career exploration

Eleven years into my post-quitting-grad school life and I have the itch to start something new. Poetry continues; parenting continues. Work needs to pay, and it needs to feed those other parts of life.

What I fantasize about is being part of a drywall crew—not lifting the big heavy slabs, but mudding the seams. Using a big spatula (is that thing called a spatula?) to smooth that wet white goo.

When I drive by a grain elevator or a railroad yard, I think of climbing metal ladders, getting to know the complicated shapes of those buildings. Slinging chains and pulling levers, coupling up railroad cars, making things move.

A neighbor writes copy for an online company that sells embroidery patterns. She writes a thumbnail description of each one. This appeals to me, too: bright colors, small collections of words.

And I envied the women at the lice-picking salon who combed every damn hair on my head last fall. The beginning and end of their task, the low-pressure educational chatter. All the friendliness of a hair salon, without the scary fashion sense.

There are quizzes that try to help us figure out what to do next, and of course I take them; I’ve been a sucker for the quiz since 1985, YM Magazine, “What’s your Guy Q?” Which of the following describes you and your interests? I check almost all of the boxes. I have a great imagination.

Item: “I like to build things.”

I like to knit. Does that count? I like the repetition. I like the satisfying completion of each stitch and then each row. I like to imagine the three-dimensional thing made of flat pieces made of small actions. I like the feeling of pulling yarn along, of having a physical record of each moment. Still, “I like to build things” doesn’t seem like a line I’m supposed to select.

Also, where do I say, I’d like to drive a big truck, but only if I never have to put it in reverse? Where’s the box for, I liked working as an old-fashioned secretary because the constant activity made the work seem urgent, like working in a hospital, only without the life-or-death heaviness? Where’s the box for I hope not to sit in a chair all the time? Or I have a longing to work with equipment. Please please put me in the world of physical things. Or I am good at timing; the pasta, salad, and sauce are done at the same instant, each ready to put on the table at its correct temperature.

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