Dreams in the new year

colorTunneljosh

I have been thinking about a new job for quite awhile. I would say “looking” but my wife(and the more honest part of me) would quickly point out that I really don’t “look” very much. Let’s say I dream about a new job. The dream itself has been really hazy, but the idea of “something else” has been a constant. A few weeks ago I interviewed for a job with the State. It was all a bit fast, a friend of a friend was the director of the specific department, and I had initially just been curious about what kind of work there might be for someone with my background. Things progressed quickly, and before I knew it I was interviewing, and then a little bit later I was offered the position. The exact work wasn’t quite what I had been “dreaming” about, but I thought it would be interesting enough, and very safe and secure. I then had a bit of a shock when I realized 1) that the initial pay would be significantly lower than what I am making now, and 2) that the earned leave/vacation was less than half of what I get now. More importantly, after about a week of anxiety and feeling torn, I came to realize that although it would have had some great benefits, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I had an emergency session with my therapist/coach, and with some inventive and intuitive exercises, I was able to vocalize what a part of me had kept to keep hidden, that I wanted something with a better fit, that is something more in line with my values and interests.

It had been hard for me to allow that thought that I want “something better” to be there because I always fear that I am asking for too much. Here was a job close to home, with life time security, and probably interesting work. I was crazy to pass it up! Who was I to think that I deserved, let alone could find a better option? With the exercises I did in my session, I was able to not judge that feeling, and let it come up. I realized that my vacations are incredibly important to me; it’s the few times a year when I get to be with the family and not deal with the stress of school and work. We can be together and have fun. I also realized that the kids are getting older and we can start doing new activities as a family and also that they won’t be wanting to spend that much time with us pretty soon, so I should take advantage of it while I can.

It was an incredibly hard decision to turn down the offer, and I almost threw up after letting the person who interviewed me know. I sent a heartfelt letter expressing my appreciation for the time and effort to bring me in and my reasons for turning down the job. It’s very possible I will regret this decision down the line(I still do from time to time), but I feel I have to really try to find what I want this time around, rather than just take whatever falls into my lap. Despite the incredible benefits, I know I don’t want to stay where I am. The work itself is okay, but I am too isolated and the limited interactions with my advisor aren’t that fulfilling. I also feel that if I tried to stay in academics I would keep falling in the same rut as I have the past 11 years. The State job would have been fine, and I’m sure I would have done pretty well, but despite the security, working in the same job for over 20 years, in order to make the pension make sense, it seemed constraining.

The exercise with my coach was very interesting. Using purely intuition, I laid out 3 potential paths, represented by scarves of 3 different colors, and selected photos at random that belonged to each path. The 3 paths were, 1)take the state job, 2)try to stay where I am, and 3)the unknown, or to follow my dream. Each path had it’s own theme and scenarios along that journey. The unknown path is what I choose. We constructed a story from the photos. To summarize, my vision is hazy but it will come into focus. There will be tough periods ahead, but if I keep moving forward with determination there will be joy and peace at the end of that journey. It was scary to choose that, but on some level deep down it was I knew I was feeling, I just needed the safe space and process to allow that choice to be made.

As this process has been unfolding I was bombarded by the word “Dream” everywhere I turned. From Dizzee Rascal’s “Dream” on the radio, in which he tells of becoming a successful musician.

The song’s chorus is:
“I like the talky talky happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
(Talk about things you like to do)
You got to have a dream if you don’t have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?”

To quotes involving dreams in my daughter’s mindfulness coloring book such as “Dreams are illustrations.. from the book your soul is writing about you” to the idea of dreaming of new potentials in the book Who moved my cheese? that I found at my in-laws house during vacation.

I’m scared. I have moments, especially after some of my job search training exercises where I think what I am looking for, decent vacation time, interesting work and team, and a good location are a pipe dream and then kind of freak out. I have to remind myself that I have time still to keep searching and stay on the path I want. I also try to remember that I want to show my girls that it’s okay to reach for your dreams, that even if you go through tough times, you can lead a much richer life. So I’ll keep bringing that dream into focus, and keep pursuing it. I still fear that I am asking for too much, but for once I’m letting myself dream a bigger reality for myself than I have for a very long time.

