When I Grow Up (Original Post 08/03/14)

I bitch about my current career. A lot. Like, everyday it’s the bane of my existence and I tell anyone that will listen about how much I hate it. Recently, after hearing one of my diatribes about the days of my life lost being miserable working at something that I have no passion for, a friend asked me a question I have been asked some version of since kindergarten. If you could do anything anything for a career, salary be damned, what would you do? Instantly I always reply, “Be independently wealthy.” Then I laughed and before I could stop myself and think about it, I answered, “I would be a writer.” I have never responded to that question with “writer” before.

My early years when people asked, “Well hey there cutie, what so you want to be when you get bigger?” the answer had been a Veterinarian because I love animals more than the average person. Animals seem to sense this and naturally trust me. It’s a gift I still possess happily. Then one day the realization hit me that veterinarians are the ones that not only help make animals feel better but they are also the ones that help them die. And that was that. I couldn’t be a vet. I couldn’t be the person to stick the needle in and send someone’s beloved furry friend into the great beyond even if it was a relief from sickness and pain. My science teacher asked, “Do animals really make you happy? Then go to the library and look up other jobs with animals.”

So I did and I changed my young mind to being a Zoologist. This was perfect until I hit high school and started looking at colleges and course work along with realistic job statistics. Guess what, not a lot of jobs out there for Zoologists and the pay… Spppssshhh. No chance of six figures there. My 16 year old brain was all about getting paid. If I was going to college, it was going to financially be worth it.

Not much later, my Aunt fell ill. In a very short time, she was diagnosed with Leukemia, moved in with my family for access to better treatment, and started working through the first phase of finding a bone marrow donor. During this time I had left home to go to college, became completely disenchanted with the school I had chosen and my education choices and dropped out to return back home. I came home to find my plucky smart ass Aunt was a sickly yet still smart ass skeleton going through radiation. As the current biggest disappointment to my parents, I turned all my efforts to helping my Aunt while bouncing around to various baloney jobs. I geared up in bunny suits with masks and visited her in the hospital at her worst during radiation. I watched her hair fall out and loved when she “shaved the damn shit off” cause it was “fallin’ in her pudding”. I brought appropriate produce and made her what ever she was craving as best I could when she was in recovery in the Ronald McDonald house. Eventually, she was released and came back to our home until she was either in remission or had to return for further treatment. Then we bonded on drives to the Oncologist for her regular bone marrow tests. She understood my reasons for dropping out and encouraged me to do crazy shit and take chances. Her advice was “Be young and stupid. Take a risk. Take a bunch of risks. Now’s the time to be dumb. You’ll have plenty of time to be an adult and responsible. Fuck it.” It was the best advice I have ever gotten. And in return I held her hand while they pumped her full of morphine then took a corkscrew the size of my forearm and twisted it into her hip bone to pull out a pin prick of marrow for testing. I would half carry half drag her drugged 79 pound frame to the car because she refused to sit in the cold “smelly shitty” recovery room both of us giggling like lunatics. Then 10 minutes into the 40 minute ride in my hot manual transmission 93′ Civic Hatchback she’d turn green and wildly wave her hands for me to pull over and so she could silently barf in an unsuspecting persons driveway. We would both be laughing again about the person coming home from work finding the neon green morphine barf and wonder if an alien had visited. I have hundreds more memories of our shenanigans during her treatment and recovery. They are all hilarious as they are gut-wretching. She eventaully went into remission and got to move back to her home a state away. It was a fantastic perfect ending. A year later, she was still in remission but feeling ill and her doctor back by us had her return for testing. Within weeks she was diagnosed with Graft vs. Host Disease. GVHD happens when T cells in the donated bone marrow or stem cells attack the recipient’s body cells. This happens because the donated cells see their body cells as foreign and attack them. None of us had ever heard of it and weren’t prepared for what it meant. Less than a year later, on a respirator and a bloated shell of a woman that I barely recognized, GVHD took my aunt’s life. It affected me so deeply that even now, a over a decade later, I have trouble typing this through tears. I had recently enrolled in the local branch of Kent State when she passed. I declared my major that semester. Pre-Med and I secretly planned to become an Oncologist.

