Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What should I do when I grow up?

So, at our last book group, we read The Alchemist, and we were all kind of making fun of the idea of a Personal Legend (dun dun dun). However, it did get me to thinking about what it is that I want to do with my life, career-wise.

I've been an accountant, and truthfully, it was a pretty good match for me. I was pretty good at it; I think there's something accountant-esque about the way my mind works. It was a relatively easy job for me, and it was also the perfect job for a perfectionist: things were either right or wrong for the most part. And for grayer areas where you had to make judgment calls, there were rules to guide you. Only an accountant can truly appreciate the joy of something netting to zero. Oh, beautiful zero, how you feed my inherent need for perfection!

But, the only problem was that I found it somewhat mindless and repetitive on a daily basis. And, it wasn't fulfilling, at least not the industries in which I worked.

So, I switched careers. I got my master's degree in Elementary Ed. It was exciting and rewarding teaching, but an absolutely terrible job for a perfectionist. First, the sheer number of decisions you make on a daily basis is daunting. It's one of the most decision-making heavy professions there is, or so one of my professor's said. I believe it. And every one of those decisions, you might make a mistake. Usually small, but for a perfectionist, it eats away. Second, my biggest problem is that you can't reach every kid every day. Some lessons are a hit with most kids, but there's always at least one kid who it doesn't click with. Maybe he's having a bad day at home, or is tired, or didn't understand some of the background material, or has a different learning style, or your lesson totally sucked. You just don't know. And this kills me. I always focus on what didn't go well, which is just insane when you're teaching and you know that at best, every child is still going to have an off day every once in a while.

But, I still liked teaching. I'd probably go back to it, except I was ridiculously sick the whole time I taught. My immune system is total crap. I kept hearing that eventually your body gets used to the non-stop bombardment of germs, but I don't know if that's true for me. I still might go back, but the constant feeling of failure combined with always being sick is a big deterrent. Add in the fact that elementary school teaching positions are in short supply, and it's just not looking that enticing.

So, my other thought is writing. I like to write. I do it quite often. Then I think, hmm, could I pick a career MORE inappropriate for a perfectionist? Nothing is ever perfect, especially not if I'm the author (I know, my grammar is atrocious. And you should see my spelling before the auto-correct! Sometimes it doesn't even know what word I'm trying to spell!) Could I pick a career with more rejection than a writer? Actually, the rejection doesn't really scare me that much. But still, I'm sure it'll just feed into the cycle...

Or I could go in an entirely different direction and pounce on something else. Sometimes I wonder about my need for "newness". Maybe I'm just always looking for a new challenge, when I should just find something and do it, even once the excitement of learning has worn off. Who knows. I'm a grown up now, shouldn't I know what I want my career to be?

Boring random musings. I'll stop now. I've still got a few months to figure it all out before my kids start preschool...

Random unrelated thought: Oh my gosh, I just have to tell you about American Idol! Did you see it??? I'm just kidding. I'm feeling a little left out as all my friends are blogging about American Idol regularly and I've just never gotten into it. So You Think You Can Dance is my reality TV of choice. It's really awesome, all you AI fans, and starts at the end of May, after AI is done for the season. So I hope you're all going to be watching so we can all blog together about it! Or so at least I'll know what y'all are talking about in your blogs!

Something silly to come next post, to take some of the sting out of a long serious post :)


Snickollet said...

I will give So You Think You Can Dance a try. I promise. I'm not so into dancing, but I will try.

As for the Personal Legend, I struggle with this, too. I am a perfectionist who easily becomes bored. I think I would do well as a permanent student, but the pay is crap. Huh.

Mary Ellen said...

If I went back to school, I think I'd become a children's librarian... Or, if I had a lot of money, I'd open a children's bookstore where I wouldn't care if people bought anything, so long as they came in to read and I got to dress up like Anne of Green Gables on alternate Fridays ;)
I'm pretty sure you'd need another degree to switch to the school library/media center, but maybe it would suit your perfectionist nature better!

KCRSummertime said...

I think if I could choose from anything, I'd still be stage managing. (Talk about a job for a perfectionist! it's PERFECT!!!! Seriously. It's all about timing & schedules & cues & check-lists.) But it's the worst possible lifestyle job I could possibly come up with. Working ONLY nights & weekends. I'd never see my family or friends ever again. Ah well.

Speaking of quality TV - did I tell you that I got my mom hooked on Veronica Mars? She's completely obsessed. Thank you!!!!

I think identifying a personality trait (e.g. perfectionism) and then using that to determine your career is a little bit backwards. Rather, I think you should choose a career/job/hobby/passion that interests you (if possible, actually lights you up!), and then figure out how to do it DESPITE your personality traits/flaws/whatever. Does that make any sense? I think you'd be hard pressed to find a writer who says, "What I really love about writing is that there's no pressure for perfection." ;)

Enough of my rambling response!!!