career exploration – 3ish

In June a friend of a friend who’d been an art teacher for a decade told me she’s left her job for a program in biotechnology. She’s getting a two-year associate’s degree, after which she’ll be able to work in a hospital lab, as a histologist (a word I’d never heard before). She talked about the visual nature of working in a lab—looking into microscopes, handling dyes and tinctures and slides. When I heard this, something inside me said oh!

OH! I could DO that. I’d LIKE that. I keep thinking of new explanations for how this idea appeals to me, and in the past six weeks I haven’t shaken it off. I imagine standing/sitting/walking work; cleanliness; order; repetition (I like to knit). I’m practically greedy for the whole new world of things to know (I aced the AP calculus test in 1992, but I haven’t taken a serious science or math class since). I loved my high school biology class; knowing those Latinate words, memorizing taxonomies to the pitying surprise of my classmates and teachers. I think I’d like the sanitized proximity to body fluids; the behind-the-scenes feel of peeking at life in a tiny way; The importance of the work; the lack of interpersonal heaviness to its success.

I wonder, though, whether I’m a a sort of newness addict. Shouldn’t I, by now, by forty (I round up; forty in March) have advanced beyond the level of technician? (which is what I am in this wordy non-profit job I’ve had for 11 years, and also what I would be in this potential new kind of job, after lots and lots of reeducation to get there). Shouldn’t I have moved, by now, up? Rather than …er… over? Or back? Would pursuing this wacky thing be a kind of failure, a kind of giving up?

I find myself wondering what kind of pattern this is part of, this desire to become a beginner again. In my past I see years and years of staying, mostly content, in one place, followed by quick, drastic-feeling change. It matters how I tell myself the story. Is it called giving up? It could be reinvention, or subversion of the expected story, or a craving for adventure. It could be courage, or fear.

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3 thoughts on “career exploration – 3ish

  1. Were you the one who first pointed me to Barbara Sher’s book about scanners? If not, you should go read it. And/or the book about “Renaissance Souls” I also read. It might help you sort through this. (Here’s my post where I summarized the books and my thoughts on them: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2012/05/scanning-my-renaisance-soul.html) If you were the person who pointed me to the book, maybe you should re-read it!

    Reading those two books really helped me come to terms with the restlessness I’ve been feeling in my current career path, and start to plot a path forward.

    1. Yes, it was me who recommended Barbara Sher’s book! AND you’re the second person I told about it years ago who has now re-recommended it to me. Maybe I should look at it again (and at Renaissance Souls, which I don’t think I’ve read). It would be nice if they’d give me an idea about how to address my need for newness without massive negative financial consequences for my family.

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