Friday, January 18, 2008

Now she has a life chosen for her by a high-school kid.

That is an amazing line in an essay about employment, professions and life choices, about how the decisions we make in high school often guide us through to where we are in middle age, and leave us without choices we find palatable.

Myself, I like law. I came in from vacation to spend half a day on a case that will resolve with a 12b motion as soon as the co-Defendant removes it to federal court. (This will make one a year for a couple years in a row now).

Some other things that I love, I've let go. I really liked Shotokan, but I could never see it as a way to earn a living or support a family. I'm not a bad game designer, but is it really the path I should take?

For a time I was a successful country lawyer, coming home every day for lunch, windsurfing every evening with my girls, in what was an Indian Summer dream. Too many deaths took that away, just like it took some other options away from me, at least for a time. Now I litigate, and find it satisfying and mentally challenging.

Since then, I've done other things, like teach post-graduate students in advanced classes. That was fun, but scarcely reality.

"In the design of lives, as in the design of most other things, you get better results if you use flexible media."

"Whichever route you take, expect a struggle."

My wife has found a profession she enjoys as well, one that suits her and doesn't do violence to her personality.

Would I change things? I'm not sure, I decided not to keep current enough that game design would be a temptation, after a close brush with returning to it. I still teach a little here and there and keep thinking, though I write so much as a part of work I'm not doing much writing on the side any more.

I don't know. As I emerge from the dark night of the soul I entered as my children started dying, I'm not sure what to do with the light.

BTW, at law and letters, there is a post on what to do to find yourself before that high school kid determines your life. Paul Gowder suggests taking a year to work after you get your bachelors and before you start law school, spending the time as a paralegal or clerk/typist in an area of law you think you would like to work in (or as an executive secretary or similar worker in any other post graduate area) and a year to explore something(s) else.

I'd suggest that while you are an undergraduate is the time you should explore. I had friends who learned to fly, one who became a golf pro (hi Jeff!), others who got brown belts in martial arts or qualified for nationals in Judo. I've friends who became paramedics or who learned other skills or explored other things. Knew a couple who decided not to become veterinarians when they realized they made more money and had more fun in their summer jobs than they would after a program that is harder to get into than medical school.

There are really three problem areas. The first is the one where you make a decision in high school and grind your way to the end, like the medical doctor in the one example or many lawyers in others. In that situation what you need to do is come up for air in order to get some perspective. Work a summer or a year as an anesthesia tech or as a paralegal and see if you like the work and the people.

The second is where you've picked a direction where you do what you love (and so have too many other people) but that pays less than your night job waiting tables. Medieval History comes to mind, or the philosophy students at programs outside the hiring belt (some programs place people in jobs, some don't). All the fourth class game designers I met over the years who couldn't quite get past aspiring to mary sue designs (sure, they loved what they did, the problem is no one else did) -- I guess the modern equivalent would be fan writers who are really, really bad but who love to write or tone deaf musicians.

Many people in these areas can find related areas. Learning to typeset, or run music boards as a sound engineer, or similar things that are similar to, but not quite the goal that would basically be just playing all day.

The third is where you enjoy your direction, but can't quite connect with the end goal. The kid with the MCAT of 6 I knew (I actually knew three, two got into medical schools on affirmative action). That is where people readjust -- before they find themselves as a microbiology graduate working in a sewage plant because they couldn't get into medical school and had no other direction (sewage plants hire applied microbiologists) except going to law school.

Though I do agree that focusing on money is much to much focusing on the wrong thing. It is why I enjoy my daughter's teachers in school, people who love what they do and who are worth loving in return.