My career path up to this point can be best described as... tangly. After four years spent earning my BS in mechanical engineering, I joined the ranks of Teach for America and taught seventh grade for two grueling years. Next came an office job as a design engineer with an oil company, which again lasted a whopping two years. Finally I decided to go back to school and change careers, at which point I moved across the country and spent three years earning my Masters in counseling. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that comes out to a total of eleven years spent chasing a stable career. Not eleven years climbing the ladder or eleven years building a client base, 11 years making my way to the starting line.
Now you may think that this means I'm the kind of person who flits around, keeping my options open, unwilling or unable to commit to a long-term career. But the truth is that during the course of those eleven years, I felt decidedly uncomfortable. I complained often to friends and family about my hectic life full of change and uncertainty. I distinctly remember telling a friend at one point, "I just can't wait to be bored." Doing the same thing day in and day out, getting stuck in a rut, feeling totally entrenched in my life path, these things sounded heavenly to me. I was always more drawn to roots than to wings anyway. I couldn't wait to just settle down.
Two years ago I finished grad school and moved back to Texas to be closer to family. I found a job as a counselor and, on the side, as a family photographer. Getting started with these two jobs was a challenge. Both require a client base that, no matter how hard you are willing to work, just takes time to build. But now, after two years (that's a grand total of thirteen in our running tally), I am picking up steam. I have finally found myself in a sustainable career. I love my jobs and have no intention of making another big change. I am settled.
And some days, I still feel sad.
The truth is that my life up to this point was what the kids might call a YOLO life (You Only Live Once -- translation for those of you my age or older). I've been making changes, taking risks, and going from mountaintop to valley and back again -- telling myself all the while "life is short, I can't waste these opportunities." My life was, in the words of Jane Eyre, "changeful and abrupt." And even when that sort of life was difficult, even on the days that I was yearning for stability, there was a sort of lusty drama to the ups and downs. My life may have been difficult but it was always, at the very least, interesting.
Now I am living a new sort of life. Now I am telling myself "life is long, keep moving forward." My sustenance no longer looks like the high of a mountaintop experience. It is more like manna in the wilderness -- everyday grace that is free of drama and sometimes downright (seemingly) distasteful. Who wants a mouthful of bland bread when you were hoping for a juicy steak cooked over a burning bush? I am discovering in this new phase of life that I must actively and frequently remind myself of the goodness in my manna -- the stress relief in a daily workout, the supportive words from friends, the enjoyment I find in my jobs, the love in my niece's and nephews' hugs, the sprawling live oaks of the Texas Hill Country. And, in my more mature moments, I look forward to finding out what might come of perseverance. What might I accomplish by allowing myself to trudge, day by day, through the grind of a mundane routine? How will I stretch and change and bend over the course of this life that is suddenly so long? I still only get to live once. And I, of course, want to make the most of this precious life of mine. But I am learning to not turn up my nose at manna while I wait for a steak. Welcome to adulthood. YOLO ya'll.