Does the paranoia of long-term unemployment ever go away?
I told myself ages ago that when I got another full time position I would celebrate by getting a new Macbook Air and giving my current laptop to my mom, who needs a decent computer.
She is still using a modified version of the computer that I had back in junior high school. I am not joking. I gave her a netbook last year, but in retrospect not such a great idea for her since I don’t want her to have to squint.
So my professional sabbatical is finally over. I worked through the things that I wanted to work through. I traveled, ate awesome food 24/7, worked on important personal projects and and also got back into the spirit of the hustle. I’ve locked down a great job at a company I admire. I feel pretty excited about the future.
I can’t let go of the fear and paranoia of being one, two months away from bankruptcy. During the last holiday season (a time symbolic of bounty), I had a heart to heart with my mother about how I was doing financially, the pros and the cons of my sabbatical and the interesting yet sporadic contract work I had lined up.
My mother was supportive, but told me flat out that she could not help me out with a loan if I went bankrupt in the next 3 months. There was no money. I was on my own.
This was a bit of a shock because I’d loaned her eight thousand dollars a few years earlier, and imagined that the favor might one day be returned.When she told me this, it literally felt like chemicals were being released into my brain, behind my eyeballs… Chemicals that kept me pumped and hyper-alert to failure and opportunity. For several months I’ve been living this way. Things have settled down a bit, but to tell you the truth I haven’t quite recovered from this feeling. It’s not so much the fear of being without money as the smack of feeling incredibly alone. I’m an independent person, I like being alone. But it’s different when you HAVE to be on your own. Now if my mom couldn’t have come through in this hypothetical situation, I’m sure one of my aunts or uncles would have helped me out, or I would just be homeless for a while, or crash with friends. Okay, I’m being melodramatic, but you get the idea. Things would have worked out.
So… flash forward to yesterday.
I told myself, Tracy you met this goal. Get a new computer. You earned it. I went downtown to look at computers, and I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I told myself I shouldn’t buy it, because you just never know. Last night I had an intense migraine for four hours, and couldn’t cook. Thought about ordering a pizza. Didn’t, because it is a waste of money. What if I need that 15$ later?
This is all completely ridiculous because I have been on a VERY comfortable budget while I’ve been on sabbatical. I ate out, I travelled. I never missed drinks with friends and old coworkers. I purchased e-books. And yet now that I have the promise of stability, I’m locking everything down and worrying that it will all be taken away. Does that make sense? It is a strange thing that my mind has done.
I originally thought… how am I going to get back to normal?What am I going to do with this fear and anxiety?
Then today I heard that a company that I was considering working for barely a month ago is going under. Kapoot. All gone. Now I think to myself why should I want to go back to normal? Nothing is certain in this economy- this is the new normal. Time will change things, but for now I can’t control the residual feelings of fear and stress I have. Instead I can channel that wiry energy toward actively moving forward in my projects and my career. Like going vegan taught me, I can do without for most things. I don’t need a bunch of stuff, and I don’t want a bunch of stuff. I want freedom and an interesting life. So for 2013, I want to do good work, keep hustling, stay cheap and stay free. And now I’m off to the post office to mail some stuff I sold on Amazon. $$$
Patient friends and family may have heard me talk about maybe becoming a therapist. I’ve spent more than a year thinking about it, and now that it’s the beginning of application season, it’s my self imposed time to do or die.
I’ve put in a good faith effort at really exploring this option by being honest with myself about my interests and capabilities, talking to people with the degree that I was considering, volunteering at places with similar work, and by doing the cold hard numbers. Still I waffled. Debt and an uncertain future were not exactly deterrents. Nuts, right? It wasn’t until I found this incredibly insightful, incredibly loooooong thread for the occupation that I really knew.
Nup, not happening.
I’m not going to become a therapist. I don’t want to do what it takes to get there, and I don’t think I would like the lifestyle. I figured it out last week. While this is all for the best, it’s really hard to give up on a dream.
Reasons I wanted to become a therapist:
I used to watch Frasier and think “that sounds awesome.” Yes, this is embarrassing. However once I started learning more about psychiatry, I realized that I wasn’t in line with drug therapy as the primary way to approach mental health issues. I ‘m more interested in talk therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), so counseling seemed like a better fit. Plus, no med school. Seriously.
I read a lot of self help for fun. My conversations with friends turns naturally to these topics.
I have a psych background. It’s destiny.
I like working one on one with people.
I am extremely comfortable with difficult topics such as grief, death and existential freakouts.
I’ve lived a little bit. Some bad things happened to me. I did some bad things. That seems like an essential therapist trait.
I wanted to own my own business and set my own hours.
I didn’t want to age out of my field. I wanted a job where my age is considered to be an asset.
There is a clear career path and a ladder for me to climb.
What Factors Changed My Mind?(Get comfortable this will take a while…):
$50,000- 84,000 in debt, not including living expenses for 2-3 years of schooling, and 2+ years of post school practice
3,000 hours (about 2 years) of barely paid post graduate practice before sitting for the licensure exam.
Difficult to get experience without licensure, can’t get licensure without experience
Different licensure requirements across states will make my future life static. It also means that if a client moves, I can’t continue to help them. If I move, I may have to work for peanuts for another few years just to sit for licensure in the new state.
