Friday, March 20, 2009

Second Career Blahs, also known as Navel-Gazing

(Not the second career for me)

My e-friend Verde over at the blog Justice Desserts mentioned the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator the other day. It reminded me that I should, maybe, be using my type as one possible map through the funemployment muck. And since the muck is getting deeper, I'm willing to try anything. Please forgive the high-intensity navel-gazing, but I'm in a bad place today.

When I was 20, I took the Myers-Briggs test and tested as an INFJ. I took the test again last year-18 years later- and since
MB types are usually the same for life, I scored once again as an INFJ. We INFJs are the rarest type- about 1% of the population. We are extremely idealistic; it's vital that we find purpose in life. We are sensitive to a fault, and intense (that was my mother's favorite word for me, but she didn't mean it as a compliment). We have lots of interests and long for a true calling. Apparently we make really good monks and nuns-- but I'm a non-believer, and never mind that I'm married.

I tried to get my mess nailed down by writing about it, but it didn't really help. Navel gazing- well, you know.:

I'm a 39-year-old female seeking a second career. I was a textile designer for twelve years, but I hated it. It wasn't really the job itself, but I hated the corporate structure I was shoehorned into. I don't suffer corporate B.S. gladly. It was, by far, the worst part of the job. I held a variety of crappy odd jobs up until grad school, all of them miserable, mostly retail. Going to art school for undergrad prepared me for, well, nothing.

So I went to grad school to get a real job. But the real job turned out to be a nightmare for so many reasons. I was trapped in the career because of huge grad and undergrad student loans; I moved from job to job because every mill I ever worked for was always on the verge of closing (thanks, NAFTA); I was taught the barest minimum of skills in grad school, but was reassured by my professors- "Not to worry, you'll learn on the job from master weavers!"- except, master weavers didn't exist anymore. The professors who told us that had been out of the textile industry for 20 years. So for 12 years, I felt like I was scrambling to catch up. And I don't have the aptitude for tracking the million little details in manufacturing. I'm not a multi-tasker-- I'm a single-tasker. I need to address one thing thoroughly until it's finished. I think multi-tasking is over-rated. And the corporations insist its a worker's most important attribute so they can wring every last penny out of value out of us.

I’m desperate to find my true calling. Paradoxically, I have lots of interests- though I can't see how any could be careers. My interests are vegetable gardening, hand-spinning, knitting, cooking, canning, pickling- most of my interests are probably best described as 19th century homemaking skills. Useful, but pretty uninteresting to most folks. My husband has suggested pickling, but scaling up scares me. The business side scares me. Investing in equipment and and a commercial kitchen scares me. The food industry scares me. Selling stuff scares me.

Having been laid off from textile manufacturing, I will soon qualify for re-education benefits. I’m willing to go back to school, but I have no idea for what. And the last time I took a blind leap into school, I ended up with a 12-year-long nightmare. I cried on many, many Sunday nights; I hated Mondays.

I'm drawn to biology- in high school, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Lately my interests are soil biology, agroecology, and plant pathology. But starting over in biology scares me, and the re-education benefits will only go so far. Besides, my memory for scientific nomenclature is non-existent. And, well- there's the math. Math came much easier to me in grad school (I have a Master of Science- took graduate chemistry- hardest B+ of my life) but it is definitely not painless.

I'm considering a 1-year certificate program for sustainable agriculture at Michigan State, but most students out of the program start their own small farms or work for community gardens. I'll never be able to start my own farm (landless peasant that I am), and jobs with an urban ag non-profit could be a tough row to hoe. I'll be 41 when I finish that certificate. I'm not so much the scrapper I used to be. And my inability to multi-task may not be such a good fit, either.

My husband thinks we should work towards buying and running a B&B. It does fit with a lot of my skills, but I'm not a natural extrovert; I have to work very hard at it, and afterward I need a lot of recuperation time. And, I don't have a competitive or
entrepreneurial bone in my body- not an indicator for success in the wonderful world of capitalism. I think money lessens the value of everything it touches. I don't want to get in touch with my inner capitalist. I'd much rather get in touch with my inner socialist.

I don't want to be rich or famous.

I want to work in a pretty place, or at least have access to daylight and fresh air every day.

I've always wanted to be a noted expert on some small, esoteric thing that's really important to a handful of people.

Sometimes I think the most important thing is just growing really great tomatoes every summer.

I'm sure I must have a true calling, but it's probably in a field that has never occurred to me. And with my luck, it's in a place I can't move to, or in a
time that doesn't exist anymore.

Sometimes I think I'd be best suited to life on a well-run intentional community (is that an oxymoron?) But that kind of life would definitely not suit my husband. Besides, living in an intentional community isn’t an avocation or a career.

Oh jeepers. I'm in such a muddle.


chaiselongue said...

