I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us walk around feeling vaguely insecure about something in our lives. In fact, I’d be mightily surprised if most people didn’t have several slightly wobbily pedestals that they feel can’t support their emotional weight. You hear about them all from time-to-time; weight, relationships, career direction, career ability, money habits (incoming and outgoing), sex, relationships, attire, etc. Nothing new there.
I also suspect that when people reach their thirties it starts to dawn on them that choices they have made by that point largely govern how the rest of their lives will play out. Sometimes it comes on gradually, with a dawning realisation that you have only so much time to work with and that you need to use it advantageously. Other times I figure it hits people suddenly and they snap. I have a feeling that those are the folks who feel trapped and make big changes like getting divorced, changing careers, going back to school, or, in extreme cases, doing nastily horrible things to the people they feel have somehow trapped them. (I’m not going to do any of the above, in case you were wondering.)
When you have a life’s plan and have to utterly rearrange it in such a way that that arrangement flies in the face of how you define yourself, the mental adjustments can be difficult. When you make those adjustments and then confront your thirties head-on, still further adjustments need to be made.
I had planned to be an academic. I thought of myself as an academic. All of my training and planning had been in the direction of being an academic. When my life derailed in 1999, I told myself I was postponing becoming an academic until John finished law school. After her finished, we were so heartily sick of living away from family and Newfoundland that we wanted more than anything to move back. We also were tired of living as students and we knew that wherever we went next was where we’d be for a good five years or more. So we made the purely emotional decision to move back to Newfoundland. John got a job here and I started developing my artistic skills and market and made a career switch.
I did think about going to do the PhD at that point and it was an option, but I came to realise that it entailed another three to five years of living somewhere else (likely Toronto, Hamilton or Montreal) and making a new life there. It also entailed John getting a job there and us withstanding an increased cost of living. Not to mention that the life of an academic upon finishing a doctorate entails still more moving around. I like travelling, but at this stage in my life, I can’t see myself as happy in the life of a university vagabond. I have too strong a sense of home.
So we moved here and I did a mental reroute and became an artist. Had this been the plan from the start and had I know this when we reached New Brunswick, I would have done a fine arts degree or somesuch. There was a College of Craft and Design there that would have been great. But now I work as a largely self-taught artist with two arts degrees that sort of make sense to me, but don’t entire fit to the rest of the world.
There is a large part of me that still regrets not having done the doctorate. This was my choice, however, and it’s not a door that is completely closed at this point. Becoming an academic with all that that entails is now less of an option, though, with Katherine, a house and a life here.
I enjoy the artwork, although like any job, there are aspects to it and days that are depressing, dull and aggravating. Finding time in and around everything else in this house is a challenge, but Katherine won’t be little forever.
So recently I’ve been really wondering if what I am now is what I want to be remembered as by my daughter. What do I want her to see in me and what will she take with her from my life? Not to mention how I want my artwork and career to look from the outside. Do I want to switch careers and go to something that makes more money, has a defined script and description and is comprehensible? I’ve been around this planet for thirty years now and have another thirty or more years of time to develop whatever it is that I want to define me. The hardest part is trying to figure out how I see myself and whether that has changed.
There’s also the little, unworthy element of me that looks around at my peers and even my husband and envies them their well-defined careers and roles. One should not be jealous of one’s spouse, but occasional glimmers of envy do happen from time to time.
So I have several options:
1. Find a different career and ditch artwork.
2. Find a different career and do artwork as a hobby, to whatever degree I want.
3. Become the best damned artist I can and stick with developing my current career further.
4. Sit on the fence for another few years until Katherine is in school and make a decision then.
The jury is still out.
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