My Someday Something Blue (Four Years)
In Which Mark Makes Me a Happy Woman

Reverse Career Trajectory

Social workers generally don't have a career ladder to climb. They may progress in the level of licensure or change fields but there's not much upward mobility.

I became a licensed social worker in the summer of 2004. I then became a licensed clinical social worker in the summer of 2008.  I added a certification in thanatology in the fall of 2009.

I've always been a medical social worker. But it came with a cost. Even though there were aspects of social work I enjoyed, the dream of writing has been in the back of my mind all along, waiting for a chance to come out and play.

A lot of thought went into my decision to leave my job.

A year ago I never would have made this decision. My decision to move to Nashville expanded my view of what's possible.

All the experts say you shouldn't leave your day job to write until you've built up enough freelance work or published enough books to support yourself. I myself was raised not to quit one job before having another lined up.

Here's what gave me pause.

The Tennessean ran an article in April about a teacher in California who has launched a successful high school engineering program. His life could have had an entirely different trajectory but what I found most interesting was his father.

His father was an accomplished Iraqi theoretical physicist. When the family settled in California and he couldn't find a physics job, he began mowing lawns for a living.

"'When I grew up, I knew people looked down on what he was doing,' Amir Abo-Shaeer said, 'but he actually loved it. It gave him time to write poetry, to become the Renaissance man he wanted to be without the baggage of having to have people see him as successful.'" -quoted by Steve Chawkins

I read these words and wondered what it would be like to have time to devote to writing and the myriad of projects I have waiting. I wondered whether I could leave the prestige of being a social worker behind- and there is prestige in helping others even though we don't make the big bucks and pride in doing a job many people feel they'd be incapable of doing.

I remembered that gap between graduating with my Masters and being offered a position as a hospice social worker. I worked at The Christian Bookstore, babysat, and even worked 5 months as a nanny. Every time someone asked me what I did for a living, I wanted to scream. But that time taught me that my job or role didn't define me. It's a lesson that resonates today.

I asked myself whether I could walk away from a "real" job. How I would feel when people asked me about work. What would I say? And would I take pride even if it didn't follow the normal career trajectory?

And I remembered how my friend Mary Kathryn says we should do whatever we have to do so that we can do what we have to do. It made me question anew if my job was actually allowing me to do what I needed to do and I knew within my heart that it wasn't.

I'm giving myself a year to see what happens. To be open to whatever opportunities come my way. To finish my novel. To give freelancing a try. To nanny again, because truthfully, I've missed taking care of children and if I can't care for my own, then I might as well care for someone else's. 

I don't know what the year will hold or if I'll be published or if I'll go back to social work someday. I just know I don't want to wonder "what if?" anymore.

There may not be prestige in mowing lawns or nannying but that's OK. I'm going to dream and create and believe.

The rest of my life has begun.

It'll be an interesting ride, that much I can promise.