Thursday, June 11, 2009

The fork goes ever on and on

This has been a helluva turn-of-the-wheel, huh? The last twelve months have been some of the roughest, toughest, most upsetting times we've gone through around here. Not since I first left the parental nest have I felt so off-balance, unsure and frankly scared. And I had a lot less to lose, back then. Just me, and a bit later a boyfriend and two cats.

With four little ones confidently expecting that mommy knows just what to do, always, well. There's a certain pressure to get things, if not right, at least OK.

This last year has been full of interviews, micro-projects (things that take less time to do than it took to chase down the signature on the scope of work) (all of that time being, of course, not billable), and frankly, disappointments. Phrases such as "we've decided to take this a different direction" and "we're going with someone a little {more, less} qualified" and "{dead silence}" have become all too common.

I work ten times harder for a tenth the actual money while paying the highest taxes I've ever paid in spite of having expenses that have never been rivaled in my life for things like healthcare and costs of business (licenses, permits, fees, insurances of various types, additional taxes, blah blah blah)…and you know what?

I have the distinct feeling that I'm either waiting for Godot (surely he will be here tomorrow) (or the next day at the latest), or giving the class a parable-like lesson in what insanity is: I'm just going to keep doing the same thing, which always results in the same thing happening, but I'm going to continue to expect something else to happen.

A few weeks ago, I had about thirty irons in the fire (bids, proposals, contract possibilities, etc.). It's kind of the usual way of doing things for me these days – have a whack of things in there at once, and see what catches fire. Usually at least one thing will come back a money-winner.

But then they all came out of the fire cold enough to make ice cubes.

Feh. (Hmm…maybe if I stuck them in some Kool-Aid, I could make popsicles…)

I threw them all down and just sort of sat down for a rest. I haven't been scouring the job boards or chasing down bid opportunities or pestering people for their Final Answers on things, dyeing the laceweight that is supposed to be the next batch of stuff to go up on my Etsy shop, or researching any of the other things Tama Could Be Doing With Her Life Right Now.

Frankly, I've been spending a lot of time futzing around with knitting (but not actually getting much done there, either) (started a simple lace scarf I'm promptly complicating in my head because now I think it needs a knitted-on border) and playing with the Denizens.

It feels a bit like I've come to a fork in the road, and instead of just choosing either the busy road I've been following for lo these many years -or- tightening up my backpack straps and charging down the road less traveled, I'm kind of sitting at the triangle between them waiting for…Something.

A sign, I guess.

Both roads have their charms and perils. The one is well-traveled, which means it has been smoothed by thousands of feet before me. Fewer potholes, well-established inns along the way – pleasures and palaces to reward me for the hard work of the traveling. It's also crowded, polluted and somewhat devoid of self-direction. There are rules on that road, and deviating from them gets your permits revoked.

Might even find yourself dropped back at the beginning of the road, if you stray from the Accepted Path.

The other is a wilderness. Not a lot of people on it. No guides to lead you, and what sign posts there are lean drunkenly and point randomly. The path meanders and changes, but nobody is in charge of keeping the signs up to date…but you can make your own way. The view is fresh and new. Nobody can say you've strayed, because the path is not "time honored" or "well marked."

There really isn't a right or wrong direction to go…only what seems best at the moment. Where the road more traveled is pretty straight and clear, this other one is basically a series of forks, each one just as vague as the one before it. And being less-traveled, well shoot.

For all I know, I'd be turning off the road and onto a deer trail in no time. (Done that while hiking more than once…it can really suck. Deer go places human really can't or shouldn't, hi, tick-laden bushes I can't get through and narrow ledges holy CRAP how can a 200-pound animal transverse this thing on HOOVES?!)

The well-traveled road is profitable most of the time.

The wilderness…promises nothing. Could find riches. Could find nothing but poison ivy from start to finish. And ticks. Lots and lots of blood-sucking, lyme-disease-transmitting ticks.

They both have their own appeal, but I don't think I can actually choose both at this point. I've spent some time on one, and then been on the other for a while, stepping from one to the other constantly over the years.

Which is breaking the rules when it comes to the well-traveled one, actually. It's a jealous master, and views those breaks to go see what the other path was up to as sins against the Master Plan. (In other words, it's getting harder and harder to explain the gaps in my work experience…and "I was herding camels on the plains of the Mojave" is not exactly met with "wow, that surely puts you ahead of the competition for this job!")

There's a part of me that wants this to be a carefully thought out, rational decision – based on facts and, uh, junk like that.

And another part that says, "Hey, just toss a coin. Put it in the hand of Fate. How about this: If you get the job you interviewed for this week, call that heads and we stay on the well-traveled road. If not, it's tails and we see where this one goes, and leave the well-traveled path to others."

It's not so much feeling helpless as feeling somewhat overwhelmed by possibilities. So many ways to go, and so few of them feeling like bad choices. Some make more money than others, some are higher on peace and quiet, some are exciting but stressful, some are tried and true, some are saying, "You know what I bet would work in this brave new world…" knowing full well that we have no idea what this brave new world even looks like yet.

Don't tell the Denizens, but mommy has no idea which way to go at this point. No idea what would be "best" or "safest" or "most sane."

Every time I weigh the pros and cons, the damned scales come out about even.

So I'm just sitting here at the fork in the road, waiting for something to make things a little more plain to me. Waiting for some new fact to drop into the bowl and give one or the other a final push.

A coin toss is looking more and more appealing.

Hmm. Maybe a chocolate coin.


Mmmm…rum-filled chocolate…


Lynne said...

Wow - I LOVE this post... I am with you on being in the crossroads...sometimes feeling like crosshairs! It is so hard to decide.... pros/cons... be true to myself... but what if it doesn't work, will I have a path back to familiar well-trod ground? I hear you!

What are your dreams? What are you hoping to find down the path of many forks?

jwordsmith said...

Good post.

I have a different problem, similar options.

Fingers crossed, to us both.

Elizabeth L in Apex, NC said...

Well, certainly, if you go with the rum-filled chocolate the scales will tip... maybe not the job-choice scales, though.

Peace and happiness to you as you decide!

Kris said...

I completely understand you dilemma. Here's hoping the rum filled chocolate will ease the decision making process.

Rena said...

I was right there two years ago. Not a fun place to be. There's a part of the equation you left out, though: what will make you happy? I know it needs to be based on financial reality (I want to be a full time book publisher, but that ain't gonna pay the bills), but when you think of the road ten years from now, or twenty, which place do you want to be? Which road will feed your soul?

love you, sis

PipneyJane said...

I love your post! And I totally understand where you are coming from. Conventional self-help "wisdom" says do what you love and the money will follow. Conventional self-help "wisdom" never had to worry about paying the bills in the interim! Or the dollars never, ever turning up. (Is it any wonder the self-improvement industry is driven by people who have spouses to earn money to support them?)

I don't know what to advise, except to back up what Lynne said. Sometimes the hardest thing is not deciding which fork to follow but what the forks should be.

- Pam