Questions I meant to ask myself....

A new friend on Facebook asked me a question I have wanted to answer for myself the past week:

You probably already told me this, but what are you in school for?

my reply (with a few additions to flesh out the areas where I needed to be honest with myself):

The short answer is to get my masters in teaching with an emphasis in biology (coursework is split between the two departments).... the longer answer is that I did finance and economics in undergrad and worked for a hedge fund... I have taken the last two+ years off and still have no clue what I want to do next (mainly because any job I take would be a huge step backwards (in terms of both content and to some degree pay and certainly in terms of work environment from where I was before). Additionally, given how little there is left that I want to learn in the field, I am not interested in working years to get to the point where I was already at.

Over the years different friends have suggested that I consider being a teacher. A few months ago I finally went to the college of education to see what opportunities might be available. I ended up getting a scholarship that covers almost all of tuition so I decided to go through with it. I still have no convincing answer for myself when I ask the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" (I'm only about 60% certain I will even teach at all, and ironically the biggest reason would be for student loan forgiveness - I plan on taking out loans in grad school so I don't have to work while I am in college. I do think the jobs makes a lot of "sense" for me and the lifestyle I want for myself, I am just not particularly excited about it (though don't take this to mean that I am am not partially interested).

The overarching reason however that I am going back is that it is a low-cost, socially-acceptable way of not going back to work (I don't care about money, I just don't want to ostracize myself by appearing to be a total bum). I have plenty of big ideas I want to realize in my lifetimes, I am just waiting for the right conditions to come along so I can pounce on it - in time this may in fact be an opportunity for me to do some of those big things. Mainly because it will afford me the means (time and money) to do what I want. I would not have these if I was working a normal workweek with standard vacation time.

In short, I have given up almost entirely on the idea of a career which seems to be the one thing so many people in our generation seek. I really want my life to be a series of interesting jobs (each several years in length) that lead towards my longer term goals of being involved in some form of local government, potentially a writer/photographer, and a Unitarian Universalist minister (or at least a role where I am dealing with thoughtful, interesting people and I am able to share the things I have learned over the years and to be regularly challenged to define for myself the areas where I and our society at large can experience the most growth).

Towards this end, the biggest challenge (or at least source of worry for me) will be my financial security. Growing up with a depression era grandfather next door and in a rural area that was drenched in poverty, it is something that has always been a source of anxiety. Ironically, I get more comfort from finding ways of being frugal than I do of actually earning income. My goal is to be able to survive off of pennies rather than being rich. I also like this way of life because it is something I can share with others, when the path to riches is not something that is universally available. This spendthrift mentality does however pose certain social obstacles when confronted with a society based on materialism. Thankfully, the recession/looming depression has changed social attitudes. Now that I am thinking about it more clearly, it's essentially that the way of life I was raised in is now coming into vogue as economic conditions have deteriorated.

In any case, I am going to enjoy the coming school year and reevaluate my options depending on what happens (mainly the availability of scholarships - funding for the grant that approved my scholarship may not be renewed since it comes from the National Science foundation and would be subject to federal budget cuts).