#Microblog Mondays 2: Quiet Happy.

Microblog_Mondays

(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)

I have been getting up a half hour earlier every day to write in my journal – even if it’s just a word or two – for a month now. Even on the days where it feels like I have little to say, the experience of it has been so good for me.

In the years of fertility treatments, where we were hoping against all odds to have a baby, the silence of my house mocked me; a reminder of how much I longed to be a parent and how scared I was that it wouldn’t happen. I avoided it at all costs; listened to music, talked over it, moved through it too quickly.

Now, my favorite part of journaling in the early mornings is that stillness. On most days, it infuses in me a quiet happy which I can use as an antidote to the stress of the day.

I love starting out my day communing with quiet words, coffee, and the sunrise.

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Making a Plan.

Thank you for all the support – it was a little scary, yesterday, to publish my idea. Because it’s so tenuous.

I’m not SURE I want to teach, but I have an IDEA I want to teach. Very hard to throw that idea out into the universe when it’s not a real formulated plan.

That said, I DO need a plan if this is something I want to pursue.

The first obstacle is schooling if I want to be licensed to teach in public education. In Massachusetts the requirements for obtaining an initial license is that I complete an “Educator Preparation Program.” There are lots of flavors of this which I have spent time researching.

I could do an immersion program – teach AND do classes at the same time, which would be incredibly hard to balance as a mother.

I could do a masters program – there are many schools in the area, which have myriad options. Full time, part time, etc. I like this option; there’s a program which would ask only a weekend a month for me for a year and a half and then a student teaching assignment.

I would like to get my license to teach in the public schools. Mostly because I don’t want to limit myself to only charter or private schools.

But it requires an investment of time and money. Which I would wholeheartedly pursue if I KNEW my vocation was a teacher – that is, if it wasn’t just an idea.

I just don’t know. I need to get into a classroom and see if I like it, or see how the education system works and whether I think I can handle the specific pressure on educators.

And so I don’t think I’m in a place to move on this right now.

The way I look at it, maybe I need to substitute teach*, or volunteer at the school, or work for a non-profit in education. Or maybe I start at a private school/charter school and go from there.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea to change careers, reinvent myself, at age 40. It WOULD be a bad idea for me to  do it without really KNOWING that this is something I want to do.

Really, the bottom line is that I don’t want to waste money on a degree if it’s not going to make me happy.

All careers have pros and cons. I might not like the work I am doing now, but I make good money and it’s relatively flexible. I often cannot imagine doing this for the next 10, 20 years, but I KNOW this career.

It’s possible it might be better to stay where I am right now, too.

So I will continue to research. And when Owen starts kindergarten next week, I’ll talk to his teacher about volunteering in his class, and see if the principal would be interested in me volunteering in other classrooms, too.  Maybe I’ll see what’s involved with being a substitute and whether it’s something I can commit to when I don’t have an active work project.

As much as I want to MOVE on this right now, I know I need to be practical and smart and make sure I know that this is the right choice for me.

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*Because, seriously. If you are a substitute teacher, you see the worst of kids. Sometimes the best. But the worst, too. If you can survive running the substitute teacher gauntlet and STILL want to teach, maybe that’s a vocation. At least, that’s what I figure.

Being Clear(er).

So I want to start this post off with an apology.

As a blogger, I often feel as if I don’t post enough. SO when I DO find time and something to write about, I want to hit the “Publish” button quickly. Last week on vacation, I was trying to post from an iThing, which is not compatible with wordpress. It was a pain in the ass to write much of anything. But I had the time and desire, so I hit publish on my post about my career and my new idea.

Except I broke my own cardinal rule: DO NOT, under any circumstances, vagueblog.

Rule #1: If you’re going to write about it, THEN WRITE ABOUT IT.

So please, please accept my apologies.

And let me start over.

