Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Random Important Life Announcement

As you may or may not know, all spring and summer I have been agonizing over a decision that I had to make. I have been agonizing over this decision for years, but finally this year it came to a head, where I felt like if I was going to do this now would be the time . . . because there would never really be a good time for it . . .

So ladies and gentlemen, beginning next week, I will be returning to school on a part time basis to finish my undergraduate degree. I hope to study Economics and eventually set myself up to get a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

I have always felt bad about not finishing college 17 years ago. I started college when I was 16 (because like Justrose, I attended Doogie Howser High School) and once I got there, I SO did not fit in. Being the true introvert I am, I always tried to be well read and very conscientious - academics were not as much a problem as my absolute lack of social and coping skills. I left after my junior year at Ye Old Colonial College and lived at home for a while, working part-time at first, and then a year later getting a job at what was then one of the Big Six accounting/consulting firms.

Working there was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me. I learned so much about the business world and how things are supposed to be done – it was one of those firms that sort of beat good business practices into you and made you work a crazy amount of hours. The consultants I worked with were around my age and a little older, and while I was administrative, they accepted me as a peer and I had an opportunity to work on a lot of really interesting projects. That was another lucky thing – no matter what role I served, people treated me as a peer – I did witness many of my other admin friends being treated like crap and I did what I could to help the situation – try to coach folks as it were. I guess that’s when I started being an informal advice giver of sorts too . . .

I also started working in local politics and with community groups and made many lasting friendships that way. I worked at high levels on several local campaigns, with a lot of responsibility, and learned how to work with members of the public to disseminate information, solve problems, and answer questions in a way that a great number of people could understand. I learned the importance of tailoring information to an audience. I learned how to listen to figure out what the real problem was. I learned how to develop and manipulate databases and information in a way that was useful. I learned how a community works and where to go and who to talk to . . . oh, and I met Mr. Random through all of this too . . .

I was a busy beaver out in the world - learning, meeting people, trying to do good. I moved on to other jobs. I worked for a trade association for an industry that was/is in distress. There I learned about people who made actual THINGS, people who worked in factories in dangerous jobs, who worked hard for their 8 hours of pay: the type of people who are the backbone of this country but get little recognition, especially as their numbers dwindle and their jobs get sent elsewhere in the world. I loved working for those guys, and it was heartbreaking to watch what was happening to these people and their families and the factories they were so proud of. I could tell stories . . .

I had to move on from that organization because the industry was declining so much, the writing was on the wall that they would not be able to sustain the level of staffing that would allow me to stay. So I moved on to another association for 3 years, until I came to the Random Non-Profit.

As you can tell, the Random Non-Profit has been both a blessing and a curse. I was lucky enough to be able to work in the same place as my husband for five years, I have been able to work toward a social justice cause that I believe in, and I have been able to use and develop new talents while working with people that I care about and respect. The bad parts: I have never seen a place run so poorly, the workload is overwhelming for lousy-ish pay, and the morale here is beyond unhealthy.

So, for a while I have been taking stock in myself and wondering where to go from here. I am currently in a mid-level professional position, but on paper – without finishing my degree – I can’t really move much higher. A lot of places won’t even look at me, even though I have beyond enough experience in many areas. Some people have said that I should just lie about my degree, but I can’t do that . . . that would be SO wrong, and besides the truth would come out in the end . . .

For the past 17 years, I have had this inferiority complex. I don’t tell people that I don’t have a degree, but I also don’t say that I DO either. When people ask what school I went to, I tell them and say what major I was . . . but never say that I graduated . . . people just infer what they want. Mr. Random, the sweetheart that he is, says I’m one of the smartest people that he knows . . . but I know I’m not . . .

Now, I know that in the world having a degree does not necessarily mean that one is highly intelligent – I’ve met too many highly degreed idiots for that. But so many people place so much importance on credentials . . . and I always feel really stupid next to people . . . that’s why I try not to say very much . . . I feel very sensitive about people thinking I am kind of an airhead, that I have nothing to contribute . . .

So even though I’m doing pretty well in many areas of my life (and actually have advanced very well career-wise for someone who doesn’t have a degree . . . and even for some who do) I just have to do this for myself.

I feel kind of squirrelly admitting it though. . . almost ashamed, even though I have nothing to be ashamed of . . . but still . . .

But if I don’t do it, I will always feel bad . . . and not progress . . . and drive everyone bats because I feel so stuck . . .

This will be a long road to take, but I am happy that at least I will take a first step. The first steps can be the hardest though . . .

I’m so glad you guys are here and reading! I feel happy to get it off my chest . . . and also sad too . . . it is a very vulnerable thing to admit . . . please send happy vibes if you can . . . I’m going to very much need them!

5 comments:

Tree of Knowledge said...

Yay for you! From your post it seems like you're happy about this decision and the nerves might be attributed to excitement as well? Anyway, good vibes to you!

mommanator said...

Much luck in your endeavor. Sounds so exciting. at first I thought you were gonna say you and Mr. were thinking of having a child.
as well read as you sound I would have never have thought you didnt have your degree. you could prob test out of alot of stuff esp English, Social Services stuff etc.

virginia gal said...

all I have to say is "you go girl!!" going back to school is not an easy decision but I'm glad you have made it and that you are happy!

and ps I agree with Mr. Random you are one of the smartest people I know!

Random Kath said...

Tree: Thanks for the happy vibes! Yes, I am very happy about the decision and am very nervous about actually going through with it - especially what it all means money-wise. Gulp!

Mommanator: Yes, I was wondering if folks would think of it that way. I promise that I will more clearly identify THAT announcement! Actually, that was part of the decision-making process - but we've determined that if and when it happens, we will deal with all the scheduling and money decisions then.

Virginia Gal: That's very sweet of you to say! {blush! blush!} I am really excited because I actually do like reading and learning new things - I have taken so many "one-off" classes in the past, at least now I'll be channeling my efforts into something that will lead to a tangible result. (Not that the other classes I've taken haven't enriched me in other ways . . .)

CS said...

Okay, I'm really late here but I still want to say GOOD FOR YOU!!! Fantasic decision.