Stuck

(I was not able to respond to all of yesterday’s comments but I did write one comment reflecting on what everyone said. So if you commented and want to check it out, please do.)

As I’m sure you all know, this week has been hard. Sunday was a parade of panic attacks and uncontrollable sobbing and Monday was much of the same. My therapist was kind enough to fit me in for an emergency appointment just 36 hours after our couples session. I left feeling decidedly less panicked but still incredibly sad.

The rest of the week I feel like I’ve been wandering around in a kind of fog. For the first time in my life I’m somewhat thankful that final grades are imminently expected because at least that gives me something at work to focus on. Though grading all the tests, homework and projects has felt relentless I’m grateful to have such a long and mind numbingly boring to-do list. It’s a good way to just get through the days without thinking too much about anything.

When I do contemplate our situation I feel an unrecognizable mixture of confusion, panic, denial, and intense sadness. I feel stuck in this life that I have built for myself.

We are currently a family without a plan. Because we are so unsure of where we’ll be, both financially and emotionally, in the future we’re not making any plans for when we’ll move forward with building our family. One to two years is both impossibly far away and an unfathomable long window for me. My rigid, planning-inclined Type A brain literally cannot conceive of that level uncertainty. Whenever I think of it, I start either cry or panic. Sometimes both.

I know I need to be better about the unknown, the uncertainty. I know I need to focus on the now. I’m working on all of that. The truth is, the now feels very different than it used to. The now is not nearly as comfortable as it seemed when we were planning on trying again in less than two months. The new now, devoid of any plans for the future, lacks hope. The new now is a product of our troubled union and is mired in the constant needs of our fragile, sometimes flailing, relationship. The new now numbs me, makes me want to do nothing other than flee into the future. Except the future no longer holds any promises that things will get better, and that is terrifying.

So I’m thrust back, again and again, to my current situation. Without a future to dote on I’m forced to return to the present. Sometimes, when things between Mi.Vida and I are better, it’s not so bad. There are even moments of healing light and space. Other times even the repairs we’re making don’t seem like enough.

Listening to Mi.Vida at couples counseling last Sunday made one thing abundantly clear. He will never be happy at a job that makes much money. His identity is very closely tied to how he spends his time and what he accomplishes at his job, and he is just not interested in the kind of work that pays well. So if he’s not ever going to make the money to provide the life I’d envisioned for myself, that leaves me. I left our Sunday session deeply depressed and clinging to the assumption that our relationship woes were too immense an issue for me to tackle. So my mind immediately turned to something it could have some control over, my job. I obviously need to change professions – make some more money and get us into a more comfortable position financially. Doing that would ease so many of our burdens.

It’s ironic that I became a teacher to spend more time with my children and now the meager earnings of my profession are keeping me from having the children I so desperately want. That is irony, right? It seems cruel, whether it’s coincidence or irony or something else entirely.

So I started looking into become a therapist. I’ve been in therapy for years and I think I’d be good at it. I’ve heard you can make six figures in our area and even have some control over your hours. Investigating the requirements felt like a good first step.

Turns out I can’t possibly be a therapist. The journey to licensing starts at bachelor-level classes and requires at least a Masters, probably a Ph.D. It would be ten years before I’d even be making a low-level salary (which is less than I currently make). It’s impossible.

A colleague shared another terrible truth with me. As a teacher I’ve been paying into CalSTRS instead of Social Security for the last eight years. I can’t receive retirement payments from both STRS and Social Security so if I leave the profession I have to accept a payout from STRS. That payout would be about 1/3 of what I put in. If retirement is important to me, I have no choice but to remain a teacher, at least in some capacity, for the rest of my life.

I’ve never felt so stuck, not ever. At 31 years old I literally have no options, at least none that I can see. All I can do is keep trudging forward, trying to repair my relationship, constantly searching for tutoring opportunities to make more money and living out this life I’ve carved for myself.

When we were young we were taught that we can have anything and everything. I’ve spent the last ten years learning the hard way that it’s just not true. Now I have to accept that if you make mistakes along the way, chances are there won’t be opportunities to fix them and you’ll have to make devastating decisions about your future that aren’t really decisions at all.

You’ll simply be stuck, like me, settling for something very different than your dreams.

6 responses

  1. Oh, it is hard to see you so sad! As I said before, this just doesn’t sound like a compromise to me – it sounds like it’s all Mi Vida getting what *he* wants. I don’t know the details of your work situation, but my initial thoughts were: can you get a job at a different school district that might pay more? can you get a certificate or degree that would bump you up on the pay scale? do you work during the summer and if not, can you find a summer job? It seems to me there must be ways you can increase your income without totally changing careers.