I have mentioned before that I’ve spent YEARS now thinking about my career path. And with all that ruminating, you’d think I would have come up on this idea sooner than now. But this has come up in the very same way you put together a puzzle. You know, when you are looking at one or two puzzle pieces without any real understanding how it fits in the whole. But then,  you find that ONE piece that makes the pattern clear, and all of a sudden the pieces fit.

Back in 2003, when I started working in public accounting, I had about 6 months where I absolutely loved it. I loved the fast pace, loved having to step up and learn, loved putting the theories I learned in my Master program to use.

And then reality set in. I’m not naturally a detail oriented person. Where I excelled at auditing was really on MANAGING an audit: the planning of procedures and budgeting, the utilizing of the audit team to get stuff done. I was decent with my own tasks, but I really didn’t LIKE auditing. What I liked was the audit room – the asking of questions, discussion of theory, walking the new associates through the theory and procedures of how to test an area, talking the partner through his review.

Teaching. I have, in one form or another, considered being a teacher – for most of my life now. When I was younger I would have told you I was either going to be a famous Broadway star – or a teacher. For my high school career day, I shadowed a high school English teacher.

I made the decision in college, when I was a clarinet major, that I didn’t want to teach music.

And I am not sure why I opted out of education altogether when I went back to the English department. I think it had something to do with feeling like I needed to be a different person after my cousin’s suicide – I needed to distance myself from, well, myself.

Anyway, I ended up graduating with an English degree and figured I needed a practical career. Enter a MBA, then a CPA.

I have looked into teaching a few times over the course of the past couple of years. But I’ve always thought I needed to teach high school. My English degree was 15 years ago. I’m a CPA, but there is no way in hell I’d be able to teach high school math. I do not have the interest in doing that, either.

Not to mention the schooling I’d need to  complete in order to get certified in Massaachusetts. Yet another freaking Master degree – my THIRD.

So I gave up on the idea and have been trying to figure out alternatives, where I can use my CPA but maybe can do more fulfilling work. I’ve been spinning my wheels over this for a long time now, with no real solution.

The reason: I really just don’t like accounting. I can do it just fine. But I don’t like it.

Enter thoughts of drama and guilt over having a job which provides well but I don’t like it. Really, is it awful to work a job you don’t like if the rest of your life is fulfilled? Isn’t work, by definition, well, WORK?

I’ve mentioned before I don’t believe that there’s a soulmate equivalent of a career. And truthfully, I’ve had two different careers already – once in marketing, once in accounting – and haven’t found that happiness I am looking for. What really makes me think that yet ANOTHER try would be different?

But when I started thinking about Owen going to school, I started thinking about the things we could do at home to augment what he learns in school, and thought about the stuff I might be able to do with volunteering in his class. I had a schedule set in my head – when he gets off the bus on Fridays, we’ll go to the library and hunt for books that match what he’s learned about that week.

And then I started remembering my own grade school years. How my fourth grade teacher made me feel special and smart, even though I struggled with my organization and study skills.

The thought struck me: maybe I should teach elementary school. Literacy – books. Math – accounting is, essentially, grade school math. Science – since Owen has kind of a scientific mind, we’ve already had some experience teaching him everyday science. I could learn how to teach social studies through the more schooling I’d need to teach.

So here it is: I think I want to teach elementary school.

And the thing is: it is such a small, shaky idea right now. It’s a tiny sprout in a garden overrun with weeds.

So many reasons NOT to do anything: Education is hard. It includes entitled kids and even more entitled parents. Special needs. Mandated curriculum. A new career in at 40. Dwindling energy. Wasted money on a MBA and CPA. More schooling. Less money.

And the biggest worry: what if I invest the time and money into this, and figure out in ten years I don’t like it either?

But it’s the what ifs that keep me up at night.

What if I DID like it?  What would it be like to feel fulfilled in my career, to really like going to work every day, to do work I enjoy?

