When I Grow Up …

During a play date this morning, my two friends and I were discussing careers and how none of us have one (OTHER THAN RAISING OUR CHILDREN WHICH WE KNOW IS THE GREATEST AND MOST REWARDING JOB ON EARTH, haters), and how none of us have a clue what we should be doing. Which is a cute concept when you are 19, but we are all in our 30s, and just like short shorts and beer bongs, it just doesn’t work at our age.

Ya know, it’s not so cute at 19, either…

I’m at a real sticky place in my life right now. I don’t even know if sticky is the right word. Messy? Befuddling? Cloudy? I dunno. But it’s not desirable, whatever it is. I was let go yet again from my latest job a couple of weeks ago, and while it sucks to be facing the thought of job hunting AGAIN, I am very relieved. It wasn’t a good fit for either of us, and after two stints in the social media marketing world in the past year, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have ZERO interest in making that a life-long career. It’s a shame, because really, I love social media. I have fun on it, I like participating in it as a user and a consumer, and I believe in its power in today’s business and personal world. But I want to stay on THIS side of the Facebook page, I know now, and want to stay away from the other end.

So at least of ALL the careers in the world, I can check that one off. Progress?

My background is in journalism, specifically newspapers, more specifically page design and copy editing. I was good at that. I enjoyed it. I loved being in a newsroom. There’s not a weirder group of people in the world, outside of maybe magicians or bird enthusiasts, than a newspaper staff. Shockingly, I fit right in. The police scanner screeching in the background, the furious clicking at a keyboard and the occasional outbursts of some of the raunchiest cussing you’ve ever heard was the soundtrack of my mid-20s. I’ve driven through a hurricane to get a paper out. I’ve been at work til 5 a.m. waiting on election results. I was there on 9/11, barely a month into my first real job, and it made me feel like I was a part of something huge.

I’ve also worked Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and more weekends than I care to remember. I got off work at 1 a.m. I made just enough money to be functionally poor. But when I switched to the Lifestyles department so I could work the day shift, I was never more miserable. Breaking news would happen and I was left formatting a recipe page for the food section. The Pope died and I was editing news briefs about celebrity birthdays. It felt empty and hollow, and I knew that if I couldn’t be happy working days, and I couldn’t fathom starting a family working nights, I had to jump ship. So I did.

And now, years later, I’m still floating around aimlessly, looking for my port. (God, enough metaphors.)

I’ve done communications writing for a community college, but lost that position due to the recession. I’ve worked for a leading local PR firm, but lost that position after clientele dried up. I sold Estee Lauder at the mall, which was shockingly rewarding at times, but the drama of working with that many spackled and shimmery women was too much for me to handle.

So here I am again. 36 years old, and no clue what I want to be when I grow up. And I don’t think I’m alone.

My friends today commented that after working for a while and then leaving jobs due to kids or cut backs, going back means we see things differently than we did the first time we entered the work force. First of all, the stakes are way different. I know for me, I want to work outside the home but I want the time I spend away from my family to be meaningful. I want some flexibility but am not afraid to work full-time. I want to be challenged and guided, and want to grow my strengths.

My friend Diana, who has 3 kids and a background in non-profits, knows she wants to do something creative and to be her own boss. Her two main interests — photography and cosmetology — require going back to school, however, and that is a daunting prospect for her, and for myself.

I often regret my degree in Communications, only because it was never something I felt passionate about. The first time I’d ever even heard of a degree in communications was from our high school chorus’s pianist, who was at the time in grad school (which meant he was SUPER worldly and knew EVERYTHING, according to 17-year-old me) and who told me on a field trip my senior year that “you should major in communications so you can have a talk show one day. You could be the next Oprah!” Now, remember, this was the 90s, so the hierarchy of the world at that time was basically The Pope, Bill Clinton and Oprah. My eyes lit up at the thought of spending my life sitting on a comfortable couch interviewing celebrities, so I was all for it.

I COULD DO THIS

I got to college, though, and was overwhelmed by ALL THE CHOICES. I wanted to be ALL OF THE THINGS. A teacher! A therapist! A sociologist! But then I was like “ew, college math is hard” and then I was like “OMG, college science is even harder,” so a Bachelor of Arts it was. Basically, my junior year I HAD to declare a major, so I was like “meh, Mass Comm seems alright…” so my overall-wearing self ended up there. Real inspiring.

