As I am considering my life from this weird limbo status of being on burnout sick leave, it occurs to me that the main thing I want is more, out of life, out of myself.
The longer I am away from my work, the more impossible it seems to go back.* But how do I go forward?
I have long resisted the idea of taking more education because 1) I have a degree and am not yet done paying off the loans for that one and look where that got me (yes, I know, a master’s in comparative literature doesn’t really count in the sense that it doesn’t provide concrete job opportunities) and 2) it seems financially impossible because I’m not the kind of person who can work and study at the same time.
However, the more I think about it, the more it seems impossible NOT to take some form of education. Most jobs that have value and interest beyond a pay check require some kind of specialisation. Of the non comp lit variety. And I think maybe, just maybe if I could both work and study part time, I could do it.
I also believe that I would get a lot more out of studying now than when I first attended university. Thinking about it now, in my mid-thirties, I think most people are probably too young when attending university to take full advantage of it. When you’re in your late teens and early twenties there’s still so much life stuff going on, you’re still in the midst of becoming you. Looking back, I know I at least was more wrapped up in my relationships, my friendships, depression and just finding my style, my way. While I still definitely have life stuff to figure out, I am doing it from a more mature point of view and I can look at it without being swept away by the whirlwind. I’m eager to learn something new, and I believe I have greater capacity for it now.
So now that I have that sorted I just need to figure out what education to take and what part time job to get. Easy peasy, right?
Maybe writing down my thoughts around it in a semi-structured way will help. And if it also helps someone else struggling with the same kind of issues, I’ll consider that a bonus.
The main point is that I want something that will most likely lead me to a job I will enjoy and find meaningful, something where I can use my sensitivity and creativity.
- Art history. This is the least realistic one as it’s essentially one of those “useless” arts and humanities degrees of which I already have one. It’s also one of the ones that appeals the most to me – naturally. So I’ve still included it. I was thinking I could maybe parlay it into a curator type job at a museum or gallery, but I guess it’s a little far-fetched. Studying art history would be fun though…
- Biology/science with a view to marine biology. This one again is very far-fetched and I’ve all but discarded the idea already, but I can’t quite let go. It’s far-fetched because I don’t have a science background, so I don’t know what I’d have to do to even get into a science or biology program. Furthermore it’s a long way to becoming a marine biologist, even if I can hack the science stuff. And once I was done there isn’t really any guarantee that I’d get a job I enjoyed. I’d like to work with ocean conservation, but I’m sure a lot of people would.
- Nutrition/dietician studies. As I’ve mentioned on here before, I changed my lifestyle significantly some years back and lost a lot of weight. What finally motivated me were health reasons. I did not want to get diabetes. I learned a lot along the way and can say that I’ve definitely developed a general interest in health and fitness. I’ve been reading a book on body positivity lately, and it occurs to me that it would be very meaningful and interesting to help people with their weight and body issues, help them become healthier, but from a place of love and understanding. No judgement, no diet programs, no failure.
- (Art) therapy. This is probably the most likely road, as I’ve already found a program I can do part-time that seems surmountable. And I could combine my love of art with my desire to help people. I think I could be good at it. It would be a major challenge though, and would really require me to come out of my shell. Maybe that’s why I’m hesitating. I’m not sure I’m ready to be forced to interact with all kinds of people on that deep/personal a level. And I would definitely have trouble letting go of work when I got home, no matter how much training I received.
The main thing here is that I’d have to be able to do it part time, it mustn’t be too draining (so not too loud/busy/far away/full of deadlines/meaningless etc…), and I need to be able to make ends meet financially. It would be a wonderful bonus if even now I was able to find a job I actually liked, but I think I could hang in there if I knew it was coming, that I had some direction.
- Freelancing. I’ve thought about making a go of it doing freelance work like writing, editing, proofreading and maybe the odd bit of translation, but there’s so many people out there looking for that kind of work. It’s not exactly a guaranteed income and it would be a lot of work to find work. And the freelancer job alerts of the variety “need good English writing person for 1€/500 words” are not exactly encouraging. Nor are the “you only get paid if millions of people view your article” type of social site jobs. I’m tempted to draw the conclusion that the articles about how you can make it as a freelance writer are some sort of pyramid scheme/chain email/spam type thing, and making a living as a freelancer is not actually possible (but maybe making a living writing about making a living as a freelancer is…).
- Delivering mail (by bike/foot). This actually really appeals to me for several reasons: the freedom, the solitude, the simplicity, being outdoors and being active. The only downside is that it’s usually advertised for about 3 hours 5 days a week and pays pretty poorly. Oh and the weather here is at best unstable, but good rain clothes takes care of that for the most part.
- Keeping my current job. I don’t think it would work very well, but maybe if I did fewer hours and they were amenable to me working from home more (by which I mean that my extended sick leave may have opened their eyes to the fact that there are worse options), I would be able to do it if I had something meaningful (in the form of studying) on the side.
- Doing web content work somewhere else. So basically the same type of job I have now, just somewhere else. I think I’d swiftly run into the same problems, but maybe with fewer hours/better pay and better management it would be possible for a while.
- Getting a different position at the company where I currently work. I’ve kind of had it “up to here” with the whole company, but there could potentially be a job in a different department that would be more tolerable/interesting, and at least I’d have some job security.
The truth is that none of these, particularly on the job front, feel like the solution I’ve been looking for. And maybe that’s just not going to happen for me, maybe that doesn’t happen for everyone and I should just pick something that seems OK. But I’m afraid I’m missing something, that there’s something I didn’t think of. And what if I make the wrong choice again?
And I’m also still kind of tired from the aftermath of the burnout and from thinking too much about all of this stuff. And I want to hear what the health and safety provider for my company says when I meet with them, what options (if any) they can offer.
The flavour of the week is:
I want to create some sort of body positivity dance class. I want to create a safe and fun space where people can come together and explore and just dance freely, not feeling ashamed of their bodies or their dance moves. Dancing and music makes me feel free and happy, and I genuinely think it does something significant for both mind and body, mood and spirit. And I’d like to share that with people. I’d like to combine it with helping people with body image issues. Maybe a little bit of yoga, a little bit of meditation and guidance. I do kind of feel like this is IT. That this is my thing. And every time I’m dancing with abandon around my own living room I think “I have to do something related to this”. I just don’t know how to go about getting to the point where I’d be qualified to do this. Though a nutrition or art therapy degree could both definitely come in handy.
After the last appointment with my GP this morning, I have a week ahead of me with no GP appointments or hospital visits, so I shall try to just let it all rattle about and see if something settles a bit more before I have another week full of running between my GP and the hospital.
And if anyone reading this has any advice for me, please don’t be shy. I’d entertain almost any idea.
*Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to who has been on a similar kind of sick leave (and that’s actually a surprising percentage of my friends and acquaintances) has told me “yes, but that’s what we all feel like”, and most of them end up going back, at least temporarily anyway. And I don’t mean to say that I won’t go back if I don’t have any other options, I need to make money somehow, but what I mean is that I can see very clearly why it’s wrong for me and that there isn’t really anything I or they can do to change it.