So I’m researching. Talking with people. Looking into the schooling I’ll need; I found a program that requires only one weekend a month for two years. (Ha. “Only.” Right? But it seems a hell of a lot less overwhelming than one or two weeknights every week for a couple of years.) Navel gazing.

Because if I’m being honest, this is the first time I’ve ever thought about doing something I WANT to do, rather than what I should do. My MBA and MSA were practical decisions; I needed more schooling and the money was in business – and stability in accounting.

A career change at 40 is not at at all practical. It’s terrifying, actually, to contemplate.

But. What if?

Vacation Musings.

I am currently writing from our cabin in the lake.

I say “our” because it is the second year we’ve taken cabin 2 here on the lake; the second in a line of neat cabins tiny cottages right on Lake Winnepesaukee. We have been coming to the lake with Jeff’s family now for a number of years; we settled on coming back here when we discovered 4 years ago that sharing a house was too much; we all wanted our own space. Even though the furnishings are spartan, there are no good dishes with which to cook, and often we share our living space with ants and spiders, it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

My in-laws have been coming here for almost 40 years now.

Our days fall into this sort of rhythm: Jeff gets up early and goes out fishing on my father in law’s boat each morning, rain or shine. I have breakfast and coffee with Owen, who draws or plays with his cars (and now complains about “no TV!”). When Jeff gets back, after the fish are cleaned and he is eating breakfast, get change into my running gear and head to the state beach nearby; the site of a triathlon on the weekend we leave and a popular route for walkers and other joggers. I get to run along the water, the sun on my back and breeze in my face.

And every year, it’s here that I gain confidence in my running. It’s comfortable, exhilarating… Happy.

I run happy here.

_____________________________

Almost as soon as I hit “publish” on my post about the benefits of my career, I admit I was back to disliking accounting again. Mostly because I went back to work; I am now back to testing internal controls and commuting three hours a day and forcing deadlines to motivate myself to actually get something accomplished.

It’s easy to extoll the benefits of flexibility when you aren’t actually WORKING, you see.

Harder, then, to talk about flexibility when you need to be onsite and your client would rather do anything other than internals control testing and you are stuck trying to be nice when all you want to do is get stuff done so you don’t have to sit in traffic on the Tobin Bridge for hours.

It’s days like those where my commuting hours are spent trying to think my way into a new career. What WOULD I love doing? How can I get there?

What would be be like to do something I really liked, instead of trying to convince myself I like my job?

___________________________

I think I have an idea of what I might want to do next. I have had this idea for a few weeks now – I have spent time researching and looking into what would take for me to move into this career. I’ve talked it over with Jeff, who has been very supportive. I’ve mentioned it to my best girlfriends, both of whom have talked me through the pros and cons.

I have mentioned it to others, too. And the general reaction has been, basically, to talk me out of it. Like I don’t know what a career change entails at almost 40. Like I haven’t considered fact that that ALL careers have pros and cons. Like I am the kind of person who changes my mind willy-nilly.

I have been an accountant for 10 years now. I have been trying to talk myself into LIKING accounting for nearly that many years as well.

All jobs have pros and cons. I know this. I don’t believe that there is the equivalent of a career soulmate out there for me; at least, not the kind where everything is perfect and I am blissfully happy forever and ever. I understand that I will make choices that affect my family if I decide to move on this idea I have.

And I confess that the idea of changing careers scares me a lot.

But so does the idea of spending the next ten years talking myself into liking my job in three hours of traffic, too.

More on Balance.

Owen and I took a road trip last week to visit my sister and other assorted friends and family. And, like most things, conversations turned to work and career and balancing all of it, especially as parents of young children. Even my retired aunt and uncle talked about how hard they thought balancing parenting and work is for everyone now (especially with the DC traffic – holy crap I do NOT know how people sit in that traffic day in and day out!).

In the context of these conversations, I found myself talking with everyone about the positives of my working experience. And it struck me one afternoon: I actually kind of LIKE my job.

