Sunday, February 10, 2013

Change Is Scary

There's an advert, for a bank I think, in which a man talks about not wanting to work for someone else and finding a new job where he works for himself.  He's shown riding a bicycle in some wilderness area, someplace like Moab, Utah.  It all sounds lovely: Be your own boss, earn your living doing what you love.  I suppose some people are actually able to do that.  But I've never been able to imagine doing the things that I love for money, or at least nt as my primary source of income.  I fear that if I tried to make one of my favorite activities into an occupation, it wouldn't be fun anymore.  That doesn't prevent me from daydreaming about finding a way to turn speaking Mandarin into a career, though.

The thought of changing careers, however, frankly terrifies me.  I've worked for the same employer for nearly 20 years.  I'm out of practice at applying for jobs and going through interviews, and the job market has changed dramatically since the last time I was searching for a job opening.  I'm in my 50s now, and employers these days all seem to be looking for younger people with college degrees in whatever field the opening is for.  I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in a form of artistic endeavor that scarcely exists any more.  My specialty has been replaced by digital technology. 

There aren't a lot of openings for people who do what I do at work, either.  I'm a programmer for an application that isn't commonly used, so the likelihood of finding another opening working with that application in the city in which I currently live is very small.  I don't even know if there are any other businesses here that use the particular application.  I'm also an administrator for an Oracle database, but it's a home-grown database.  I'm very knowledgeable about it, but I'm not sure how that kind of knowledge would carry over to another employer. 

The things I've done in the past don't give me much else to build on, either.  I've taught something that no one does anymore, I've cared for mentally ill and developmentally disabled adults,  I've done retail and fast food.  I don't want to do any of those things again.  I would like teaching, but I don't know what I would teach these days.  I feel that my working life so far has made me less capable of change rather than increasing my flexibility in the job market.

Thinking of changing jobs is scary for other reasons besides not knowing what I would be qualified for.  I have good benefits at my current employer.  I don't want to lose those.  At my age I need health, vision, and dental insurance.  I need a 401k plan and a pension.   If I change employers, I might end up working for a company that doesn't offer all of those things.  I might have to start over at the bottom rung of the ladder.  I get four weeks of paid holiday now, because I've been with my employer so long.  If I was in a new job as a new employee I might not get that.

I like to watch programs about people searching for homes in other countries.  Often on these programs, the house hunters are seeking a home overseas because they've been relocated by an employer or have sought a new career.  I admire and envy these people.  I wish I could do something similar.  But it seems staggeringly difficult to do that kind of thing at this time of my life.  My husband has health issues that need regular care;  would we be able to easily get that care overseas?  My mother-in-law is elderly and has no other family members to look after her if she becomes unable to take care of herself.  I've had cancer, twice.  Even if I could find an overseas job, dare I give up the security I have here and abandon my family to pursue it?

When I was in undergrad school, more than 20 years ago, I decided that I wanted to go to Japan.  I had always wanted to visit that country, and I felt that since I had no responsibilities to family or a job, I was at a perfect point in my life to pursue that desire.  Initially I intended to go on my own, but I happened to mention my desire to a fellow student, who then told one of my professors.  As it happened, that professor knew of a professor at another university who was taking a group of students to Japan.  I was put in touch with that group, and as a result that summer I went to Japan for a month and did some incredibly amazing things that I will detail in another blog.  I have always been very happy and proud that I didn't let fear or hesitation prevent me from pursuing that goal.   

It makes me angry and ashamed to be so afraid now.  I don't want to fear change.  I want to explore, to try new things, to live a full and exciting life.  I want to take leaps of faith and enjoy the rewards as I did when I went to Japan.  But I don't know how to do that now, and that makes me sad.  

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