second careers


Google calender white spaceI had to go all the way to July to find more than one day in a row where nothing is planned. No to do’s. No appointments. No practices or games. Nothing school related. No work of note.

Of course, July is still empty only because it’s just far enough in the future, and clear of the school year, to be empty.

White space.

Those days on the calendar that you don’t owe anyone, and no one and nothing has yet laid claim to, are the white spaces in our lives. Down time.

I was talking yesterday with my daughter’s school vice principal and his wife. Ran into them at the trade show in town.

Trade show is a big deal. I generally only go to catch up with my government representatives. The MP. The MLA. But it’s a chance to run into all sorts of people. The ones you only see at the Canada Day Parade and picnic or the Farmer’s Market.

I bring up my conversation with VP because it wandered into “going back to work” territory. Something I have been thinking about now that the wee daughter is not wee anymore.

And the thing that runs through my mind is – where would I fit work in?

There is very little white space in my life. Not enough to slip in a full-time job at any rate.

The opportunity I was speaking to the VP about was a part-time position in the school library. Which he’s already filled. But he was curious if I was going back to teaching now that not so wee kid is nearly in high school.

That is the time that SAHM’s think about, or do, head back out into the workplace after all.

I have thought about it.

There is a two-year degree/accreditation  program at the University of Alberta for people who already hold degrees and would like to work with indigenous schools and students that looks interesting. Education is still a passion for me whether I like the box public education is still uncomfortably crammed into or not.

And I am writing again. Seriously tempted to try my hand out more substantive blogging. Politics. Social commentary.

Shouldn’t forget politics beyond the commentary either. Working in politics tempts me mightily. Behind the scenes, of course, but I would be good at it, I think.

But where to find the serious time for such things?

White space is still hard to come by, and I don’t mean the few hours every day between this obligation and that errand or chore.

Of course, the fact that I can even entertain thoughts like white space and how to acquire more of it so I can pursue a career choice for passion rather than necessities sake speaks to an enormous amount of privilege. Not a place I ever dreamed I would be at this point in my life. Or ever really. Yet here I am.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that time management is a truly personal thing. The less you have to self-direct, the more dissatisfied you are likely to be generally. However, having too much open-ended time rarely leads to anything productive.

I can’t say I have any concrete plans at the moment. I am still living from one open day in the calendar to the next and letting that be enough direction for right now. That itself is a lesson. In patience and letting go. I’m grateful for that.

But it is time to plan for the future, or near time anyway. Do something with the white spaces.


Cartoon showing baby representing New Year 190...

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I never really left school. I went from university to teaching, so the calendar year never altered for me. August kicks off the new year in a way that January just never did.

It’s funny really that the year officially rolls over in January yet many people mark the passage of time with the school calendar or the fiscal year, which is July or October usually, depending on your occupation. January 1st is just Christmas’s less interesting sibling.

Back in the day, I would have already been in my classroom and probably completely ready to go by now. I made it a habit to crack the seal on my “office” door the first week of August. I’d spend the mornings cleaning, organizing, decorating and finally planning. I typically outlined the entire year before breaking it down by semester and then grading periods and finally daily lesson plans. I rocked really.

August, therefore, feels like the time to plan. With Dee heading back to school, I have free hours during the day that need direction.

Direction that isn’t laundry or baking or cleaning.

Briefly I toyed with applying for a job at the museum in town. They are looking for a program assistant. It’ teacher work. Organizing and brainstorming. I would totally be in my element. Curriculum. History. Teaching. Some of my favorite things in life. The work is even part-time and mostly flexible, but the bulk is Tuesday and Thursday, and I am already committed to teaching yoga at the community hall in the evenings. The potential for the whole thing to turn into long days in the hellmouth is fair to good.

I’m gearing up to have myself added to the city’s yoga teacher sub list, and I’m going to take a couple of classes to get ready to e-publish a few short works that are a bit too niche for the bigger markets. That’s enough on top of home and family though I struggle still with the stay at home thing. Four years out of the workforce is a freakish feeling for someone who spent nearly 30 years of her life working. And with the economy in free-fall again, I get itchy.

