27 February 2009
(title of an album by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, featuring traditional Hawai'ian music)
Looking ahead hasn't really ever been my strong suit. Sure, sure, I make plans like everyone else, but things rarely work out the way I planned. At least, not since I was about 16.
Growing up, through school, I planned to be a doctor. I took Latin (oh, so useful) in high school with the idea that I would study medicine. I planned out my high school course work around being an exchange student; took summer school classes, had a very full class schedule so that I would be on track to graduate with my class. Beyond, that, though, I didn't really have a plan.
I figured out quickly enough in college that medicine wasn't the career for me; neither nursing or doctoring was in my future. I got very interested in the law, but that wasn't until I was close to graduating from college. I applied, but did not get accepted to law school. I drifted through college, graduating eventually with a practical, run-of-the-mill business degree. I was hardly passionate about studying management; languages, psychology, music, and fiber arts all held much more fascination for me. Yes, even then, weaving and spinning were things I thought were really interesting.
But I was at least smart enough to recognize that a degree in German, or psychology, or music wouldn't end up landing me a good job right out of school. Want to teach German in the US? You should probably have a master's degree. All I could see doing with a 4 year degree in psych was going on to grad school, and at the time, grad school wasn't something I wanted to do. After K-12 schooling and around 5 years of college, I wanted to be the hell out of school.
I started working for Ye Olde Evile Bank when I was just in the middle of my college coursework; staying there, once I graduated, was easier than looking for something else. I watched the internal postings and when I worked for the Stiffs Division, that was my first "real" job. As a glorified secretary, in that department, they required a college degree. There wasn't anything I had learned in college that helped me do that job; I think the reasons for requiring the degree had more to do with expectations of maturity level and the fact that you had a four year degree showed that you could stick with something and had an accomplishment or two.
I got unhappy with the bank when I had been working for the trust department for a few years. Disillusioned. I wasn't making much money, and I wanted about a $10,000 a year raise; my boss laughed when I told him that. But with that college degree and 5 years experience, I was making around 20K a year. I thought #1) I was worth more than that and #2) for the responsibilities and work they gave me, 30K a year was the bare minimum they should have been paying me. They disagreed. I found out years later that among the secretaries in my division, over two cities, I was the lowest paid assistant/secretary. Which, incidentally, really pisses me off NOW. I didn't know then; I just knew that I hated my commute, I wasn't excited about what I was doing, and I could see myself turning into a bitter 40-something career secretary, which wasn't in my plans at all. My plans had been to set the world on fire; to change the world, to do something important.
That led me away from the bank and to my old non-profit job. There, at least, I felt like I was making a difference, even just a small one, but I was working to help people right in my own community, and I got immense satisfaction out of that.
Until that house of cards collapsed.
Let's skip over the part where I worked in that awful sales job and the subsequent black hole of depression, yeah? OK.
Where I am now makes me very happy, and I think I could probably be quite happy here until I retired; although that is putting the cart a-fore the horse a little; at 34 years old, I have a minimum of 26 years left in the workforce. Maybe I don't want to come to this job every day for the next 30-ish years. Maybe I do. I don't know.
I do know that now I *do* want to go back to school and get a master's degree. I'm no more passionate about studying business now than I was 10 years ago; but again, I recognize that a business degree is useful, and has many applications. And I don't hate it; it just doesn't do the same for me as say, learning a new textile ability, excitement-wise.
Tangentially, did I mention that I learned a new knitting stitch at a fiber festival a few weeks ago? Called a picot cast-on, it creates a frilly, feminine edge to baby blankets or what-have-you. I love the way it looks, and promptly cast a shawl on to the needles with yarn purchased at that fiber festival. Hand spun, hand dyed, 100% merino wool, the softest I have ever touched. I can't wear wool next to my skin, even cashmere bothers me, but I'll have no trouble using this as a light wrap in the summer or as a big, big scarf in the winter.
So if I could, I'd find a way to incorporate the knitting and my interest in spinning into a way to make a living. (Which, hello, if you think my knitting habit is expensive? A "good" spinning wheel will run you around $600. Seriously.) But not in such a way that I'm taking on commissioned knits....let's take my new (unfinished) shawl as an example. That lovely handspun merino was $32 a skein, and I bought 2. So we're at $64 for the yarn. The class for the new picot edging I learned was about $30. The shawl might be as long as 6 inches right at this moment, and I've spent about 10 hours working on it to date. Skilled, specialized labor...hmm. Let's agree on a $20 an hour figure. Then there are the notions (stitch markers, measuring tape, thread cutter/scissors, ball winder) that I already own and have invested some pretty serious money in. Then there are the needles themselves; I'm a knitting snot, and I won't use needles that you can get in Michael's or JoAnn's craft stores. They're plastic, and they're crap. The Addi needles I prefer start out around $7, and the needles I'm using on this shawl were $12. Time for some math.
$12 US size 9 circular needle, 24 inch cord
$20 assorted notions that will be used
$20/hr for labor; estimated 50 hours production time - $1,000 for labor (I am a slow knitter, admittedly, but I place a high value on my time.)
Cost of shawl; $1,126.00
You'd buy one, right?
So I can't exactly plan a future that incorporates my current knitting passion. But I do like what I'm doing for a living now. I'm wondering if I should be making a plan, other than the retirement monetary planning I've already in place, for moving forward. Where do I want to go, career-wise? What do I want to do? Or, considering the state of the world's finances, should I keep my head down, keep doing what I'm doing, and worry about facing the future another day?