When I grow up

Editor’s note: Co-workers who read this blog (and I know you’re out there), please know I don’t want to this to get around. I don’t want our employer to think I’m not grateful to have a job or that I’m looking to go anywhere else anytime soon. Because I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. I’m just making sure I have a future beyond what we’re doing right now, and I know you know what I mean.

It feels weird to talk about what I want to do for the next step in my working life without ever speaking clearly here about what it is I do now. I’ve maintained my anonymity as best as I can and kept my real name and job unassociated with this blog because I never wanted to be found through the Google, and I never wanted my opinions on here to cross with my professional work. So far I’ve been successful.

For those of you who have no idea what I do, here are a few points about my job that will serve as good background knowledge for this post:

  • At least half of my job involves writing
  • I work insane hours, and I have little control over my schedule (like I can’t take days off when I might need them, and that includes nights and weekends
  • I have many bosses and work for a large company (though I’m the only one of my kind in my city)
  • I spend half of my time working at home, the other half mostly working in the field. I have an office, though I don’t see it very often

So, with those aspects of my job on my brain I found myself enthusiastically nodding at an article my friend Jigsha shared with me by Penelope Trunk, entitled, ‘The Worst Career Advice: Do What You Love.’ Some smart observations from Penelope:

Career decisions are not decisions about what do I love most. Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself.

Relationships make your life great, not jobs. But a job can ruin your life – make you feel out of control in terms of your time or your ability to accomplish goals – but no job will make your life complete. It’s a myth mostly propagated by people who tell you to do what you love. Doing what you love will make you feel fulfilled. But you don’t need to get paid for it.

Enthusiastically nods

I mean, I love writing. Most of the time I love the topics I’m writing about. And yet, I have a job that has a way of making me psychologically unstable at times and, oh by the way, consistently ranks in the bottom 50 of the 200 best jobs in America list, which is to say it ranks among the top 50 worst jobs in America. I guess I can take comfort in knowing meter readers and roustabouts are more miserable than I, but maybe I should consider a career as a dishwasher, garbage collector or corrections officer?

As I’ve thought about where I want my life to be down the road, I’ve frequently realized there are things I like about my job — writing, being able to work from home, not working 9 to 5, M thru F. But it’s the not being able to take a day off when I need to visit my family or celebrate someone’s birthday and the unpredictability my job can have that makes me crazy. Meg at A Practical Wedding observed after the second month of working for herself as an author and blog proprietor that while she was working boatloads harder as her own boss, she was happier because of the control it provided her over her own life. And aren’t we all just a little bit of a control freak deep down?

Operating my own business/being my own boss is an item on my bucket list. So now, I’m laying the groundwork for that by teaching myself the tenants of web design and programming. Gosh, that’s scary to put in type for the whole world to see, because now it’s more real and I have to follow through with it, right? I’ve at least been dabbling in web design ever since I drew up the original (and let’s be honest, awful) design for The Modern Gal. And now thanks to a web course and some textbooks, I’m thoroughly fluent in HTML and can hold my own with XHTML and CSS. I have a stack of textbooks on design principles, Java and various Adobe applications yet to tackle and possibly some other online courses in my future.

Will this work? I have no freakin’ clue, but I’m going to plug away at it until it doesn’t. It may take forever for me to feel comfortable enough to apply my knowledge in the real world, but I feel like it’s something I can start small with as a side thing while continuing at my current job and see if and how it grows. It’s something that I can do for myself or consider as I seek employment from an established company. It’s something that can still involve a bit of writing and creativeness. It’s something that I can work at during weird hours, but can probably afford to take a day or evening off if needed.

Studying web design/programming excites me. Whatever time is left over after my day job and wedding planning and sleeping and blogging and spending time with the Modern Love Machine I dedicate to turning myself into a design and programming nerd. It might take me eons to get to where this little obsession is, but every great accomplishment takes deliberate practice, right?

I’m soliciting advice/tips/suggestions/encouragement/discouragement (if it’s warranted).