But we don’t need me working part-time for peanuts, which screws us at tax time, and me going back to teaching adds unnecessary stress to our daily lives because the juggling of household chores and kid is no small thing. The pressure to work outside the home rears up though. Not as often as in the first years and usually driven by  something coming up that my working wouldn’t fix anyway.

It’s better that I stick to my original plan, which could pan out more profitably in the longer term with a bit of luck and nose to the keyboard.

Need to put my father’s daughter to bed once and for all and concentrate on the ball in play.


Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? 

Lose Yourself by Eminem

Not quite the scenario I’ve been presented with but an apt lyrical representation in some ways.

The studio where I study and teach shuts its door at the end of the month. My friend and teacher, Jade, has chosen to step away and spend more time with her children and seek saner employment opportunities. She offered those of us who teach there the opportunity to take the studio over, and regretfully, I passed.

Timing is one of those serendipitous things. It introduced Rob and I to each other and brought Dee and I to Canada. It has afforded me with writing opportunities and yoga study and teaching opportunities that someone with my background shouldn’t likely have had. But it didn’t show up for this one.

I love the studio. It’s compact, elegant and well-situated. Sitting above a used bookstore (yes, the one I toyed briefly with buying) and sandwiched between a seedy pub and a liquor store, it fits the stereotypical ideal of city yoga studios everywhere. How often have you run across yoga springing forth from the seedy remains of crumbling downtowns like saplings stubbornly taking root in the cracks of sidewalks.

Even as strip malls and newer shopping plazas spring up on the other side of the highway, the town is determined to lure folks back to the former city center with a massive overhaul, repaving the streets, putting in wider sidewalks and creating a pedestrian plaza just a block away. The area improves with each year and there are signs that small businesses, at any rate, have taken notice and are moving into the empty retail slots at a heartening pace though not all have succeeded.

So location? The studio has that covered.

The rent, though I didn’t ask, is probably reasonable based in the information I acquired when I was checking out the bookstore.

And there is a need and a student base, but I am not naive about either. The former fluctuates with the weather, and the latter is a personality thing. Jade has a loyal following but it wouldn’t necessarily switch allegiance. When you are the product in a sense, you can’t “sell” that along with the physical aspects of your business.

Why not then?

Because any type of “fitness” oriented business is subject to the time constraints of those who use it. Shift work rules around here, so early mornings and evenings are prime time. I have a husband and child who expect me about in the early morning and evenings to accommodate them. As it is, teaching just three nights a week this past nine months has been strain enough. If I were to add more?

Rob’s enthusiasm factors as well and he couldn’t offer much when I told him about the studio.

“You’re not thinking about doing it, are you?”

He is my most ardent supporter, but he can be forgiven his self-interest. My working hinders more than it helps our bottom-line and that was never more evident than when we filed our Canadian taxes this year. And my not being around in the evenings shifts the burden of Dee’s activities to him alone in terms of carting her about and cheerleader duty.

One of the reasons behind Jade’s decision was the fact that she was missing hockey games and that precious four hours from the time kids get home from school until they are tucked in for the night. I know that many two income families live quite happily in the nano-bits snatched in the before and after school allotments. They pack everything that doesn’t conveniently fit into the week into a 48 hour weekend, but as I remember that life – it takes a toll.

And then there are the crucial factors. I don’t know anything about running a business, and freelancing more seriously this last year has taught me that the rules, which govern me from afar, are more complex and onerous than I knew.

Finally, I don’t know that I am ready to “be the teacher”. Sure, I teach yoga, but under the umbrella of the studio, which affords me credibility. I am unsure that I possess the experience and knowledge – or radiate the gravitas –  that one needs to in order to “be the studio owner” – to be THE teacher.

Regardless, it’s hard to let this one slip even though I know that there are good reasons for doing so.


Modified version of Image:Arnold Schwarznegger...

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver , the former Mr. and Mrs State of California, announced their separation the other day. News of the split splashed the web with typical “omg! how can a famous couple walk away from a marriage that doesn’t have to be measured in dog years to be an impressive run?”

