Monday, March 29, 2010

How did I end up here?

I am an overeducated housewife. I never planned to be one; it just happened, the way life happens. I call myself an overeducated housewife because I spent seven years in college to earn three degrees that I don't currently use in a professional capacity.

I read non-fiction books and write almost every day. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, debating current events with other people. My husband and I have a lot of interesting discussions. I'm a pretty smart cookie. But I don't currently have a steady job and haven't had one in years.

How did I get here? Well... let's see. I went to college after high school and, like a good girl, finished my bachelor's degree in four years. I had one major, two minors, and lots of liberal arts classes meant to make me well-rounded as a person. After college, I had some trouble finding a full time job. So, I took on a series of part-time gigs so that I could pay my bills. At one point, I had three part-time jobs that were getting me nowhere. At another point, I even found myself being interviewed for a couple of multi-level marketing scams. Thankfully, I wasn't desperate enough to go that route.

After about six months of that business, I decided that perhaps I should join the Peace Corps. My sister had been a Peace Corps Volunteer and the experience had helped her launch a great career. She now has a PhD, a house, two great kids, and an enduring marriage. I applied to the Peace Corps and was accepted. I was shipped off to the former Soviet Union for a little over two years to teach English. I learned a lot, traveled a lot, met a lot of people, and I came home profoundly bitter, confused, and depressed. But I did have a lot of chances to use my God given talents and I thought that maybe I could use one of my talents to launch myself into a career.

I took another job. This one, I hoped, would give me a taste of what I might want to do with my life. You see, I really like cooking and I'm very good at it. So I waited tables at an upscale restaurant, where I quickly found out a lot of truths about human nature and what it's like to work with food for a living. Ultimately, I decided that, for many good reasons, a lifetime of restaurant work wasn't for me. I came away from the experience with a lot, though... knowledge about food, wine, and people, as well as some wonderful friends. Waiting tables also temporarily made me a lot thinner and helped me make my next attempt at launching a career.

In the wake of my Peace Corps assignment and my tablewaiting stint, I suffered clinical depression. I used to think that depression was something a person could will themselves to get over. But then I was depressed myself...

I saw a couple of shrinks for awhile. One of them talked to me at regular intervals for 50 minutes at a time. Another gave me pills that were supposed to help chase away the blues. At first, the antidepressants didn't work very well and I got worse. But then the prescription was tweaked and a ray of sunlight broke through the heavy black clouds of persistant sadness and anxiety. I was feeling much, much better and was finally able to start making decisions. I decided that if I couldn't find the right job, I should go back to school.

Because I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I qualify for a number of different fellowships at universities across the country. About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to try for one of those fellowships. Owing to the fact that I was feeling so much better after being treated for depression, I decided to apply for a program that would allow me to earn two advanced degrees in helping professions. I figured such a move would make me very employable, as well as allow me to pay it forward... I was feeling very grateful for the help I got from my two very competent shrinks, plus, I was interested in what I wanted to study. I won't lie... I also wanted to escape the situation I was in at the time.

So off I went to graduate school, though not as a fellowship student. As it turned out, the fellowship program at the school where I went lost its funding the year I matriculated. But never mind that... I took to school with much enthusiasm and resolve. I lived alone on campus in an apartment, took on an assistantship, a couple of internships, and a part time job. I made a few wonderful friends, but I didn't do any dating... at least not in real life. You see, it was around that time that I started spending a lot of time on the Internet. Before too long, I met my husband.

It happened quite innocently, actually. About six weeks after I started school, I bought a computer. I needed one, because graduate school requires a lot of research, writing papers, and typing. I hooked into the Internet and quickly discovered chat rooms. One night, I ran into the man who became my husband. At that time, he had just decided to re-join the Army after a brief stint as a civilian. Partly because of that decision and partly because he and his ex wife were completely incompatible, the man who became my husband had been drop kicked out of his home and family.

We were just friends at first. I was lonely because I was in a new city and didn't have any friends. He was lonely because he was in a new city and didn't have any friends. Because we were just cyber-buddies, he didn't mention his wife and kids to me and I never thought to ask him about it because I didn't think it mattered. It never occurred to me that I'd ever actually meet him in person. We really were just friends. He never even so much as flirted with me while he and his ex wife were separated.

After a few months of regular chats, the man who became my husband sent me an email telling me about his situation. Apparently, he thought I would hate him because he hadn't told me upfront about his estranged wife and kids. I was surprised at first, but again, I didn't think it mattered. I wasn't expecting to meet him. On the other hand, when he told me he'd gotten a divorce a couple of months later, I was sort of happy. At that point, I really liked him and wanted to get to know him better. A year after his divorce, I got my chance, when the U.S. Army sent him on business to the city where I was studying. We had our first date and really hit it off. Then the Army moved him closer to me and we started seeing each other in person on a regular basis.

The man who became my husband was in the Pentagon on 9/11/01. For most of that day, I didn't know if he was dead or alive, and I knew that no one in his family even knew I existed. So we decided to make our relationship official. I told my family about him and he told his family about me. A few months before I finished my dual degrees, we got engaged.

I graduated from school, fully intending to get licensed and finally launch my career. But things didn't happen the way I planned. Instead of getting job offers from the interviews I attended, I started getting freelance writing gigs that seemed to fall out of the sky. I decided I liked that job better, even though it wasn't what I had spent the past three years studying in school. Staying home to write allowed me to do housework and take care of our pets. It freed me up to be home while my husband worked long hours. At first, money was tight, and I felt bored and guilty about not working, especially since we don't have kids... but things gradually got easier. And then we moved overseas, which made my having a job even more difficult.

In the past three years, my husband and I have moved three times and we will most likely have to move again next year. All of this moving around, once again, makes it not so easy to take on a career, especially one that usually requires licensure. On the other hand, I've gotten to do a lot of traveling, reading, writing, and meeting new people.

I used to feel guilty about being unemployed. Sometimes, I still worry that maybe these years of not sitting in a cubicle every day will haunt me as I get older. I certainly meant to work when I started graduate school ten years ago. I certainly got a lot of flack from family and friends about my lack of full time employment. But I can't deny that it's a lifestyle that works for now...

So that's how I've become the overeducated housewife... Welcome to my blog.

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