Anyone dressed like that shouldn't be making major life decisions.

Anyone dressed like that shouldn’t be making major life decisions.

I did well in my classes, but at graduation I still couldn’t have told you what I was going to do. I had never stepped foot in a newspaper’s office. Had no clue how one worked. I knew I didn’t want to be a reporter, but that was about it. I mean, I literally have never had a career goal. How is that possible?

What now, then? A few people are telling me “You should WRITE!!!” and I’m like “I totally should but I don’t know how to make that a job!!” because believe it or not, no one pays me for churning out this garbage. I’m looking into some freelance stuff, but honestly, it’s overwhelming and I don’t even know where to start, so I tend to just not do anything, which is MEGA helpful.

Anyone else having a career crisis? Or ever started over? What tips do you have? And do you want to hire me???

  • Kate Andrews

    Oh, Christi! I could have written that whole post. You and I have similar backgrounds (I was an English major, though, so toss in more epic poetry), and of course we met in one of those insane newsrooms. I don’t miss the paper, because we were never truly appreciated there, but I do miss journalism. After the DP, I went to Richmond magazine, and that was great, albeit very stressful. And once again, I worked too hard and frankly needed a higher income so I could save more money for retirement. Now I’m working for a nonprofit as a writer, my first job outside of journalism. I’m not going to get into all the details here (I will send you a message about it instead), but I am now forced to look for something new. It’s scary, and I’m in the same spot as you, wondering what direction my professional life will take next.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      I wonder if there are certain majors or career choices that lead to less stability over others? Or is it the person?

      • Kate Andrews

        Instability is very, very common across all industries, several friends have told me. I mean, there are probably some things you can do (say, specialize in a field with few experts), but the days of working at one place or even in one field your whole career are gone.

        • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

          That’s good to know, I suppose.

      • Kate Andrews

        I don’t mean for this to sound negative, even. It’s just different, and the plus side is that employers are not as likely to give you the side-eye if you have gaps in your resume or switched jobs a lot, because that’s the nature of work today.

  • Ericka

    I just had this discussion last night with Nick. I feel lost most days.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Ugh, I hate that feeling. HATE. Sorry you are going through it, too!

  • April Sikes

    Everything you just said!! Junior year, being forced to pick a major, I took the advice of my boyfriend at the time and went with Economics with a Business minor. I so wish that I had waited to go to college until I had known better what I wanted to do (if I had to choose now, I would totally go with Computer Science). Hindsight is 20/20. Being a SAHM for the past almost NINE years, I don’t really have any advice, but I have scored an interview that I’m currently preparing for just by talking to some other moms at my baby yoga class. Networking, as dreadful as it’s always seemed to me, works. I know you have no problem in that department, though! You are amazing at making friends, and everyone loves you! :)

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      April, my friend Rebecca said today that picking our major at that age is so stupid!! We have NO CLUE. And yes, networking is usually the key to success, at least when it comes to getting a foot in the door. Good luck to you!!! You are going to kick ASS at whatever you do, because you are AWESOME.

      • April Sikes

        Thank you! We’re going to figure this out!!

  • Kate Andrews

    We’ll work together later, Christi, but first things first (disregard if you’ve already done it): On my LinkedIn page, I have links to some of my writing. For writing work, Mediabistro (as I mentioned), Journalism Jobs, Craigslist under writing/editing jobs, and Indeed.com (I search under “journalism” and “editor” to find relevant jobs) are must-follow. Poynter has some jobs. Possibly your press association too. I also get regular emails for writing work, although it’s hit or miss since it’s the whole country.

    • http://www.domesticdisturbia.com/ Christi Wampler

      Thanks, Kate. I’m going to do all of this tonight. I appreciate it!!

  • Elizabeth Deal

    Wait, are we the same person? Except I got English degrees, THREE of them, one in literature, one in writing, and one in journalism, at the age of 36 last May. Before I got them, I had high paying jobs in fields I freaking hated, since then, I’ve worked at H&R Block making $8.50 an hour. Let’s start a circus where we say devastatingly witty things and people pay $10 a head to hear us say them. It’s got to be better than the shit we’ve been getting paid to do, right? Cause every other place fires me. Out of jealousy, most likely.