They have a point. 25 years of marriage and 34 total (they dated 11 years* prior) is considered laudable anymore because in a society where most never make it to the altar at all, it bestows an air of powerful voodoo relationship magic on them that seems to elude the majority.

Maria has a YouTube stream – she was a reporter once and is a writer so its existence can be attributed to more than the usual narcissism that drives people to babble on personal YT channels. A recent entry asks her viewers to share how they deal with transitions. What spurred them? How did you cope? What do you wish you’d known going in? All the angsty good stuff.

Apparently what bothers her most is the end of busyness in her life. She isn’t a reporter anymore. Her kids are grown or nearly so and presumably able to function without her hovering over them. Her husband has left office, which effectively puts her out of a job too. And though he has projects in the offing, she does not.

Some of the news reports speculated that she is resentful. After all, she didn’t want Arnold to run for governor and it derailed her professional and personally when he did. She threw herself into her role of First Lady of Cali but that’s over now too.

Like her marriage.

I’ve been thinking about transitions. Why not? It feels sometimes like I have been swirling down river, bounced through the rapids or languidly floating for a good eight or nine years now. Never really getting to close to the banks and pushing off again when I do.

My personal life has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined and it pleases me to no end, but that “career” thing I am supposed to want desperately and apparently need in order to be personally fulfilled – according to my feminist sisters – dangles above me like the apples over Tantalus. Unlike him, I don’t reach up. I just lie on the tire tube and marvel at the shadows they cast.

One of the last comments on Maria’s stream reminded her that it’s perfectly okay to just “be”. A yogi, I suspect. Because it is okay to “be”. Be content. Be still. Be aware. Be grateful. Be with yourself. Be with those who matter most.

I wonder if it’s possible for some to just be happy with life as it is? Are we so programmed to search and conquer and begin the process again that we can’t dwell in the space we call “transition” without feeling guilty about it?

Taking a break from Care2 has reminded me that there are other options – neglected ones and those just occurring to me – to explore. Transition at its core is really about exploration. I don’t mind that. Research and planning have always been my strengths. Execution maybe not so much but when it counts, I stack up with the best.

My advice? Be. And be mindful. Don’t worry so much. Take it easy on yourself. Forget about perfection. Don’t fret if you fall short or the goal line shifts from time to time. They say that life is a race, but it isn’t. They say that what we do defines us, but it doesn’t. They say to follow your bliss and you will be successful, but that’s not true if your definition of success is grounded in the material or rooted in competition and comparison.

If you are lucky enough to even be able to ask yourself how to transition, you are in a far better place than 98% of the others on the planet.

* I am highly suspicious of marriage length daters. It speaks to issues and ambiguity.


Dead Snow Angel

Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Nagging health issues continue to plague me and keep me from focusing on writing in specific and general. I rouse myself for the occasional pet issue here and there about the web, but I haven’t written for the paying gig in about a month and am still mentally sorting through ideas for a longer offline project. Like winter, I guess, I am all about the hibernating and waiting.

Ruminating before leaping is not out of character for me. Really. When it appears as if I am pouncing like a rabid werewolf, it’s only because I’m unleashing on a subject that’s been throughly hashed out in my mind and is, in fact, an older than dirt topic for me.

New things? I window shop with glacial intent.

For example? I made a purchase via Old Navy last week. Yoga togs that I eyeballed near daily for over a month before committing to them.

So in matters of writing, I am more James Joyce than twit blogger.

Aches and pains and the fact that navigating a Canadian healthcare system designed more to befuddle and irritate than be helpful adds to my general lack of forward momentum.

Doctors don’t listen. Test results meander their way from one part of the labyrinth to another, and helpful insights like “it’s probably not cancer” add to the stress.

On the only bright side, today, an appointment with the physio went surprisingly well. As I go to each appointment with expectations one could sweep a floor with, finding a healthcare professional who makes eye contact in addition to being able to let a person finish a sentence or more without interrupting is positively soul cuddling.