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13 Responses to When I grow up

  1. A.B.Monk says:

    Are you interested in programming or graphic design? Those are great options for a career as they often have a decent paycheck and a regular 9-5 hour. My husband is a programmer and I’m sure he’d be happy to talk to you or answer questions about the field if you’re interested.

    • I will probably take you up on that. Right now I’m not sure if I’m going in the design or programming direction — I’m kind of just letting it play out to see what I’m good at.

  2. heidi says:

    love it. So very true. I acknowledge that my job isn’t the greatest. The company i work for is great and the people i work with are awesome. To me that makes all the difference – jobs change. goals change and always evolve. Jobs are merely the stepping stones to help us accomplish those goals we set for ourselves.

    Kudos to you on the web design!!! Excited to read about where it takes you!!! :) xox

    • themoderngal says:

      Right on — goals do change and evolve, and the sooner we realize that, the better! Not to mention companies (like the one I work for) evolve too, and not always for the best.

  3. If I knew what I do now, I would have gotten a degree in a web-related field and NOT print journalism. I hate relying on my developer to be at my beck and call whenever I have a coding issue (which is often, and he’s NEVER readily available).

    (Funny, I think Meg might be at my friends’ Leah and Simon’s wedding this weekend. I’ve never met her before, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for her!)

    • themoderngal says:

      Absolutely, and considering our curriculum was so out of date when we went through — we’re way behind the times. Trying to remedy that now :)

      I think you’ll love Meg if you meet her! And she would love you!

  4. its so crazy that more than half if not more us are doing nothing close to what we said we wanted to be when we were kids. As kids we had dreams and would go after them no matter how crazy they seemed. The we got older and well I guess the rest is history. Happy to see someone planning to make a change and go for what they really want.

  5. themoderngal says:

    If I was doing what I wanted to do when I was a kid I would be an astronaut, though a very bad one at that as my math and science skills leave so much to be desired.

    But yes, I wish we could all grasp that drive we had as kids! I think we all get into routines or get beat back by the challenges of life that we easily lose that drive. Following a dream requires some ability to believe you cannot fail.

  6. H. says:

    Hi, I am a graphic/web designer. I’ve been in the field for quite awhile, and have been in the position of hiring both staff and freelance designers and programmers. I don’t want to discourage you, but it’s very doubtful that any professional corporation or design firm that does websites would hire someone without a 2 year or 4 year degree. Studying at home and learning on your own isn’t enough in this industry- and some places won’t even hire anyone with just a 2 year degree. You would be better off just focusing on programming, because it’s easier to grasp without going to school, and companies are more open to hiring programmers that taught themselves. Design can’t be learned from just a book, even the most talented designers in the field still went to school.

    Hope this helps.

    • themoderngal says:

      Yes! This is exactly the kind of information I need. Thank you!

      This is why I’ve been keeping the options open. I might eventually go back to school but want to be absolutely sure it’s a good path for me before I quit my job and do that.

  7. Andrea says:

    I write obituaries. Definitely not what I ever imagined I’d be doing at age 25 when I was 10, 15, 20 or even 22, the year before I started here.

    What worries me is that I suppose I’m expected to take my career to the next level by reporting, but I don’t really have much interest in doing so. I couldn’t be as anonymous as you or my other reporter friends. I want to write, but not report, so until I figure out where I’m going next, it’s obits for me.

  8. courtney says:

    The unpredictability was one of many reasons I got out of your field. It’s OK for a while, but it starts to get old, and eventually it really weighs on you. I remember feeling like work was owning my life, and I never wanted to feel that way. So I exited, and I don’t blame you for doing the same.

    As for owning your own business, I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. I love the freedom, but not the lack of security. Also, the taxes are a pain. But I’d say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks if you’re a motivated person, which you are.

  9. Amber T says:

    Congrats on getting going a new direction… even if all the Big Decisions aren’t made yet. Don’t forget that while T is an applications developer, the ‘other half’ of his 2-man company is a designer. I’m sure he would have some insight for you if you have any questions.

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