You obviously have lots and lots of valuable skills - although maybe not valued enough by capitalism. Could you organise a community gardening initiative ...? I don't know, it sounds like a dream, but maybe if you did the sustainable agriculture course and then worked towards something that might be voluntary to start with but could become a career. It's difficult for me to say because I don't know the situation in the US, I know it's very different from Europe, but there must be some way you could use your skills and knowledge. I think anyway that capitalism has had its day (and ended in ruins) and that communities are central to the future.

Irma said...

Is there something you can do "in" worms?? I mean, I bought all my worm stuff from someone, after all. Can worm tea be bottled?? (Ilex's Elixir??) Can you sell it at your farmer's market?

d. moll, said...

I took the online MB and found I, too, am that rare creature INFJ....Hmmm, it can take a awhile (hopefully not too long !) but in time something will present itself. As an INFJ maybe you qualify as an endangered species.......

Pam said...

I'm taking a class on how to run a farm business... maybe something like that would help. I'm working on this program:

PJ said...

It's interesting to me that you're using this situation as an opportunity to find your true passion in life and I think that's great.

I saw something on wikihow about keeping a "looking for work journal" and some other tools. Maybe something practical to get you out of your introspection?

I still think the Small Business Administration is a great resource for finding out if you're suited to start your own business. Try to find all the people you can who are qualified to help you make the determination and then maybe you'll know what kind of certificate to get. You're very lucky to have that educational opportunity.

Verde said...

Oh darlin' you sound so down in the dumps. I'm so sorry you lost your job! Crap!

I suppose the next step depends on how much income you need to bring into the family. If you can do with very little for quite a while, you might try your hand at your passions.

What if you taught urban homesteading to other people in combination with other artisan pursuits such as selling the pickles, the knitting, the worm tea, getting on etsy...

I too have considered intentional community. There's a part of me that dreams of gathering up all these e-friends and buying a large farm, going off grid and making a sustainable community there. If some folks want to commute out and work, that's find but those of us who want to quietly pursure old crafts will quietly work together. You're invited to my fantasy, by the way!

I must admit, things feel so insecure here that I'm buying red worms while we have disposable income incase I need to send a kid out to the corner to sell fishing worms.

Continue blogging, please!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Oh boy could we have fun with that! but we won't. Shirley MacLaine, Chauccer, Jimmy Carter, Tom Selleck, Mother Theresa ... there's you dinner party.

Teacher or childcare are your best avenues ... psychologist is too, but it would probably take too long. Maybe set up a class in your best field there and see if you can do it through a Junior College. Or the MSU Extension ctr near there.

You would be an excellent Governor of Michigan, but I don't think you want to try that!

A tough road .. that's why there's so few of you. Good luck ...

Mariah said...

I am sorry you're so bummed, but I have to laugh at the freaky parallels between your life and mine. I went down the art school path as well and have a BA in painting. At one point I was so fed up with my job and had a pipe dream to start making my own pickles to sell. Needless to say, when I started looking into it, I realized that by the time you factor in a health department approved kitchen and canning facility, I was looking at $10-$12 a jar just to break even. I think you might be on to something with the B&B idea though. It had also been another pipe dream of mine to have a B&B that would be a working farm... people could stay for a few days, help with gardening, collect eggs from chickens, milk cows, whatever. You could tie it in with cooking lessons, like pickling or making butter or jam. You could bring in visiting chefs, do seasonal specialties, etc. You could also do crafts and mini workshops on rain barrels or worm farming, etc. I think there's a lot of potential there! Mariah

ilex said...

Mariah, would you go into the B&B business with me? Wanna move to Saugatuck, MI? ;)

Mariah said...

Here you go, your future B&B awaits... :);_ylt=Au9vcmZx9PY30s4asP6kFI5n47Qs

Young Snowbird said...

Where I work there are people who are experts on specific species, even sub-species of plants. They have gainful employment being experts on those species.

I would encourage you to follow your bliss about plants. Are there plant species that people might want to learn to weave with?
(I am thinking of the agave down here. That plant is an industry unto itself!)

Check out your Botanical Gardens, Arbors or Conservatories in Michigan. Chat up the permanent staff, see how they got where they are, and what they see as the next important thing. Check out the horticultural society website for some inspiration.

Fear is the gate holding back adventure.

Meredith said...

I'm a little behind, here, as I only just discovered your blog via a friend who like me, in short hair, glasses, and an INFJ suit, loves to grow stuff, so maybe I'm too late to weigh in...

but I had a thought about this path/career question. I read recently about gardening coaching. Coaching's often perfect for INFJs, and *gardening* coaching is apparently on the rise, along with gardening in general. And a gardening coach with your varied expertise (including the urban angle)... the possibilities are lots.