My thoracic back, left shoulder and neck are totally fucked up though not in a unfixable way. Huzza.

And, it’s stopped snowing. No telling how long this will last but there is actual sunshine and the wind isn’t slicing through the house.

Which brings me to the house.  No, the reno is not done, and both Rob and I are weary past words of the whole thing. Drywalling may commence this weekend if he keeps up the same pace with wiring and plumbing but between my totally fucked back and iffy neck/shoulder and his recent gout attack – well – sigh*.

Dee chomps at the bit to be allowed to help but at nearly four feet tall and not 50 lbs drenched, she falls short of being useful.

Here is the worst thing right now – the hamster wheel effect. Since Christmas at least, it’s as if there is not one iota of difference from yesterday to tomorrow. I am Bill Murray living the same day over and over. People jet off to warmer climes. They throw dinner parties. Or have nights out without children. But we might as well be living in Pleasantville for all the difference in our white one white world.

Does that sound whiny? It’s not meant to. Just observing and wondering how much longer the quo remains at status.

 

*The worst of it is the lack of space with half the house in shreds. Barely room to spread a yoga mat most days and don’t get me started on the continually shifting of stuff necessary to even cook a meal. Weekdays I manage, but on the weekends – that’s at least two or more preps and I sometimes just want to sit on the floor and cry because it’s like Sisyphus and the rock.


my android apps menu #5

Image by laihiu via Flickr

My boss called today. Yes, I have a boss. I know it seems like I’m living this Life of Reilly up on the prairie, but I am employed. I am hired in a manner of speaking though it is so different from my previous existence as a public school teacher that when I come up for air, now and again, I blink a lot. That spotlight I try to hide from is bright.

Cee conducts these random phone updates with the bloggers at Care2 to take our enthusiasm temperatures, I think. Mine’s been flagging a bit. Partly because I know that in order to be a success as a pseudo commentator on current events and life in general I need to lay fingers on the keyboard more often and far more furiously than I do now. And, I need to check my scruples at my office door. Blogging for the masses – the hordes that feed the advertisers – means inciting them to comment.

You might have noted that I closed comments on my Jennifer Petkov piece due to a persistent commenter. I don’t feel the need to engage in that way and this is a personal blog at any rate, but it’s highly reminiscent of the type of response I’ve inspired at Care2 from time to time. My karma prefers to be less sullied but my ego is entirely game. Let the tug of war begin.

So, on the one hand there is the very real possibility of making my mark in the world of op-ed and on the other hand there is coming back in my next life as an invertebrate.

Okay, it’s not that black and white. Probably.

Mostly this is coming down to time. Which is precious even if it’s nothing more than sitting in the office with Rob in the evening sharing thoughts about items on our Google Readers.

However, I don’t have as much time as I did.

My other boss emailed me today. Yes, two bosses though Jade’s in a gray area. She’s my teacher. I like to think of her as a friend. And she lets me teach at her studio.

Jade’s off on a yoga cruise soon. The studio was supposed to close because Rob and I had planned a vacation for that week, but we’ve decided to demolish the wall between our living and dining rooms and reno instead – seriously, and I will explain that another day – so I am suddenly around and she asked if I will cover classes for those who have memberships.

Teaching yoga is feast or famine. I am busy beyond comprehension until Christmas and then …? I don’t know.

Here’s the thing. My old life was scripted from the outside. Order was imposed on me by a schedule not of my making. Not a bad thing because being a Sagittarius, I tend towards free flow and formless when left to my own devices.

Now, life needs order.

Why?

Because I am not – never have been – okay with just being good. At anything. I need to be awesome. Ego. Yes, I am well aware.

But, I can be awesome. I know this.

I am ruined though by twenty years of being scheduled. I wish I had shunned teaching for writing earlier. Maybe I would have a better handle on scheduling myself?

Both hands are required. Cee gave me license to write at will for any channel I want at Care2. Go nuts. There’s a career in there somewhere.

Jade is trusting me an awful lot to find my yoga feet, take root and bloom. There’s a future there too.

