Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life Crisis?

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!)


KCFitch said...

Well, Mariah.... It seems you've gone and grown up a little. Now, don't take this in the wrong way, because I am making tis comment with all due respect and I sincerely hope you will take it in the way in which it is intended.

When we are younger we can afford to have ideals. Some of us can afford to have these ideals longer than others, but eventually we all have to understand that there is a little thing called reality... Maybe it's a diagnosis that means we have to take things slower than we expected... Maybe it's a little girl who makes us realize that she needs you waaaaaay more than you ever expected....

You're coming to the "reality realization" a bit earier than I did and I'm proud of you (then again, you always were just a touch bit smater than I was.... Just a touch ;-)) The trick of dealing with this whole thing is exactly what you've discovered.... Priorities....

Your ideals are no less improtant then when you formed them years ago.... Climate change is a noble cause and it needs fighting for. But - and this is a big BUT - there are thigns that are more important. And, you will know what those things are becaue they WILL rouse your passion.

Is arthritis advocacy rousing your passion? Then, by all means, do something about it, girl. You have the inteligence to make a difference. You have the financial security (with your husband's job) to take the time. Maybe it won't bethe lifestyle of the rich and famous, but I've found that there is something way more important.... Happiness, health, and satisfaction for doing what you were meant to do.

And while you choose your path that your family (even the extended part) is proud of you and supports you 100%, go gwt 'em cuz!

KCFitch said...

And wow... There are a LOT of typos in that comment. Sorry.... I really suck at typing on the ipad!

~Mariah~ said...

MOM2LITTLEMISS: Unfortunately, we don't have anything close to financial security - we can't quite live on APL's paycheck alone and me being unemployed is doing nothing for our debt situation (read: law school student loans are the WORST). So I'm going to have to find some form of income pretty soon, but I'm still having trouble figuring out where to look. Being a grownup kind of sucks!! But thanks so much for the words of support. I really appreciate it.

Christina said...

Baby steps Mariah. :) I'm 33 years old and I still haven't figured life out. Maybe you won't end up where you thought you would, but that's not always a bad thing. RA doesn't have you, but it changes you. You're more aware of your own health and if it guides you in another direction, that's okay. It took me 10 years to get through college....finally found joy in animation....graduated and then the industry took a dump. I may never get a job in animation, but it's what was right for me at the time. I took a chance and I'm grateful I did...I never would have met my husband. Now I've spent the last 2 years trying to become a mommy and enjoying life for what it is right now. Things change, priorities's just part of living. Figure out what makes you happy now, with the hand you were dealt and the rest will fall into place. :)

~Mariah~ said...

CHRISTINA: Thanks so much for the words of support. You're right that change is ok and sometimes you have to take a chance. And I am working daily towards figuring out what makes me happy. ~;o)

Mandy said...

I feel your pain and crisis. I'm trying to figure things out with work and teaching. Hang in there. One day at a time.

~Mariah~ said...

MANDY: Thanks for the support. One day at a time is right!! Hope you are making progress too. ~;o)

Beth said...

I think this is a problem that plagues so many of us with chronic illness. After I got my undergrad degree in history, my dream job was to work as an archives or museum tech. Then my health took a major downturn and I came to realize that this was a career path I was not physically capable of maintaining, and that stung so badly to admit. Not only were my dreams shot down, but my pride was left wounded and bruised. Now I am stuck in a government contracting job that doesn't pay that well (but at least it's some kind of income) with school and medical debt galore, and I feel in a similar place that you described so well. I am also struggling to figure out what to do with my life. Where will I be able to find a job that gives me the flexibility in schedules that this job does? Will I be able to hold down a real full time job?

Hang in there. It's only been two months, and it usually takes much longer than that to figure things out. I wish you the best of luck in finding some sort of holdover job to get you through this rough patch. *hugs*

~Mariah~ said...

BETH: Thanks so much for your comment and support. It is scary to admit that there may be some career paths that I am no longer physically capable of maintaining. I continue to search my head and my heart every day to figure out what I ought to do - and I hope you are having some luck on your search as well. Though if you have any brilliant ideas on how to cope with all this please do share!!