My actual dream is to open the very first sock puppet school

Supposedly, we learn from our mistakes. It just takes some of us a little longer than others. One of my (many) mistakes that I have done over (and over) again is go back to school. In (some year, a long time ago) I graduated Pace University with a Bachelor degree in literature and communications. Never being one to leave well enough alone, I decided only a few years later to go back to school for something else. After all, if one degree is good, two are better, right?

What did I go to school for? I don’t exactly remember. I did take a bunch of anatomy classes, which I enjoyed. I also took pottery, which I enjoyed somewhat less. There may have been business, which I didn’t enjoy at all. At one point, when my mom had just died, and I was not exactly in my right mind, I even quit my job to go to massage therapy school. Where did rational thinking come into play during this decision? It did not. How much, in general, do I enjoy touching people? I do not. It has been pointed out to me that when a person tries to hug me, I will pat their back once and then pull away. The only good thing about massage therapy school was that I was able to give all non-massage presentations by sock puppet theater.

Nevertheless, I went to massage therapy school for almost two years. Please take note that I said “almost two years.” How long is massage therapy school in New York? Two years. That’s right, I dropped out with about a month to go. I developed painful bursitis in my hands, and also was offered a job as managing editor of a medical journal. After that epic fail, I stopped thinking about school for a few years. I would like to say more than three, but in reality it was exactly three. This time, I applied to acupuncture school. Although that sounds like it’s really out there, it did use a lot of the classes and credits from massage school, so theoretically that time and money would not be totally lost.

I am happy to report, however, that even though I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into acupuncture school, I did not go. It was around that time that I decided, after not wanting anything to do with children the first 34 years of my life, that I did want a kid. So at that point I concentrated on getting pregnant and having my first son, and temporarily gave up on the idea of school.

A few years later, after my son was born and my first book was published, I realized I no longer had the desire to go back to school. It took me a bit to think about how these things are related, but they very much are. My job did not fulfill me as a person, and I was looking for something that did. For whatever reason, my thoughts always lay in academia rather than, say, world travel or volunteer work. But by publishing my first book, something I had wanted to do since I was in elementary school, I fulfilled my inner need to express myself and do something I love, and thus did not need to go back to school.

q229
My elementary school, PS 229 in Woodside, Queens. It was there that I first said I wanted to be a writer. And made sock puppets.

damn that international journal of something and something

In direct contrast to the three amazing jobs I wrote about yesterday, here are the three very worst jobs I have ever had in my life:
 
1. Clerk at the Bursar’s Office of my College: This was when I went back to school as an adult and needed a part-time job somewhere that worked with my schedule. While it did fit nicely around my classes, I had some vivid nightmares about this job. The most common nightmare I had involved me getting yelled at by students who were angry when they were dropped from classes due to not paying their tuition. I would actually wake up from these dreams frustrated and screaming. The second most common nightmare I had was about counting tuition money incorrectly and being held responsible to pay the school back for it.
 
2. Cashier at CVS: Now, I love CVS for providing me with ExtraBucks and drugs, but working there was awful. This was while I was in college for the first time, so you can assume that most of the time that I  was working there, I had absolutely no idea what was going on around me. My first day, my register total was under by more than $100. I attribute this to me not grasping the exact meaning of numbers. Instead of firing me on the spot, they let me work at the pharmacy. For some reason, I thought only pharmacists could work the pharmacy, and not barely-functioning hungover college students. I don’t remember much about this, but it lasted not so long, as they eventually did fire me.
 
3. Managing Editor at the Journal of International Something and Something: This was my worst job of all time. In my opinion, being an editor is all about sitting quietly by yourself and writing on pieces of paper with a red pen. Or at least, that’s how it should be. This was a monthly, widely-read journal that had a total of one person on the editorial staff. I was responsibly for everything involved in the printing of the magazine. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Once I was asked to go to a medical conference, which is in itself not unusual, but I was required to transport all the materials to the convention, set up the actual booth, and stand there and sell subscriptions. At other medical journals I’ve worked at, all I had to do at conventions was go to cocktail parties and make small talk with the doctors. And I am so much better at that than any sort of manual labor and construction. Our booth looked like a life-sized version of one of those dioramas made with Popsicle sticks that kids make in elementary school. And I had to sit there for two full days selling journal subscriptions. But I do not like to directly confront people, so I think I only sold three the entire weekend. And the cost of the space rental for the booth was $6,000. The last straw for me was that the job did not offer any medical insurance, and during said conference I was suffering with a tooth that needed a root canal I could not afford. If you can’t tell, I am still very bitter about this job, which only lasted three months but felt like three decades.
 
Currently, I have a job that would not make my best or worst list. But I am a freelancer, so I don’t have to attend meetings or have anything to do with day-to-day office nonsense. I just sit quietly at my cubicle and write in red ink on a piece of paper, the way the Powers That Be intended for an editor to do. And it also allows me to use the office computer for doing things like writing blog entries (although my actual blog site is blocked!), and write and edit my own books while I have downtime. And believe it or not, after years of trying, I managed to get a job at yet another place that gives out free Diet Coke! 
 
Mentally, I am now going through a shift between what I think of as my job and what I think of as my career. My job is medical editing. It’s tedious and not fun but it pays relatively well since no one in their right mind likes doing it. My career, on the other hand, is being a writer. It’s what I put the majority of my energies into. It’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night when I suddenly realize the perfect ending to a chapter. It’s what makes me frantically type with two fingers onto my iphone when I’m on the subway. So I may have realized this late in the game, but my job is just something I do for money, while my career is what really makes me feel fulfilled and self-actualized. And at least I realized that before I tried to make a career out of playing minesweeper and drinking Diet Coke.