My nineteen years of education prepared me for a job I do not want. It prepared me to sit in front of a computer screen, synthesize complex material, and then write about it. While I hated writing for school, I always thought that when it was for work, I would enjoy it.
I was wrong.
In the few months as I desperately tried to write my final essay (read: thesis) for my master’s degree, I decided I wanted to farm. I wanted to be outside, to do something physical. I wanted work where at the end of the day I could physically see what I had accomplished. While many of my peers and some of my friends wrote it off as a phase or one of my half-baked ideas that would never come to fruition (I have many of these), I continued to believe. Unlike my fellow graduates, I did not start looking for work in my field. Instead, I looked for places to farm through the World Wide Organization of Organic Farms (WWOOF).
Lucky for me, Henry more than willing to take a break from the grind and delay the job search in the name of learning to grow our own food. After two months on two different farms in Oregon, we went back to reality.
Neil did the job search, I held down two minimum-wage jobs to pay the bills until he found something. Not the best months of our lives, aside from the fact I was living in my home town and got to see my family, who I adore despite (or perhaps because of) of our quirks. Let’s just say that working in a popular bookstore and waiting tables in my hometown during the holidays meant I got to see everyone I knew from high school, and their mother. It’s great fun to see all your classmates years later when you’re working an unskilled labor job. Let’s just say I ate my fill of humble pie.
Three months later: Henry secured a job, which meant it was my turn to figure out what the heck I was going to do now that school is behind me and the dark cloud of looming bills was not pushing me to work more than forty-hours a week at low-wage jobs.
At first, I tried to find jobs in my field. Every morning I would browse the job search engines looking for openings in our new town. Every morning I found find several that I qualified for and I would dutifully open them up into new tabs with the intention of drafting cover letters and tailoring my resume to fit the bill.
And then I’d close my browser.
I didn’t want any of those jobs. The thought of sitting at a desk analyzing policies was enough to make me want to bang my hand against a wall. Repeatedly. I didn’t see the point of applying for a job I didn’t want. When anyone would ask I would say I was doing the job search, but it was a lie. My heart wasn’t in it.
While I may not have wanted to jump into the workforce, I also knew I couldn’t stay in our apartment with nothing to do. Less than a week of that and I was already losing my mind. Quickly.
So what’s a girl to do? Volunteer. I Googled urban agriculture in our city and emailed every place I found. I wasn’t bringing home the bacon, but I brought home plenty of squash.
I loved it. I loved being outside, I loved meeting people who had common interests, I loved working with my hands. The more I volunteered, the less I motivated I was to apply for “real” jobs. Whenever anyone would ask, I continued to say that I was doing the job search.
It was a lie.
Some point along the way (shortly after reading Radical Homemakers), I decided that I wasn’t going to say I was doing the job search. I was going to tell people that I was learning how to grow my own food. If that lead to awkward silence, then it would lead to awkward silence.
So here I am, five months into our lives in the Lone Star State and fourteen months as a Master of Public Policy, pulling up weeds in 100 degree plus weather. For free. I won’t say there aren’t times I have questioned where I am and where I’m headed, but I do know that it is the right decision for right now. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m setting myself up to fail five or ten years down the line when I want a “real” job and have no experience and have emptied my brain of everything I learned in school, but then I push the thought aside and focus on what’s good for me today. Because who wants to trade happiness now out of fear of the future?