    I hope you guys can come up with a plan soon that makes you feel you’re moving in the right direction.

  2. Man, it’s rough to see you so sad. Hugs.

    I have a couple of thoughts, though.

    You SO need an outlet for your OCD planner. I say this because I have one too. If I don’t have anything to plan for, I go mad. I was USED to planning for babies and a new job. Now, though, I can’t do that. Because I am not happy doing what I do, but I’m not sure what WILL make me happy. So in the short term I need to stay where I am. And planning for babies, yeah, well, you know how that worked out for us.

    It’s OKAY that part of living your life requires planning for SOMETHING. Just right now it can’t be babies or a new job.

    So what can you plan for?

    For me, it’s planning training programs for my races. Even now, when I can’t run, it’s planning for my rehab so I can get back to running and then planning for the half marathon I want to run Feb 26.

    See,it does the trick for me – gives me something completely LINEAR. I get to create my training plan, follow it, and see how I do at a race. Then I can tweak that training plan for ANOTHER race in the future, and do better.

    It’s perfect for me. Gives control back to me, when there is SO much in my life I can’t control. Helps me realize that okay, I won’t drown in the overwhelming unplannedness of my life. Because I have something 5 days a week that is a plan.

    You need something LIKE that. Maybe it’s not running races like me. Maybe it’s pursuing yoga teaching certification. Maybe it’s planning trips for the family. Maybe it’s planning and doing crafty things around the house. Maybe it’s volunteering, or something.

    THAT’S what you need to find right now, and then you can hopefully start to settle into life in the here and now.

    One other thing. I’m no financial planner, but I am an accountant. The retirement thing? You’re 31. If you leave teaching now, you still actually have 30 years, plus or minus, to save for retirement. You are not stuck in teaching long term if you don’t want to be. Just my two cents.

    xoxo

  3. I’m sorry things are so hard 😦
    But remember this – nothing is forever. Sometimes it takes time to dig out of the muck, but for better or worse, nothing is forever. You may feel stuck now, but things constantly change. I know you will find your peace eventually. Sending you a huge hug.

  4. Hugs. This is, indeed, one of those situations, in which my friend says: there are no situations with no solutions – there are solutions we don’t like. Hence the stuck feeling. I hate these situations!

    The pension savings situation sure does suck. But you’re only 31 – you still have the time to get into a different career that’ll bring you more money – which will allow you to have a second child AND save for pension (first gain back what you’ll lose, then get even more). Faraway pension is important, but it looks like second child is much, much more important to you.

    An inspirational story: I felt just as stuck this winter/spring. I was fired from my previous job. I was depressed, it was incredibly humiliating. And I just couldn’t get myself excited about any job posting I saw online. I got my PCOS diagnosis. Which brought me into the deeper level of depression. I stayed at home and did nothing. Literally. I didn’t even feel misery – just apathy.

    Then I decided to send the 10 years I spent on building my career to hell and start afresh – go back to school and get a degree in Graphic Design (I also considered a writing career, but with English being my second language, I never got the nerve to give it serious consideration).

    I found a college. I started my IF treatments. I felt better – I made a decision. I was moving somewhere.

    And then life gave me a surprise: a job found me (literally – a head hunter called ME and offered a job I never would’ve considered). And I took it. And I LOVE it. And then I found myself pregnant.

    I accidentally discovered a career path that was right there for me WITHOUT my having to go back to school and start from scratch!

    Now think – what can you do, using all the skills, knowledge, expertise – and passions! – that you have? Maybe you could become a corporate trainer? Maybe you could work in consulting, developing methodologies, processes and approaches for whatever (there are consulting firms for everything, it seems). Or you could become a personal career advisor, helping people choose their career paths. There are so many other careers that require the skill of teaching, leading, educating, transferring knowledge!

    Think about it. You’ll still be teaching. And you know what? Some of these jobs might offer fairly flexible hours.

    Here’s pragmatic me, yet again. Hmmm. You know what? Let me know if I am being too practical and pragmatic – I’ll step back.

    Hugs. You can do it!

  5. That stuck feeling is a choking feeling, I know. I’m sorry. There is a way out of this, of that I am confident. It might not present itself for some time, but it’s there. Keep an open heart, keep exploring possibilties. I’m not trying to minimize or to bust out naive and impractical Pollyanna crap on you. I just feel that you’re stronger and more dynamic than you give yourself credit for when you’re in these valleys. X

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