The wisest degree to get as far as reimbursements and employability would be a masters in social work, and while a very kind MSW helped me with grief counseling when my dad died ages ago, I’m not very interested in the coursework of the MSW degree.
Being a therapist:
Many insurance companies will only pay for a certain number of sessions, which means that you have to keep new patients coming in the door constantly. From reading over the forums, it is not that uncommon for a therapist to have 1-2 new patients starting each week, just to keep things going because others fall out due to insurance, cancel that week due to life events, or they just disappear completely.
The isolation of private practice.
The emotional heaviness of seeing people make the same mistakes over and over.
The intense marketing that is required to establish yourself and to keep your patient roster full (from creating relationships with doctors and employee assistance programs to create a referral funnel, to running free workshops, to managing the crazies on your Yelp page.)
The insanity that is doing insurance paperwork (which can be outsourced, but still).
While the listed rates may be high (100-150/hr) after negotiating with insurance companies, it seems that established therapists end up with an average rate of about 60$/hr of work, which they have to use to pay for malpractice insurance, office space, marketing, billing/admin, health insurance, taxes (especially high since they are self employed) etc.
If I want to be a good therapist, I am going to be on call. This would make it somewhat difficult to go on vacations, and would add an edge of uncertainty to everyday life.
After thinking it through, this is not the lifestyle that I want. If things were different with the American healthcare system, well… things would be different 🙂
So… now what?
I’m not sure. Mental health will always be a topic that I pursue on the side, like art. I’m really more upset at saying goodbye to a clear career path. I have so many interests that it can be hard to find something that feels right on most levels. At any rate, bullet dodged, my friends. You can all come out now and tell me that you told me so.
I’m rereading Tiny Beautiful Things, which is a collection of Dear Sugar advice columns. Most of the columns in the book can be found on the Rumpus website, but I’m a bit of a Sugar fanatic, so of course I had to own the e-book. Yeah, I’m a freak. And yeah, I said I’m rereading it.
Things have certainly been busy since I got back from Asia. The last time I had this many things going on was back in 2003 when I had five jobs at once. Of course back then I was young, stupid, romantic and optimistic, so it was okay having five jobs. I needed the money then, and I need it now for sure, but jobs were more casual and fun then, and I never got my identity too wrapped up in whatever I was doing. I miss that.
I thought it might be fun to list out all the jobs I’ve ever had, and in the spirit of gratitude, for all the past positions I’ll try to quickly come up with at least one thing that I learned from the experience. 🙂 Anyways, here’s everything from present from past, although I might have forgotten a few. The ones in bold are what I’m up to now.
Apartment Property Manager aka AirBNB hustler
Website Usability Tester
Marketing Intern (unpaid)
Elderly Suicide Hotline Counselor (Still training, and obviously unpaid)
Market Research Focus Groupie (Random one offs)
Convention Staff – When you go to any kind of event, be kind to the staff. Seriously. They get paid peanuts to be abused, and have no real worker’s rights.
Social Media/SEO Research Analyst- Creating and maintaining friendships at work can be wonderful and will make you more productive.
Social Media Research Analyst- For a while, everybody is making it up as they go along. This could be depressing, but I think it’s obviously an opportunity.
Media Research Associate-You never know what a job is or will become until you start.
Marketing Intern at a web company (unpaid)- It’s important to believe in what your company does/sells.
Lab Tech at a blood bank, working weird hours and dreaming I was a vampire- It’s never worth it to risk your personal health for a job. I’ve had a few close calls.
Human Guinea Pig – There’s no such thing as easy money.
Yarn Shop Sales Associate- Sometimes a job is right because it comes along at the right time. Also, if you want a job, just ask.
Recycler- I enjoy jobs with variety and autonomy.
Poster Board Monitor/Cleaner- Working outside can be refreshing.
Biology Laboratory Assistant-Playing a supportive role can still be a lot of fun, especially when your team is winning and has big money.
Dogwalker-I love dogs.
Library Aide- This was when I first learned to love podcasts, audiobooks and short stories.
Administrative Assistant at a music conservatory- Sometimes you just have to get the hell out of a job, sooner rather than later.
Campus Sales Rep for an art store- Sales is an art.
Clothing Shop Sales Clerk- Screenprinting!
Public Health/Pediatrics Research Assistant- Connections and curiosity matter. People want to help you succeed. Being published is kind of awesome.
Waitress/Cashier-I really struggled with this one. I guess all I can say is that you can learn a lot from staying in the same place for a long time. A community can be a lot of different things, even a dinky Chinese restaurant. A smile will help smooth most problems over. It’s best never to work for your family.
Have you ever listed out your total job history? Did it depress you, amuse you, surprise you?
Last Friday, June 24, was National Bring Your Dog to Work Day. After a bit of finagling, we got it approved at work. It was nice meeting my coworker’s dogs- they were all so well behaved. I knew that Astor would be a handful, so I scheduled to work only a half day.
She looks so happy, yeah? Little brat. I am covered in yellow fur.
My coworker Mary Ellen cuddling her gigantic pup Willie.
Astor chilling out in her under desk basket.
Dog day was a great idea in theory, but so stressful in execution. Astor was so bad! She barked at the other dogs, and was quite restless. These aren’t bad traits for a dog, just hard to manage while also working 🙂