Back to blogging with my three co-bloggers! Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays. (Usually we are on time. Usually. Ok, mostly. Sometimes? Don’t judge me.)
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, I chose the topic, and I asked everyone to write about missed callings. Talk about those jobs or paths you now realize might have been good choices, and why. Here’s my take:
There’s a question that nags at me. If I could, I would blame it on a midlife crisis, but the question has always hung over me, even long before I was on the wrong side of 40. It’s stayed for years, and it continues to burn. “What’s next?” it whispers. “What’s next?”
I cannot explain why this question still haunts me so. I mean, I have a new home and a decent car (ok, it’s a mini-van and it’s uncool but it’s newish and it runs well and I can actually raise the seat high enough to see over the dashboard). I have a law degree from a great law school. I have fun hobbies, including flea marketing, decorating my home, and making jewelry. I was volunteering for a hospice (and hope to again, soon). I exercise almost every day. I have three kids, one of whom is technically an adult. I have wonderful friends, some I’ve known my entire life and others I’m just getting to know. My life is quite full; I can’t say anything in particular is missing. And, yet, that question:
I’ve often heard that question in the recesses of my mind while working various jobs. My parents – and even my older siblings – are of the generations where you took a job and stayed with it forever. It wasn’t really a “career,” but it didn’t matter. It paid the bills and, if you were lucky, you made some friends and maybe even enjoyed the work from time to time. They did not ask, “What’s next?” What was “next” was the next day, the next week, the next month, year, decade as the years sped to retirement, which often included a party and a watch. There might be a promotion or a change of worksite, but little else would change. That has not been my reality. I’ve heard and heeded the call of the question as I sat in my cubicle/office/press room: “What’s next?” I’ve moved on, many times. The question pushed me to search for something else – maybe not something “better” but at least something different – and for that, I am grateful. I would have crumbled under the stagnation.
So, yes, I’ve switched not only jobs but also careers and, yes, I’ve moved houses and cities and states and, yes, I’ve even gone back to school, once so far, when I was 29. All because I’ve long been nagged by the question I once again ask myself:
I’ve never hidden the fact that although I like some things about the practice of law, I can’t say I’ve ever loved it (one exception: when I represented my friend Obadyah Ben-Yisrayl when he was on Death Row). Practicing law, to some extent, has satisfied my need to do smart things, to do work that requires me to think, hard and outside the box, and to look at an issue from all sides. It’s also allowed me to write (at times, quite creatively!). I met one of my closest friends through a law job, and I have made many other good friends through my legal career, as well.
But law was not my calling. I never saw it that way, and I wasn’t wrong. It has paid the bills, but the law has left me lacking in many ways. It simply hasn’t satisfied me. And now, fifteen years into it, I wonder, “What’s next?” because there is still so much empty space left to fill.
I love to write, and I’ve considered attempting to once again make it my career. I started my professional career as a writer – a journalist. In some ways, I loved it, but I was a print journalist and my timing was poor (I graduated, newspapers folded, I had no desire to move to Kansas City, etc.). And I could only write so many stories about school board meetings. There’s also my hatred of deadlines (both journalistic and legal). I’ve recently dabbled in memoir writing, which is very different from journalistic and legal writing, and quite enjoyable. And so I ask: Did I walk away from writing to soon? Is what was “then” now also “what’s next?” Did I once heed my calling and yet somehow miss it? Is it calling me back?
Most importantly, if so, how will I answer? I simply do not know.
There is one thing I do know, and that is that even though my birthdays are coming more and more closely together, I am not too old to have another “next.” I am nowhere near slowing down. There is too much life in me (even though I now get ready for bed at the time I used to get ready to go out). Case in point: Two months ago – which was exactly four months after moving into my new home, mind you – my husband asked me where I’d like to retire. I couldn’t even process the question. I mean, I haven’t even settled into living in Tennessee. But, more than that, the idea of retirement baffles me. “Nothing” cannot possibly be my “what’s next,” can it? It doesn’t seem right. And it’s not just the fact that I’m years away from the traditional retirement age – it’s more that I don’t know that mentally I ever will be ready to retire. It seems so boring. And scary . . . because we all know what comes “next.”
I was a journalist, I’m now a lawyer. I was born and raised on the Northwest Side of Chicago; now, I live in Middle Tennessee. The road from “there” to “here” was circuitous and largely unplanned. I don’t know where I will die, and I can’t even begin to predict what the path will look like between here and there. If I am lucky, the road will be long. If it’s true to history, it will not be without its bumps, its twists and turns. But it will also be interesting, unpredictable, and fun. And that’s all I can ask for. That much I know, for sure, is “what’s next.”