A work in progress, or scattered musings

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It seems that work and career is where my ongoing issues and fears most manifest themselves in my life. It’s been an ongoing issue for over 10 years now, and a reliable trigger for my wife and I to fall into our cycle. I’ve been reflecting back over the past couple of months and having an impossible time organizing my thoughts in a coherent standard format despite a week of attempts, so I’ve decided to make a list.

Concerns or fears about looking for job

  1. I don’t know what I want to do
  2. I can’t stay where I am now indefinitely, and even if I wanted to I haven’t performed in the manner that would be necessary to make it work
  3. I’m scared to take on role where I wouldn’t have much training or experience
    Despite knowing that most positions are landed by contacts or networking, I’m scared to work for someone who knows me for fear that I will end up disappointing them(kind of happened with my current boss)
  4. Lack of energy and motivation in the search, possibly because job option in the works(like last time), so hard to motivate and put myself out there to find even more options

Things that have made me feel good in past few weeks

  1. Meeting up with former colleagues who I feel know and respect me, personal interest in me
  2. Feeling like I was part of a group and able to contribute following a presentation I gave at a small workshop for work
  3. Getting positive feedback from my supervisor following presentation

I have come to believe that I could work happily in almost any field, as long as I had the right environment, which would consist of:

  1. Being part of a collaborative and supportive team
  2. Feeling that I was able to contribute and felt appreciated
  3. Having a supervisor that also acted as a mentor, that could help me grow professionally

I’ve wrestled with these issues before, and I have an internal debate going on. One side says that I’ve done alright, but I really haven’t thrived due to missing key factors in my environment. The darker side says that I am not trying enough and have passed on countless opportunities to take projects and run with them. They both seem true, and perhaps are not mutually exclusive.

I actually went to see my old psychiatrist last week because I feel so stuck when it comes to career searching. He suggested a limited course(~6 months) of low dose of wellbutrin and adding exercise and diet changes to give me enough energy to overcome the activation energy peak, or at least to act as the catalyst (I forget what grade I learned this in, but that image has stuck). I was reminded that regular exercise is a very effective way of dealing with depression. He also said that my going into defeated or hopeless states of inactivity is my way of dealing with stress or anxiety. Other people, like my wife, deal with stress or anxiety by going into a hyperactive mode. I don’t think I’ve had my reactions described in that light and found it very helpful, it gave me a context in which to view my reactions. Rather than thinking “I’m just messed up”, I can use the framework to address the problem of stress and how I deal with it.

My original plan was to try to the regular exercise and other behavioral changes, and if needed start up the anti-depressants. However, like trying to search for a job, starting an exercise routine kind of never happens for me. In couples therapy we realized that while my inability to act was making me depressed and even more inactive, it was making my wife even more agitated. After some discussion, I have decided to start a short term course of low-dose wellbutrin to hopefully give me enough energy to organize some sort of exercise practice for myself and to also devote more energy to networking and finding a career, I just have to go pick up the prescription. I have resisted going back on anti-depressants for a long time because coming off Zoloft last time was a year-long nightmare of insomnia(had to give up roasting regular coffee and can only roast and drink decaf now), digestive and heartburn issues and flashes that felt either like electrical currents going down the back of my head or that would rev my mind up so much that I couldn’t lay still. But I’ve been stuck for too long in a rut, I need to make some change happen, and wellbutrin is supposed to be one of the easier anti-depressants to come off.

We’ll see in about 6 months how I’m doing. Hopefully I’ll have landed a better fitting job, in which I get to work with a collaborative and supportive team that will allow me to feel useful and will have a boss that I can connect with. Having the flexibility to exercise regularly would be great , and not going through horrific withdrawl symptoms would wrap up this dream scenario nicely!