It’s true: I don’t love being an accountant.

But I do love my current work SITUATION.

Because it’s flexible. I have one client through the rest of the year. Which means I can structure my work weeks the way I want them. I have been working 2 days a week in July, a few hours here and there from home, and therefore haven’t been stuck in the car for three hours a day, 4 days a week.

I am able to take a week off, like last week, at sort of a moment’s notice. Without needing to apply for vacation time.

I love that about my job. I love that I am in charge of when and how the day to day tasks get done.

Of course, there’s times I am needed onsite, and days where I have my work reviewed and come away shaking my head and feeling like a loser and a failure. And the mornings where I have a 9am meeting and therefore HAVE to get on the road at 7:15 at the LATEST because otherwise I’d be too late and miss it.

And then there are the days where the sheer drudgery of doing a job I don’t love makes me loathe to do anything at all. Where I spend the hour and a half drive home cycling through a list of careers and wondering if any of them might actually make me happy.

In 2005, Steve Jobs spoke at a Stanford commencement, and he uttered a quote which I have not been able to let go since I first heard it maybe 5 years ago. This is what he said:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Find something you love to do.

For years now, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about what kind of career might make me happy. If you added up all the time and energy I’ve spent on it, it probably adds up to weeks of my life of thinking about what my ideal career would be.

All that time spent ruminating – and I’m no closer to an answer.

I’m 37 years old and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

I’ve been trash talking being an accountant now, for, what, 10 years? I don’t love it. I don’t like talking about it with people, because they assume I’m good at math (and trust me, I’m NOT. I rely heavily on my calculator!) and am one of those “finance people” who has no personality or communication skills.

And there is always a part of me, deep inside, that wants to cry to these people who think I’m great at math and don’t have a personality or communication skills: But I love to write! And read! I was an English major and I played the clarinet and I have actually cried from the beauty of a piece of music!

The fact is, I AM an accountant. An accountant who blogs and reads and cries when she hears beautiful music.

I envy the Steve Jobs of the world; the people who knew exactly what they were meant to do and do it every day with passion. One of my best friends in college was like that: she knew from the moment she graduated high school that she was going to be a landscape architect. And damn if she doesn’t own her landscape architect business now. She loves what she does, and I often wish I had a career I could focus on with similar passion.

I don’t. But I don’t HATE my profession, either. In fact, I love it right now: Love it for the flexibility, for the freedom to work as little or as much as I want to. I love that I can work from home without having to explain myself. I love that the quality of my work is what’s judged, not the time I spend in the office. I love that it changes and moves and I have to stay on top of changes and figure stuff out on my own.

I love that I can take a week and do a road trip with my fast-maturing 5 year old in the summer before he starts school. I love that I can take him to dentist appointment and swim lessons and have family dinners ready and be able to run miles without having to worry about fitting it all in. I love that when he’s sick (or I am, since I have strep), I can adjust my schedule and not worry about long term career effects.

And you know. Maybe it’s GOOD that I don’t love my job. Because this way, I can be around for my family and run and cook and travel and do things I enjoy, instead of having a single-minded focus on my career, my passion.

And I’m now starting to wonder if my definition of “doing great work” has been too limited. Maybe doing great work, for me, means making sure that Jeff, Owen, and I have dinner together nearly every night. Maybe it means that I keep myself healthy and fit and mentally clear by running long distances. Maybe it’s about having the space and time to blog regularly, cook healthy meals, raise a happy child and have a happy marriage and life.

Maybe that’s enough, and I can stop wasting my energy on trying to figure out the career which Steve Jobs said I should find.

Beach Dreams – A Decade Later.

Jeff and I honeymooned in Fiji. Which was, in a word, ah-FREAKING-mazing. (And yes, that’s a word. I just made it up. But it’s TOTALLY a word.:))

Every night, after a day of snorkeling or or rafting or kayaking or scuba diving or whatever, we’d take a walk on the beach and watch the sun set over the water before we’d head to dinner.

