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.