Baby steppin’ plans

I did something crazy this week. I met with an extended education advisor and registered to take classes as a non-degree seeking student. I plan on starting with one class in the fall.

I haven’t decided what that one class will be, but I have some ideas. There are several anthropology classes I’m interested in, and also several writing classes. For now, I’m planning to decide based on what fits my schedule the best, since I’ll be doing this while working full-time.

I tried to get the advisor to make the decision for me. I asked her if she knew any tools or tests or books I could use to answer the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” question. She said “Experience. Take a few classes, meet people in the field, and see if you like it.”

I want definitive answers before I make any sort of move at all, like several neon signs flashing in my head saying “THIS IS IT! THIS IS YOUR CALLING!” But I know she’s right. As a bonus she told me she also changed careers around 40, so I feel like I’m in good hands with this lady.

If I do make a decision and apply to a degree-earning program, any credit I earn in this program will count. If I decide not to do that I can dabble around a while until I figure it out—or I could take the drastic step of hiring a career counselor.

I haven’t done this yet for two reasons. The first one is that back before I moved, when I was seeing a therapist regularly to help me not lose my shit working in a dysfunctional environment, I was advised that I should at least have some idea of what direction to go in before I spent the money on a career counselor.

The second reason is I don’t even know if it would help. Thanks to OCD, I have had myself convinced several times over the past five or six years that I knew what I wanted to do. I did some research and looked at programs, and was ready to get started but just waiting for the timing to be right. And then I realized it was a passing obsession. Or totally unrealistic.

I’m not happy unless I’m learning something. At least I know that about myself, right? I am also definitely not interested in earning an MBA. The advisor asked me about that. “With your experience and your undergraduate degree, have you thought about…?” I had to force myself to wait until she was finished, because I knew what she was going to ask.

“I’m not interested in going any further with management,” I said when she finished. She raised her eyebrows questioningly, as if she was about to ask me why. But then she looked at me and said “I see.” That’s when I knew I could work with her.

So far my managerial experience has been in middle management. Obviously, most management positions are middle to some degree, since there are only so many people at the top, and layers upon layers of workers in between trying to impart the top-level whims…er, “strategic planning”…down the chain in some hellish version of the telephone game. That’s my take on it, anyway. I’ve had years of classes and training on how to strategize, prioritize, communicate, motivate, negotiate, delegate…hell, even meditate. All of these trainings fail on the basic assumption that for the most part, you are dealing with rational people. That has not been my overall experience.

I don’t blame others, either. We’re all flawed in some way. The middle manager just happens to have the unsavory task of trying to sugarcoat, justify, or excuse everyone’s flaws to everyone else. “I’m sure when you overheard Jane say you could just go fuck yourself, what she meant was you’re THAT talented and self-sufficient.”

Whatever field I end up pursuing, I just want to be responsible for my own misery and mine alone. All jokes aside, I remember when I was finishing up my master’s the first time around, thinking “I am never doing this again.” Now it feels like fall is eons away. But I am glad I took the first step toward wherever it is I might be going.

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