As most of you know, I graduated from college last year. In most ways attending college a little later in life was a good thing. I was focused and had a definite career path in mind. Unlike my younger classmates, I didn't change my major four times or settle for barely passing grades. I was all in. And while it wasn't easy juggling school and grown-up life, I thrived.
Now I find myself in a transitional phase. I'm in a new city on the opposite side of the country. Opportunities abound. Kiddo is (mostly) settled into his new school and Husband is transitioning into a new position that will require less travel. On the surface, it seems to be the perfect time to go back to work. To make a little extra money (student loans!). To meet new people and create a life for myself outside the home. It's time to get those pesky 2000 hours of requisite healthcare experience under my belt.
My home life has never been more accommodating.
So why has the whole issue of work-life balance been on my mind so much lately? (And by "life", I mean motherhood, marriage, personal development, health/fitness, hobbies, and all other non-career goals.) Why do I have this nagging feeling that something is off?
This was a rough week. Saying goodbye to a family member has put a lot of things into perspective for us, and Mario and I have been pondering life a lot the last couple days. Like, sitting on the bathroom floor contemplating our future, kind of pondering.
In the end we always ask the same fundamental question: When all is said and done, what is the most important thing?
The tears, the talks, and the self-reflection have all led me to the answer: I don't want to be a physician assistant more than I want to be with my family.
There. I said it.
My heart has been pulling me in this direction for a while, but my mind kept me from admitting I want to be at home. After years spent getting my undergraduate degree + racking up five figure student loan debt, I was afraid to lose momentum. What's more, I was terrified that wanting to be at home, wanting to be available to my family, was me abandoning my life goals. A betrayal of the Sarah that stayed up until 2a night after night studying organic chemistry and physics and A&P because she could see that finish line if she looked hard enough at the horizon. Did I bait-and-switch myself? (And Mario?)
The short answer? No. And here's why:
1// I deserved that college education, regardless of what I decide to do with it. Everyone does. Knowledge should be a right, not a privilege.
2// Mario doesn't care what I do. If I use my biology degree to make lattes at Starbucks, he's got my back. Do whatever makes you happy, he always says. What's more, he means it. (A good egg, that one.)
3// Admitting that my heart lies elsewhere is not the same as admitting defeat. I'm not a quitter. I'm choosing to put myself first, my happiness first, which is something we should all aspire to do more. Being a martyr doesn't benefit anyone.
Let's be clear: I am going to grad school. Just not tomorrow. Or the next day. I have decided to postpone my education until Kiddo finishes high school in four years. In the meantime, I'm going to start racking up those healthcare hours. Slowly. When I'm ready. If I'm not worried about applying next year, I can take my time finding the right job with the right hours that will allow me to put my family first.
The goal is to work an average of 24 hours per week. Three shifts. That's enough to make a healthy dent in my healthcare hours while allowing me to focus on my family + pursue other interests.
Which brings me to my next epiphany: A biology degree doesn't mean I have to be a biologist.
Don't get me wrong. I love science. I get all twitterpated teaching Kiddo about mitosis or reading a juicy new research article. My degree provided me with those skills. But unlike many other majors, I also spent a great deal of time learning English and economics and math and psychology. I'm capable of doing a lot of things! I had such a narrow view of my skill set (and life goals) that I never stopped to consider that I could write for National Geographic (!) or photograph food (!!) or study orcas (!!!) for a living.
I can work toward becoming a PA and still be open to other interests. It's amazing that I found a calling! But what if there is more than one thing that will fill my bucket? I'd be doing myself a huge disservice if I picked just one goal and stopped dreaming. Never stop dreaming! To do so would be to postpone happiness. I have to be open to the idea that I may use my degree differently than originally intended.
It all seems so obvious, doesn't it? Dream! Seek happiness! Follow your gut! Don't apologize for being who you are! My fortune cookies and wall calendars have been telling me these things for years. I suppose my faulty thinking is simply another example of how us humans like to get in our own way.
You live and you learn and the hardest fought lessons are usually the most valuable ones.
(Rambling post, over and out!)