Unfortunately as I began to enter into upper division courses, it just didn’t feel right. I struggled to understand why. I was still getting above average grades, I wasn’t struggling in my classes but it just felt off. But out of love for the history that drove my reason for choosing the major, I just could not change it. I planned to tough it out and see it through. Then, one random afternoon sitting in my car in the parking lot of the branch school during my last semester before heading to the main campus, I found a very random small card. It was pink and had a yellow lab puppy on the front. It was wedged down in-between the seat and the console of my sweet new Celica. I instantly remembered what it was and through tears I opened it and inside in my Aunt’s scribble were the words. “Hang in there. Do what you feel is right. I love you no matter what you do Sweet Pea.” It was a small card my Aunt had mailed me when I was at college the first go round struggling to decide to drop out or stay. I missed my first class because I couldn’t get a grip on my emotions and sat crying in my car. I started looking into changing my major that night. My counselor eventually asked, “What are you really passionate about? Do what is related to that.”

It took me a couple of months but after considering many options I chose Interior Design. I loved Architecture and all the details. Colors, furniture and arrangement of space was interesting. Interior Design seemed right. Everyone loved my choice and thought it was so fitting of my artistic nature but still a professional field. 2 years after being accepted into the 4 year program, I realized this crap is getting old, fast. But, I was committed and damn it I was finishing. So I went back to my favorite drafting teacher to talk to her about all the different job paths within the field. She at the end of the discussion asked, “What is your ultimate goal, make the best money possible or be artistic?” It was the most difficult version of the question to date and I couldn’t answer because I wanted both. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and felt pretty damn accomplished.

It took me over a year and more than 500 mailed and emailed resumes to finally shove the artistic jobs to the back burner and start getting real and just looking for an honest paycheck. I blame my student loan deferment expiring for that fun little reality check. Suddenly having a mortgage sized payment come due will make you scramble for any financial life raft that you can find. I was 27 and living in my parent’s unfinished (i.e. cinder block walls, open ceiling and concrete floor) basement serving food and slinging drinks at the local bar and grill. 6 months after that fun reality check, I was packing up what little I had and moving 2,700 miles away to start a job I didn’t really understand because it was the only offer I had gotten since graduating over a year earlier. And thus began my downward spiral of working for “the man” and being miserable more and more hours a day.

During that corkscrew into career hell, my tirades on my loathsome paycheck predicament got more and more frequent and venomous. And I was always inevitably asked, “Well, what would you want to be doing if you didn’t have to worry about how much you were going to get paid?” or, “What are you passionate about?” I have gotten pragmatic in my answer. I am thinking of going into nursing. I still feel the pull to work in Oncology helping people like my aunt. She had a favorite nurse that every time we came for a treatment or test, I was in charge of making sure I found her and let her know she was needed in whatever room we were stationed in. And, now that I am serious with the sailor, I need something that is a necessity no matter where in the world we go. And last, it pays pretty well. I do still feel a pull to do this, to work in a honorable and reliable profession. If I had the financial situation to do so immediately, I would. Any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I am sure I’d do well, make a living and feel good about making a difference in a real way via my daily work. But I am also sure, I’d bitch about it. No where near like I do now, but the crazy hours and high stress would eventually lead to me stumbling through the door and looking at the sailor and saying, “This is for the birds.” I’m just being honest.

I have toyed with the idea of teaching. Preferably, small moldable minds. But other peoples children… yeah, exhausted rants would happen and not about the kids. More likely about the parents. I’ll just stop right there.

So the other day while mindlessly ranting about hitting day 10 or hour 80, which ever you prefer, with out any time off, of course my friend asked me, “If you could do anything for a career, salary be damned, what would you do?” and the words “I’d be a writer” spilled forth, I was kind of taken aback. Writing things, like this blog, were always an outlet for emotions and fantastical stories. It is something I do just for the fun of it. Getting paid to write a book, TV show, movie or even late night infomercial for that matter, has never been a cognizant idea for a paycheck. But yet, I said the words. And it didn’t feel weird. And I can’t imagine bitching too much about sitting on my couch in my underpants drinking coffee and typing.

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