Adulthood is a series of projects

It’s been about five weeks since I finished my second graduate program (two Master’s degrees! woo!).

These several weeks (and the few months preceding them) have been something of a new experience for me: I didn’t know what I’d be doing next.

For the last nine years of my adulthood, I have always had a plan, a next step. My life moved with the academic calendar. Even the time I took off from school (a year between my undergraduate study and my MFA, six months between my MFA and my MALA) took its definition from my studies. After all, I didn’t plan that time based on what I would be doing then, but rather what I would be doing afterward. Even more strangely, I’ve always viewed my programs of study as opportunities in themselves. The plan has rarely been “complete such and such degree in order to get such and such job.” Because of this, each program has always felt like its own endeavor, a chapter with a beginning and an end, not a stage in one continuous undertaking.

This past fall,  I applied to PhD programs with the intention of continuing my already lengthy education. That I didn’t succeed has provided me with the unique (for me) opportunity to do something else for a while. It’s an exciting prospect. Failure has become a kind of victory, a point I know many of my more goal-oriented peers find baffling. If you’re happy you didn’t get in, why did you apply at all? It’s hardly so simple. I would have been happy to continue my studies. Of course, that particular path would have its own challenges and frustrations. Every path we take does. In avoiding those difficulties, I find new ones, but also new possibilities. And given that my personal circumstances are relatively free of hardship, I see no difficulty in embracing them.

So we return to the question: what next? It has not been an easy one to answer. It’s a very different thing to seek employment when you know you’ll be leaving for graduate school in a year or you need only stay in a position for the duration of your studies. I have been looking for something I would want to do for the next five years–or ideally more. And I have yet to find the right job. I applied to several, interviewed for a few . . . and nothing clicked. It’s not the dire desperation of my 2009 job search or the frustrating particularity of my 2012 hunt. It’s been like dumping out a new puzzle, turning over the pieces and sorting them by color and by shape–without making much progress.

About two weeks ago, it occurred to me that I might be going about all this the wrong way. Or at least that it might be worthwhile to try something different. After all, I assumed that I need to find my career, the single opportunity that would bestow an income, insurance, personal fulfillment, and stability in one unicorn-rare package. That is the traditional way to go about it, isn’t it?

But right now, I have the chance to pursue something nontraditional for a little while. I’m young. My debts and obligations are few. I can take a few months to try something else, maybe something more piecemeal. Not one thing, but several small things. Freelance work, virtual work, adjunct work, part-time local work, volunteering–and, of course, writing. I admit, it may take a few tries to get the combination right. And certainly, it will be less stable. And I may fail.

If I fail, I fail. It doesn’t scare me. Failure at least entails an attempt to do something. 

I’ve never been the sort of person interested in linear development. My interests have always been a series of projects. I thought that might need to end when I finished school, but maybe it doesn’t.

As for the blogging, it can be part of that. It’s taken me many tries to get this blog right, if it’s even right now. It’s never had one particular theme, and that fact has made it difficult to write. The posts aren’t short or consistent. But maybe it’s time to embrace that, too, and think of it differently.

Chi dorme non piglia pesce.

S/he who sleeps does not catch fish.

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