hurry up and wait

This past week was both aggravating and inspiring.

On Sunday night, I got word that a new work project was ramping up and they needed help the very next day.  I got the email around 3 pm, responded at 9 pm, and talked to the recruiter that Monday morning.  An offer letter was supposed to show up a few hours later, but the manager got stuck in back-to-back calls for 2 days.  While that was happening, another project showed up that looked to be an even better fit for me–and the whole thing sounded intriguing.  Since we didn’t know what was happening with the other gig, we arranged an interview.  Welp.  Two hours later, we got word that the other project really needed me and–oh, can you work tonight and this entire weekend?  And the new thing, should it work out, starts Monday.  Two hours later, I was sitting in training for the weekend project.  I committed through Sunday with a wait and see for the indefinite future, pending the outcome of this other thing.  On Friday morning, I interviewed for the other project.  It went as well as it could.  The manager mentioned the launch was being pushed back to Wednesday–which meant I’d probably be doing the other project on Monday/Tuesday, if I got this gig.  We’re still waiting and seeing.  My weekend was–kinda insane.  High volume.  Rah-rah.  People doing shows.  A flurry of emotions.  And then, just me–in my zone. Doing what I do when everything/everyone gets the hell out of my way.  Working my magic.

So, my life is a bit…chaotic…right now.  I really have no real idea where I’ll be from day to day.  And I kinda like that.  I kinda hate that.  That’s what this life is like.  It’s good to be back at my old company–the place that made me actually enjoy what I do after years of thinking I was failing at life if I didn’t do something “more.”  But this is actually one of the biggest things you can do for a person.  When you have good people around you and a decent client, it’s the best job in the world.  Unless you’re an introvert like me–who needs a break once in a while.  I might get a weekend next week.  I might just get 1/2 day today.  11 days on?  I’m happy just to put in 8 hours.  I used to do 16.  All me–only half actually paid–because I am always on when I’m doing this work.

Needless to say, going from a leisurely pace to this was a rude awakening.  The first thing to be thrown under the bus?  Me.  I immediately forgot to take my medicine.  Forgot to eat.  Didn’t drink any water for about three days.  I had been in insomnia hell for a week prior, so the timing was horrendous.  The only thing I really did right for myself?  I slept.  Mostly, I suppose, I passed out.

Yesterday, I did as much right as I could.  I realized that I’d flat out failed.  But knowing is half the battle.  Today, I’m mostly back on track.  I’m learning that you have to schedule yourself in.

###

I don’t want to do this forever.  I never have.  I got into this entire industry on a whim.  I answered an ad, with little experience, and someone took a chance on me.  I worked in this industry for years, hating most moments of it.  I told myself I wasn’t built for this world.  At the time, honestly, I wasn’t.  I was a bit of a spoiled (gasp) brat–only I had absolutely no clue.  I was a child playing dress-up–not really knowing how this fit into the big picture.  And I had the privileged notion that my life could only matter if I was bleeding for a cause.

So, I gave it up.  For something that I fell in love with.  Full-on infatuation.  And like most “soulmate” loves, it broke my heart.  Mostly because of my own naivete and my own bullshit.  It didn’t fit.  Like uncomfortable, pinchy shoes.  And the world made me fall flat on my face for a while.  Kicked the ego right out of me.  And then, I was ready to go back to that thing I thought once was beneath me.  And it turned out to be an honor–a gift.  And I grew the Hell up.

I still am.

But, though I never appreciated this for what it was before, I was also right.  It isn’t for me.  I can do it.  I do it well.  Sometimes, I like it.  I’m what this job needs.  A lot like teaching, I suppose.  But–what do I need?

I’ve said before I find things on whim a lot of the time.  Innocent things totally have changed my life.  A question I seek answers to will land me in relationships with people and things I never could have guessed would live in my life.

This happened this week, while I was waiting on that contract.  I couldn’t really do anything I couldn’t drop.  So, I was online.  Reminded of an old curiosity.  And a small idea changed because my understanding changed.

This week–even here–was a rollercoaster.  A new program was added to that old one that I liked so much.  It was in Interaction Design.  I have friends who do this and love it.  I was involved with someone who sorta did this once.  His work sounded like intense fun.  It’s a field in high demand that combines people (psychology), art, and technology.  It makes people’s lives better in subtle ways.  And there’s so many ways to run with it.  I could still use the experience I have in my field as well as nonprofits.  I could use this to build a life.  To allow the rest of my ambitions to exist without risk of instability.  And this is the one area where women are pretty common.  It’s not a big boys’ club–and after this year–I’m over that BS.