The sunsets were pretty, of course. But what I remember from those beach walks was our discussion. We were newly married. We had dreams and hopes and talked about what we wanted out of our marriage: two kids (preferably three years apart, of course), a big house with land, careers that afforded us balance and family and vacation time with opportunities for advancement. And travel, lots of travel.

Both of our families didn’t have a lot of money when we were growing up. And the one thing we talked about was this idea of never having to WORRY about money. We wanted to live within our means and keep a savings account balance. We wanted to pay off our credit card every month so our debt was limited to mortgage and student loans. But we also wanted to be able to splurge here and there without too much worry: vacations, tee ball, dinners out, weekends away, etc.

It’s no secret that I don’t love being an accountant. I picked it because it was recession-proof and I figured it would be intellectually challenging. Which is was. Is. But it’s hard to separate what I COULD do with what I actually have time to do, and it can be stressful when I find an issue I don’t have time to find, and my clients often don’t love me, especially when it’s Sarbanes-Oxley work.

And I loathe, utterly LOATHE, the commute. Driving into Boston every day sucks the soul right out of me.

So this weekend I ran actual monthly numbers to see if we could afford for me to stay home. And discovered very quickly that, while it’s DOABLE, it would require us to significantly change our lifestyle. For the first time, we’d have to WORRY about money.

There’s plenty we COULD do, mind you, to save money. We could get rid of our gym memberships, and I could stop doing my running clinics. No more budget for a running coach, or deep sea fishing or golf for Jeff. No tee ball, no Museum of Science membership.

We could make it work.

But then I remembered our discussion on the beach in Fiji. So many of those beach dreams didn’t work out the way we wanted them to. We don’t have the two kids three years apart like we had hoped: we are SO fortunate to have our son, but there will likely never be a sibling. Balance with family and work does not come easily for either one of us. We do have the big house with land and great neighbors, but it means a long commute into Boston – for both of us.

I am fully aware of how fortunate I am to have choices, this day and age. I’m only a few generations removed from a woman who didn’t have the right to vote, work, or do ANYTHING with her mind.

And even, right now, I know so many people where both parents HAVE to work – there’s no choice in the matter. I also know people who have been looking for work for a long time and would LOVE to have the flexibility I do with my career.

At the end of the day, I have a choice.

And right now, I will choose to continue to do what I’m doing. Which means the suck of a three hour commute, but hopefully some time off here and there – and flexibility to work from home when I need to. It means I continue to work as an accountant, even though I don’t love it (on the good days) and hate it (on the bad days). It means Owen goes to aftercare at school three times a week. It means I continue to juggle and feel like supermom (on the good days) and an utter failure (on the bad days).

What we didn’t see on that beach in Fiji nearly a decade ago was the full picture; in our honeymoon haze, we saw our dreams through rose-colored glasses and imagined the perfect life without the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

The reality is that life is kind of hard, and it’s impossible to do it all without sacrificing something. My sacrifice, right now, for the flexibility to do the things we enjoy outside of work is a long commute and time at a job that I don’t love.

Really, at the end of the day, that’s not so bad.

And yes, remind me of this when I’m complaining about how I loathe it sometime soon, please. 🙂

What are some of the choices you’ve made to live the life you want? Are they sacrifices you’d make willingly if you could do it again?

In The End… (aka: A Catch Up Post)

So.

It’s the day before my Official 30 day No-Yelling challenge, and I think I’ve figured out some things about myself. Which, hopefully, will help me figure out other ways to express my feelings before I pop and yell at the people (and dog) I love most in this world.

1. I am actually yelling before I realize I’m yelling. It took me looking at myself from the outside to realize this; there was a moment this weekend where I thought, Hey, wait a second, my voice is raised! when I wasn’t particularly angry, just kinda annoyed.

Looking at it from my husband and son’s perspective though, I would think I was yelling too.