Are they compatible? I think so, but it’s a matter of blocking time and not losing sight of Rob, the girls and the other people who are far more important than anything else.

Life was easier when I didn’t have to think about where I should be at a given time. When it was all decided for me.

But I recall, vaguely, wishing for this freedom. Must. Control. Blind. Wishing. And possibly break down and get a Blackberry or an Android.


At least that’s the advice the Huffington Post’s Ryan McCarthy had forreaders yesterday because while the United States is mired in the economic equivalent of the Biggest Loser, Canada put on a hefty 93,200 jobs last month.

And our housing prices do nothing but rise!

Plus we have free universal health care, gay people can legally marry and unicorns roam wild on the prairies.

Okay, maybe we don’t have unicorns.

Maybe.

But the rest? True. Except that health care is not really free when the tax rate is put under the microscope, Canadians could care less about marriage in general as the majority live in common-law relationships for the most part, housing prices are so outrageous that the average person can’t afford home ownership and all those jobs? Service sector. Think Wal-Mart greeters and working the drive thru at Timmie’s*

I emigrated to Canada just a tad over three years ago. I met a Canadian on the Internet. We fell in love. The U.S. had way more archaic immigration rules and he had the better paying job anyway, so I moved north.

Since then, I have heard nothing from my liberal left-behind friends but how lucky I am to have escaped the imploding American Dream for Canadian Utopia.

And Canada is great. Don’t misunderstand me. I love it here. But in many ways, it’s no different from the U.S.

The government is conservative and more interested in business interests than people. Money is the driving factor behind public policy. Education is being savaged when it’s not just overlooked or neglected. Health care hangs on by its teeth but only because the average Canadian would riot in the streets if the provincial governments did away with it, so they nickel and dime it to death in the hopes that people aren’t really paying attention (they aren’t). Our housing is ridiculously over-priced and long overdue for a sharp correction.

Even though some Canadians like to promote the idea that Canada is the anti-America, the reality is that Canada is much more like America than it realizes.

It’s just lucky. For now.

Luck. That’s all that separates us from being you.

People here in Alberta, where I am, live dangerously on the idea that the oil in the sands will last forever and that the damage done by the foreign companies exploiting our resources won’t leave us with polluted fields and undrinkable water.

The spice oil must flow, eh?

My husband just rolled his eyes at the thought of Americans sneaking across the thousands of miles of largely unprotected border like Mexicans in Arizona.

Canada has a points system immigration system which basically has no use for anyone over the age of 42 who can’t speak English and/or French and isn’t skilled and/or a college graduate.

I actually squeaked under the wire on the points thing but fortunately marrying a Canadian meant I was able to get into a completely different immigration line – one that was no less tedious, incomprehensible and arbitrarily humiliating – but it was faster.

But I still can’t find work in my field – education – because the government has slashed funding and there are no teaching jobs to be found just about anywhere a person would want to live and work or anywhere they would die first before considering.

So I write for a blog that pays me peanuts and is, ironically, based out of California, and I teach yoga – not exactly Fortune 500 paying gigs.

Yes, there are jobs. Canadian Tire (think Kmart) is perpetually hiring as is the local Wal-Mart. You can wait tables just about anywhere and the 7-11 in town can never keep night managers. Hotels need housekeepers and if you are really a go-getter, you can probably hobble together two or three part time jobs which will just about pay the outrageous rents with enough left over to eat, pay utilities and cloth yourself. Just yourself. Try not to marry and especially don’t breed because daycare is scarce to non-existent and quite expensive.

But … you love Canada … right?

Yep, I do. But I am not average. I wasn’t an average American either. I live in the upper edges of the middle class. I am skilled and have two university degrees. My husband is an engineer in a field where more of them are retiring than entering.

And I didn’t come here for any reason other than being in love and wanting to spend my life with a guy who happened to be Canadian.

I know some people would regard that as something akin to winning the lottery, but life can be livable anywhere as long as your expectations are aligned with your reality and you don’t make the mistake of believing that salvation lies outside yourself.

*Tim Horton’s. Think fast food but waaaaay better than anything in the States. Seriously.