So, I asked about the new program.  It was cancelled.  I found another program in Boulder–which offered a few different options.  The one that was friendly to working adults was cancelled.  The only other decent option there would be a year long program at $25K.  It would mean I’d have to work at night (not really happening in this industry) or quit my job.  I really didn’t want to do that.  I found a few other programs–only one grad program here in Colorado–a 3 yr MFA which seemed to be mostly theory and less hands-on.  It sounded torturous.  And I knew I didn’t need a Master’s to do this.  Hell, I didn’t need a degree at all.  Just a talent and a great portfolio.  I looked into online options–most at least 2 yrs in duration.  Most at schools I’d never heard of or disliked–or in places that seemed dull and ugly.  I found bootcamp workshops that sounded amazing–but could I learn this in a week?

An additional complication?  I’m out of financial aid.  I reached my maximum this year–which is why I didn’t finish my MNM.  Anything I do from here on out is out of pocket.  Which is doable with payment plans.  But I really don’t want three years of debt or classes that don’t guarantee proficiency at $3000 a pop.

I was frustrated.  And pissed.  All those years of looking for technically proficient people–and the difficulty we always had–well, it made sense.  We’re failing at education.  If you want to do something, as a working adult, it’s quite hard.

I kept on and finally found free or low-cost courses.  My roomie steered me to one.  It’ll get me proficient in code.  But the UX part is tough.  I have some experience, but nothing I’d be comfortable with.  So, I kept looking and found some neat options.  My plan, at this point, is to do as much free/low-cost stuff as I can.  Get really proficient in the technical stuff.  Do a couple bootcamps.  Find great people to learn from.  Get active in the community.  Once I am fairly comfortable with my skills, I’m going to find some nonprofits to help and build a portfolio.  I’ll then get an internship somewhere and see where it goes.  I probably will get more formal schooling later.  Carnegie Mellon looks decent–though expensive and far away.  We’ll see.

The funny part about all of this is that, as soon as I settled on really doing this–(in a year, btw)–it made me question my long-term plans of being a PsyD and starting a nonprofit.  I still don’t completely know what I’m going to do with that.

For the longest time, I just wanted to do something to help people.  I wanted to honor my Mama’s memory and make my parents proud.  I wanted to do something creative where I could use my skills for good.  I wanted to be my own boss–be able to do what I wanted.

This year has changed me a little.  Now, I want balance.  I want freedom.  I don’t want to sacrifice who I am for others.  Not every day.  I don’t know that I can anymore.

I still want to honor my parents and make them proud.  But I realize they are already proud–were always proud–of me.  I’ve made a good life.  I’m a good person.  I’ve done amazing things.  I was a good daughter.  I’ve fulfilled my side of the bargain–and that’s just being happy.  They only wanted that for me.  Mostly, I am happy.  Every day–not always–but for parts of it?  Yes.

The best way to honor your parents is to be exactly who you need to be.  It’s to have time to love and be happy.  To be passionate and alive.

I could do better at that, and this change feels like the better I really need.

As much as I love the idea of being a PsyD and starting a nonprofit, it scares me.  This UX journey scares and overwhelms me, too.  But not in a way that makes me doubt myself.  More like–where do I even begin?

The PsyD and nonprofit thing scares me in that I wonder if I’ll ever be good enough.  Will I be someone who CAN help?  Will it be too much for me.  Will it keep me stuck in my own past?

I need to move forward.  I have moved forward.  And I don’t want to live in some place that reminds me daily of where I’ve been.  I want to be reminded of where I am and where I’m going.

I guess, I feel like I’ve been here before.  That I once made the choice that meant bleeding out in the street, and I have no interest in gaping wounds.  There was a time when such things filled my life, and I worked hard to overcome that.

I just want a simple, happy life.

I don’t have to save the world.  I just have to save myself.

I suppose I’m not making a decision.  I do know UX seems like a good fit for now.  So, I’m going to make that happen.  I’ve already started.  It’s frustrating that I can’t spend all day learning, though.  🙂

If the other stuff needs to happen, it will.  And the evidence of that will be undeniable.  For now, I have lots of options.  And it’s time to incubate a little.

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