I know the most recent posts on this blog have all been really upbeat and optimistic - and looking at them makes it really difficult to find a place to begin explaining how I have actually been feeling lately. So please bear with me.
It's been more than two months since I lost my fellowship, but I don't think I am any closer to answering the "what do I want to do with my life?" question than I was at the end of June. In fact, I feel like I am actually more confused about what I want. It feels like I am having a bit of a "life crisis" (though APL has quite emphatically announced that it is in no way a mid-life crisis, since I am only 28). Honestly, in past two months that I have been at home thinking and searching every day, the only absolute conclusion I have been able to come up with is this: I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
When I told APL about this conclusion, he very graciously welcomed me to the club! He said that, aside from knowing he wanted to be with me, he has never really known what he wants to do with his life. He smiled the smile I love so much and said we would figure it out together. And that actually sounds very good to me.
But even with APL's full support I still find myself...struggling. I really feel...lost. And, after two months of thinking about this topic pretty much every day, I think I have finally identified the reason why.
Three years ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: I knew for a certainty that I wanted to get a job working on issues of climate change law and policy. I wanted to make a difference in the world. And I was on the right track to achieving this goal. I had graduated with honors from an Ivy League university and I had been accepted to a dual degree graduate program where I was doing extremely well studying environmental law and policy. I had no doubt in my mind that I would graduate and use my degrees to have a positive impact on the issue of climate change.
Now, please don't take this the wrong way - I know that I have RA, but it absolutely does not have me. My RA does not control my life. I am absolutely certain that I am still capable of achieving the goal of working on climate change law and policy. It's true that my RA might require me to take a slightly slower path to get there, but if I really want to achieve this goal I know that with enough determination I could do it. I don't think anyone should let their arthritis hold them back from their dreams.
But here's the problem: I can't say with a certainty anymore that working to address climate change is still my dream. I just can't seem to find my determination, and my drive and my passion for the topic seem to be missing. I still care very much about the environment, and I still think that addressing climate change is completely necessary, but I think having RA has changed my priorities somewhat. It has made me realize that I have to take care of myself before I can consider taking care of the world.
To a certain extent, I guess I do have an idea what I want to do with my life: I want to be happy and feel better. This is the only goal I can claim to have with complete certainty right now. But, since I haven't quite figured out exactly how to achieve this goal, I am having a lot of trouble finding the energy to consider trying to save the world. Which, of course, makes the prospect of deciding the next step for my career or looking for a new job particularly overwhelming - especially considering that my degrees and experience and training are all pointing me in a direction that I'm not sure I have the energy for anymore.
In the meantime I have really been enjoying the volunteer and advocacy work I have been doing for the Arthritis Foundation. Though it does take energy to work on these issues, I find that I am able to work on them, at least a little bit, even when I am not feeling that great. I think I am able to find energy for this work because it makes me feel really productive to help others and do something positive with my arthritis. I've found the experiences to be challenging, but extremely fulfilling,
Too bad the Arthritis Foundation isn't hiring in Denver!!
(In a totally unrelated note, the picture in this post is one my friend LK took when we hiked Mt. Elbert, and it is so pretty that it just makes me feel happy to look at it. Gotta use whatever little tricks you can!)