What do I want to be when I grow up?
Recently I’ve been pondering this question a lot. Having just turned 50, I feel like it might be time to answer it. Problem is, I still don’t really have an answer. Does it matter?
I think perhaps it does.
Here’s a recap of my life so far:
For the past 14 years, my primary job has been as a household manager and caretaker for two small people. Despite the recent calculation of the value of a stay-at-home-mother being $143,102 per year, I can assure you that none of us are getting paid that, or anything else for that matter. For the past few years I have supplemented the family income by working part-time as a librarian. Trust me, they get paid almost as little as a stay-at-home-mother.
Prior to the birth of my first born, I worked as a librarian for the local public library. It was a start-up and we faced challenges of automating the library, creating policies and programs, and building a collection from scratch. It was fun and challenging, but I left without regret and without missing the small town politics and group dynamics.
Before the public library, I worked as a medical librarian in the library of a busy hospital. This was probably the culmination of my “professional career” and I enjoyed assisting the medical staff with literature searches and most of the other aspects of the job. I came to this job after earning my MSLIS degree, which I pursued following 8 years doing information management support for the Life Sciences Division of NASA.
While working as a NASA contractor I was an instrumental member of the team that created the now defunct bibliographic database SPACELINE, a joint venture between NASA and the National Library of Medicine. I also became an expert on research conducted by the former Soviet Union on cell biology in space, co-authored papers and position statements on such diverse topics as mandatory retirement in pilots and the human system in space, and performed various other “duties as assigned”.
In short, my career has always been upside-down. I started high and have been working my way down the corporate ladder ever since. Time after time, I have chosen the path of a lower salary in exchange for greater personal happiness. Mostly, I stand by those decisions and do not regret them.
But now I am wondering what’s next.
Our family, happy as we are, could use some extra money. Those two small people I have been caring for are not so small anymore and each passing week brings another opportunity we have to say no to because of budgetary constraints. And then there’s the whole college thing looming. So….. what should I do?
Do I continue to pursue writing, which so far has not brought in a single dime to the family income? Or do I start career number 42 and try something else? The world has moved on considerably since I worked as a full-time career librarian and I feel out of touch with the digital resources available to physicians and other medical personnel now. With over a decade out of the workforce, am I even hire-able?
I am at a crossroads and completely lost. I know that I used to be intelligent and capable, but now I am not so sure. My brain has atrophied after years of folding laundry, wiping noses, and not much else. Is it selfish to ask what I want to do rather than where can I earn money for the family? Is it wrong to think that my time is worth more than the pennies I have earned recently? My self-doubt is affecting my attempts at writing and my interactions with my loved ones.
So, what do I want to be when I grow up? I honestly have no idea and I think I’m running out of time.
I’m open to suggestions.