how to pursue something you don't really want

Since the day I decided to go to graduate school and change my career(s), my mind has reeled with questions about the future. When will I be able to quit my horrible law-firm job? When will I get a professional position at the library? When I get it, will I succeed, and will I enjoy my new work? What place will writing still have in my life? Will my health suffer? Will I have enough energy for these new demands? And on and on. It didn't feel worried or anxious, but I was incredibly impatient for my new future to arrive. Sometimes I could think of nothing else.

One after the next, these questions have been answered, and all in the affirmative - a source of unending delight.

Now only one question remains, and it's a big one.

My current position is part-time and temporary. Whenever the next full-time librarian position posts, I will apply for it. (If I don't get a full-time position before this contract ends, I will return to a part-time position at a lower level of pay and responsibility, and continue to wait.) Meanwhile, I have been building my profile at the library, and I expect to be in a very strong position to compete for any position that posts. I have every intention of applying for - and getting - a full-time librarian position.

Yet at the same time, I dread the thought of working full-time.

My current position is 24 hours per week, and it's perfect. I work enough to be involved in the department and see many of my ideas come to fruition. I make a decent salary. I have time for activism, time to be involved in my union, and I can find time to read and to write (never enough, but that's always the case). To use that awful HR-speak, I have "work-life balance". I'm really enjoying my life so much, and I don't want to change anything.

But. There are two big Buts. One, part of the incentive for this whole Big Life Change was to increase my earning potential, and I still very much want to do that. And two, I have a strong sense of my leadership potential in library work, and in order to meet that potential - in order for the work to remain challenging and interesting - I will need to advance. My immediate goal is a full-time librarian position, and after that, senior librarian.

But... I am afraid. Afraid that when I work full-time, I will not have enough energy for anything but work. Afraid that I will be able to work, and come home and rest, and nothing else - afraid that fibromyalgia will let me stretch that far but no farther. Afraid that I won't have time for activism, which is so important to me - and which is also a big chunk of my social life. Afraid that battling fatigue may lead to enjoy my job and my life less.

I know that many professions demand much more than full-time work. Lawyers, for example, might well regard the 40-hour work week as part-time. However, I have consciously made other choices. The idea of work that I enjoy and that absorbs me is wonderful, but at this age, I would never pursue a profession that would be so demanding of my time.

I also know people who work full time and are still heavily involved with activism, or school, or sports, or whatever they're into. But I don't know if that's an option for me anymore.

I have not had a full-time job in nearly 20 years. Of course, if I added up all the hours I would spend on writing assignments, activism, and my day-job, I was often working well beyond full-time hours. But cycling through various parts of my life - changing hats frequently - always felt very different than working full-time.

The truth is, we should all work part-time, and we should all be able to support ourselves and our families and still have time and energy left for other pursuits. Believe me, I know I'm in a better position than most. But that knowledge doesn't change my concerns.

My resume is updated, and I check the internal job postings daily. And I obsess on this one last unanswered question.

No comments: