Choosing to Change
April 29, 2004
For Random Acts of Journaling: Have you ever made a decision that quite dramatically changed the direction of your life? Imagine how your life would have been, if you had decided differently. For better or worse?
The only decision I’ve made that comes close to fitting the spirit of this question was quitting my job in January of 1998 without having another one lined up. My life certainly changed direction after that. I spent six months not working at all and another six being a self-employed consultant, and then took a job as a software developer despite having no relevant experience or training (well, unless you count COBOL and FORTRAN courses taken fifteen years prior). Except I came thisclose to taking another job as a pantyhose and heels corporate accountant, so maybe that was the critical decision, to take the programming tryout even though I had no idea if I could do the job instead of going for the twice as much money accounting job offer where I was darn sure I could succeed.
If I’d stayed in the job I quit, I truly believe I either would have had a physical or mental breakdown due to stress or gotten fired for my attitude. I was well on my way to either or both at the time I gave up. I’m not sure if the same could be said of the job I turned down to try programming. That one was at least closer to my house, so perhaps I could have spent the time freed up from commuting to practice relaxation techniques. It still would have been the same kind of work in a similar bureaucracy, so I don’t think even an hour a day of meditation would have made it all better. I’d be very surprised if I could have gotten the same sense of satisfaction from producing financial reports as I do from making screens work for customers. In my accounting days, no one ever sent me e-mails thanking me for making their jobs easier; I feel much more appreciated now. (On the flip side, I also feel a lot more visible, since with one slip of my keyboard, I can mess up hundreds of people across the country if I do a program change wrong.)
But still, in the scope of dramatic decisions, my career moves are small potatoes. I had money saved up to cushion against the loss of income (I’d been unhappy in my job a long time, so had plenty of opportunity to save against the day I’d had enough), and we had health insurance through Mr. Karen’s job, so I wasn’t risking that much. Yes, it was a big deal for someone as cautious as I am, but compared to someone who decides to sell all her possessions and travel around the world or chooses to have and raise a child alone, it’s hardly worth a mention.
I sometimes think about how my life would have been different if we’d decided to have children, or if Mr. Karen had gotten a job in California after he graduated from college, things like that, but I’m really more interested in the decisions we have yet to make. What would change if we decide to move closer to my new office? Would that be worth it? Right now, we’ve decided to stay where we are, but that could change. Someday we’ll have to decide where to retire. What should we consider? Will we have enough money to do anything? I’m thankful to be in a position where these are the kinds of questions I face.
A year ago, I recapped my trip to Houston to visit Mel for our first QuiltCon. It’s threatening to become an annual event, as I’m going next month to see her guild’s quilt show. (And no, don’t think about coming to rob my house while I’m gone, since I’m leaving Mr. Karen and Bubba the giant guinea pig behind.)