized I wanted to write about food. (NONE of those things, btw, make any money.) Coincidentally, Paul worked in professional sports (but not as an athlete) for the longest time, so he’s never made any money either. As you said, fucking MONEY.

    But you know what, I have things I never ever thought I would have (or even knew I wanted.) A family. I don’t think I want the career anymore. I just want to be able to pay the bills and enjoy my offspring…while cooking, eating, and enjoying really great food.

    Let me repeat, however…I’m 40 and just realized this. My sister is 42 and still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.

    I say you write a book. You’re a stellar writer and fucking hilarious. I’d buy it.

  • 57. sweetbird  |  March 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Speaking as a 23-year-old Communications Major I can honestly say that I don’t know shit about shit (cue Denis Leary-style maniacal tangent about flavored coffee).

    That being said, I think soul-searching is important at every stage in life. From where I’m sitting, you’ve got a golden ticket with Brad and Sadie – everything else is just icing on the cake.

  • 58. Amy@On Bradstreet  |  March 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    This may seem like it’s from way left-field, but as an unschooling mother, I have the perspective that whole-life learning is what most of us desire to do, but we are told from the beginning that we can not (heck, it’s not even understood that there is such a thing, the factory model of living/education, is so ingrained in us. ( I wrote about that here What you’ve written about is something I think many of us feel and go through, but I think we need to both question why we feel this way. To quote Stuart Smalley, look at yourself, your life and what you have created–it’s amazing! It’s okay, really, you should be content and in love with your life. And I don’t mean that in the sunshine and rainbows way, I mean it in the hell yes, you’re justified feeling in love with your life.

    Also–my blogging friend, also an unschooling mama, touched a bit on this topic, here.

    Amy @ On Bradstreet

  • 59. A  |  March 11, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Trust me, some of those people who are doctors and lawyers are only doing it because they started down that path and couldn’t quite figure out how to say, “Hey, everyone who has helped me get this ‘career’ or who thinks it is so great that I got all these degrees, I kind of actually think my career sucks and I would rather go do something else, like anything that didn’t involve all the responsibility and stress and dealing with jerks involved in this job that I thought I wanted when I was in eighth grade but now realize I actually hate.” Not to mention the small problem of owing an ungodly amount of money and the fact that what I want to do won’t come close to being able to pay back The Man.

    Every lawyer party I’ve ever been to has a required conversation session about how everyone hates their job and wishes they would have done something else instead. On a bad day, ditch digger looks like tempting gig.


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