2. I am more prone to yelling when I am trying to do too much at once. For example, I generally snap at nighttime, when I am making dinner, keeping an eye on the dog (so he doesn’t chew our moldings or pee on the floor), half-listening to Owen asking me to play with him, cleaning the kitchen and counters so I can get dinner on the table on time. Et cetera. I have very little patience at that point, which means I need to simplify.

Do less. That’s easy, right? 😉

3. I need more time in a day. No, seriously. I’m commuting 3 hours a day. Slowly, the time spent in traffic is sucking the soul out of me. I didn’t realize how edgy traffic made me until the day I pulled into daycare and screamed my head off – for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. (Thankfully the windows were closed and the kids were inside and no one witnessed me.) It was a bit of a revelation to me – I thought music was enough to keep me occupied.

The idea I’m wasting 3 hours of my day in the car, in traffic, kills me.

So I downloaded a book about dog training onto my iPhone. Wa-LA! I am now using that “dead time” to be productive – getting tips on how to train Finley.

And now I’m not counting the minutes I’m wasting in traffic because I feel like I’m getting something accomplished. Win.

So far, anyway. 🙂

4. I need to be kind to myself. 37 years of yelling when I’m mad won’t be undone in a day.

I’m well on my way, I think. For me, just being aware of my triggers is huge in terms of trying to change my behavior.

And the coolest thing? I’ve found women who want to do the same thing as me. We formed a Facebook group where we support each other in the challenge.

I just love knowing that I’m not alone in this.

______________________

I ran my goal race last weekend – the half marathon I’ve spent the last few months training for.

I went into it with three goals.

The A goal was to break 1:45:00. This was aggressive, I knew, and I didn’t really BELIEVE I had the ability to run that fast for that long. I’ve had very few miles in my training that were run that fast.

The B goal was to break 1:50:00. This was the realistic goal for me – the one that would be hard but sustainable.

The C goal was to break 1:55:00. This was a comfortable goal, or if something happened mid-race like a muscle/tendon tweak or something.

Now, mind you, meeting ANY of these goals would have meant a personal best. My fastest official half marathon time was run this April; I clocked in at 1:56:31.

The race was hard. I never really felt comfortable – which meant I raced it like I needed to. But if it weren’t for my friend Jen, who ran with me in the middle miles, I might have gone slower.

But I met my B goal. I finished in 1:49:15.

I’m thrilled with this time. Seriously, I ran my first half marathon three years ago, in 2:18:18. And since then I’ve taken nearly a full half hour off my time.

It’s shocking and empowering and exciting stuff. And gives me SO much hope for my fall marathon training.

____________________

The Career Stuff. Yeah, it’s still hard. I have been considering quitting my job altogether so I can be home more. It would simplify some things, for sure. Laundry, groceries, housecleaning, bills. All me. Jeff could focus on his work only.

But it would also complicate things, too. Money would become an issue. And back in the day, when Jeff and I sat on a beach in Fiji, we talked about living a life where money wouldn’t be an issue.

Course, we also talked about balance, so it’s not like there’s not complications there.

What I have the hardest time with is the fact that I am currently working mostly part time. Yeah, I spend three hours in the car when I’m at the client. But this week? I’ve worked only two days. And I make good money.

I could trade that for a job closer to home, where I make half of what I make now. It’s still accounting – I could do bookkeeping pretty damn easily. It’s just, well, I can’t get excited about taking ANOTHER accounting job for less money.

I wish I had clarity or passion for ONE thing. I am so envious of the women who knew in high school or college what they were going to be when they grew up. Those women had a vision and goal and passion.

So that’s why it’s so hard to take the step and stop doing what I’m doing now. I’m hoping to find that magical place of balance. I don’t need to LOVE my job, but I also don’t want loathe my time there, either.

I keep telling myself I’m doing the best I can with what I have today. It’s all I can do.

So that’s my update. For now anyway. 😉