It’s always a good idea to think a little bit before making a big decision, although unfortunately I think it’s common to use those transitional moments to avoid the choice. Most people tend to talk themselves out of stuff.
I don’t think the stress of making a decision is all that big a deal. I think transitions are interesting.
The stress I’m worried about is the unknown attitudinal changes that will be required after making the change. If ‘then’ is going to be different than ‘now’ - then how?
What information will I have then that I don’t have yet?
What will Post-Decision Me wish I’d known?
Is there anything useful I can find out from anyone else who has already done this?
Is being in the new place going to affect the way I make decisions from that point forward?
I hear a lot of people talking themselves into making some kind of big change by saying, “I’ll still be the same person.” This has always seemed very strange to me. What is the point of making a change if you’re going to be the same person afterward? Isn’t the entire point to become someone new, at least in a small way? Someone better in some sense - stronger, braver, more experienced, more skilled, more interesting?
One of the worst things I can think of is to always be the same person, forever. I mean. What if we were all still stuck with the musical tastes we had at age twelve and the culinary preferences we had at age four? The driving skills we had at fifteen? I don’t particularly think that my listening skills, ethical framework, or storytelling abilities were better at any earlier age than they are now, so why would I want to be stuck at that point of development?
This is what it sounds like when I try to talk myself into something.
I think what some people want to hang onto is actually a certain skeptical outlook, which is all well and good. It’s good to be rational when making choices and doing research. Personally, though, I’d rather be swept away and smitten by something when I’m exploring something new.
That is how it happens for me - that I get a mental crush on something and throw myself at it, learning as much as I can, until I develop a certain level of competence or knowledge. Then it generally becomes something that I follow on more of a maintenance level.
This is the feeling that I’m hoping to generate as I contemplate going to grad school.
There are other things I’m contemplating, one of which is the possibility of moving up a level at work. Okay, maybe not right this minute - but I have a solid twenty years of career arc left ahead of me on the traditional timeline. That is plenty of time to work one’s way into a leadership position. It isn’t wrong to declare an intent in that direction.
That would be one of the main points of getting a doctorate as well - some sort of role as a thought leader.
I’ve never had a true profession. It staggers my imagination that I am still in a clerical role at 45, although it’s something that I chose and chased down for myself, believing it to be a foot in the door of an organization that has captured my attention. One way or another, I will vault myself up and out at some point.
What I am starting to realize is that there are mindset shifts that must occur between one level and the next.
“What got you here won’t get you there.” Yet there’s sometimes a Catch-22, in that you can’t really know what you need to know until you’re able to find it out.
I often feel that I finally know enough to start whatever it was that I’m doing, six months or a year later. For instance, it was only after six months of Krav Maga that I felt physically fit enough to start taking the classes. If only I’d known to start doing fifty push-ups before I came here...
The question is always, What is the ‘fifty push-ups’ of this discipline going to be?
I hope it’s public speaking, since I already trained on that. But what if it’s statistics, or pivot tables, or calculus??
I’ve always been a grind, and it never really bothers me to have to grit my way through something. When I think about competing with kids twenty years younger, I laugh. Not a single one of them can out-read me. There is no way anyone in their twenties can possibly compete with the discipline and focus of someone in their forties. Sorry, kiddos.
There are other advantages of mid-life, few of which would be apparent to a younger person. For instance, a lot of major decisions have been crossed off my list that can still completely derail them. I know where I want to live, whether I want to get married (yes) and have kids (no), and I know how to cook and manage a household. I know there’s no reason to go to late-night parties, at least for me; it turns out the same people exist at 8 PM as exist at 2 AM.
So many of the temptations of youth haven’t panned out. I’m at a stage of life when that feels satisfying rather than disappointing.
When I think about going back to school “at my age” it is, in many ways, a relief. I have gained so many competencies that were not in my arsenal 25 years ago.
In other ways, I remember how tired I was after studying all night, and I wonder whether I really have even one all-nighter left in me.
What I look for is the person I will be on the other side, the career she will have, and the outlook on life that she will have earned. That is not a tired woman who pulls all-nighters.
What I try to do is to put on her insights as an imaginary thinking cap. What attitude would she have toward these decisions, Future Me? What advice would she give me? How would she respond to the situations that currently stress me out?
This is what makes me think that it’s a fair trade. The stress of today, the decisions and the transitions that lie before me, in a transaction that buys me the comparatively stress-free position that Future Me will have earned.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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