So it's been a stink day at work.
Manager stomping round huffy, complaining that I didn't put enough information on a purchase order, annoyed with me over having 2 physio appointments next week and the sarcy raised eyebrow because one of them happens to be on Friday afternoon. Well actually, I made it that way because DP's physio appointment with the same guy is at 4pm, and I know if my appointment is right before his, he can come get me on his way back from picking SD up from school, and then give me a lift home after, because I can't drive myself and I can't walk, you jerk-off. I also don't have unlimited money for taxi fares, because you lot pay me such a bloody pittance. But never mind, I'll just wave a magic wand and make my knee better shall I, because clearly my torn ligament is inconveniencing the company too much. And while it may seem to you that most employees would craftily make their medical appointments for a Friday afternoon so they can get home early and crack open the bottle of red, what you don't realise is that most employees are not stepmothers, and you have no idea what the Friday evening adjustment period is like in the house of a weekend father. Put it this way - it's not something you hurry home to, let alone finish early for extra exposure.
I sometimes feel that I am reliving the same day over and over at work. The same finger pointing snippy crap. The same nitpicking over stupid things while ignoring the really big things that we have to get sorted. Staring at the same screen, and repeating the same stuff over and over.
I decided while I was away in China that I really wasn't cut out for the corporate office environment, and that I am going to change careers. Gulp. A very scary thing, especially when re-training involves an unpaid year of study. When I thought back to all the things I'd enjoyed doing in the past, all of those things were when I was working with young people. I used to work in a wacky arts centre, doing an after school club for local teenagers with behavioural difficulties, and I have honestly never enjoyed a job so much in my life. I did it part time, as a student, and I wanted to go into some kind of youth work or work with special needs after uni, but went down the safe career path I did because it paid better and offered the steady and reliable career trajectory, instead of an uncertain life working in the nonprofit and badly funded public sectors. I thought I'd made the right choice for a while - good income, paid off my debts - but now I find myself in this eternal Groundhog Day scenario, and feeling like the place I spend most of my time in not only has no meaning and benefit to humankind, but is completely sucking my soul dry.
Now I work with a few people who LOVE IT. They like nothing better than to go downstairs to the canteen in their lunch hours, and discuss the finer points of TCP/IP networking, Linux versus Windows, and how many cores their processors have. I hobbled downstairs for my lunch today and overheard such a conversation, and it really made me smile. Why? No, not because I love all that stuff and am vastly interested in it. Precisely the opposite. Which is great - because it affirmed to me that I am not where I am supposed to be. I love seeing and hearing people be passionate about their work, and I wish that I could be one of them. But IT is not what I am passionate about. I've made the right decision to make this change to my life. Thanks, ubergeeks.
So, having made this decision, the scary part is setting about the How. I have started to do my application for the MA course that I am interested in, which is Youth and Community Development, which also carries the Professional Youth Worker accreditation for youth work in the UK. Assuming they even like my application (although the cynical part of me says that these days so long as you're willing to pay full fees they'll have you) I will have an interview to get through, in which I will no doubt have to explain why I am doing this since I haven't really done any work with young people for the past 2 years. Yes, I got swallowed up by the corporate machine and became more interested in spending my salary than the greater good of humanity for a while there, okaaaay? But I'm ready to give a shit again!
The other and infinitely more scary thing is how I am going to fund this. We're not exactly rolling in money - and although DP is firmly behind me and wants more than anything to see me happy, it is a slight worry. It kinda hinges on our mortgage going on to a variable rate next year and being able to take advantage of the very low interest rates, which will free up some funds in our kitty. The other thing it will hinge on is getting a Career Development loan, to fund day to day living costs while studying.
Now while I am excited about this potential new direction I'm going to take, anyone reading this who is a stepmum will probably also relate to the sense of guilt we often feel when we do something that is solely for us, especially when that may have repercussions for the rest of the family. I know that SD won't come to any harm if money is tight for a year - her needs will always be met, we will both make sure of that, but we won't be able to indulge nearly as many of her wants. And I've expressed concern on here before that my SD is, like many others of her generation, quite a materialistic child, and she's heading towards teenagerdom, when they are no longer so amused by simple free pleasures such as kicking through the autumn leaves in wellies, bike riding or playing board games. I worry that she'll blame me for a drop in our living standards, and resent it. While DP has quite rightly pointed out that I would be setting her a very good example by sacrificing some material pleasures for a while in order to study for my MA, which will provide me with the means to hopefully earn a better salary in future, doing something I enjoy, I doubt she will see that when she isn't able to buy the new Miley Cyrus album.
But none of this means I can't do it. Nowhere in the Manual of Stepmotherhood does it say "thou shalt sacrifice all thine ambitions at the altar of his children". It would be a sure-fire recipe for resentment if I was to carry on trying to plod on at this job for the sake of SD being able to buy a few more DS games. And at the back of my mind, there is also the situation of us having our own family gnawing away at me - I might never have children, that is something I may have to ultimately accept, but could I live with that AND knowing that I'd never fulfilled my career ambitions and found something that I loved to do with purpose and happiness? As stepmothers, we already sacrifice quite a lot in our lives. Our weekends. A carefree courtship with our loved ones. Money. Holidays. Being the first wife, having a first child with our partners, in some cases having children at all. And in some cases, our sanity! Bearing all this in mind, why is it we have such an issue when we need to ask for something for us?
But - something that actually has a massive bearing on how happy we are as stepmothers is how happy we are with ourselves. My other "Eureka" moment in China came when I realised that I'd actually be a better stepmother, role model, support, to SD if I was happier with myself, and followed the path I was meant to, rather than the path I thought others wanted me to follow. By plumping for the safe career with the reliable salary and job opportunities, I thought I'd be happy, but all I have is more stuff - and still no money at the end of the month. More than anything, I want to be able to teach my SD to listen to her heart, and I can't teach her that if I don't live that example myself.