Mid-life Career Path

Today’s blog is more a jumble of thoughts than anything. I know this blog is supposed to be about writing, and for 2021, it’s shaping up to be exclusively not that. On the bright side, today’s blog isn’t going to cover how I’m feeling. I will say that, if nothing else, I feel like I’m pointing in the right direction.

A couple of days ago, I posted a Twitter poll that asked:

Should I get a masters degree?

  • -Yes (32.7%)
  • -With what time, Dave? (24.5%)
  • -But why tho? (32.7%)
  • -No. (10.2%)

As the past two blogs have whined about how over-worked and overwhelmed I am, you might be wondering what the hell I’m on about. After all, I clearly have too much going on. Yeah, that is, without a doubt, true, but the question, “do I go back to school?” is a part of that problem. The idea is far from a new one for me, but the real consideration started about a month and a half ago.

Sometime in early  December, my workload suddenly became too much to cope with, and I realized that I might not be able to keep on. Naturally, when these things happen, you start looking for an out. I found several promising jobs, nearly 100% of which required an MS with some years of practical applied experience. It turns out, all I have is the experience. Without the education, I don’t qualify for jobs I’d be the most suited to. As you do, I filed that away and tried to focus on the here and now.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I offered an opportunity to review a set of proposed job class specifications for the Research Analyst series. The core of the revision focused on the ‘minimum qualifications.’ Typically, you see these as a bachelor’s degree in (some discipline or related) and some years of experience according to the job class level and experience necessary to succeed in the position. In this revised set of qualifications, the State of Alaska effectively jettisoned ALL experience and education requirements in favor of some incredibly squishy ‘behavioral competencies.’ As much as I think it’s a profoundly unhinged concept, I still spent an entire evening developing competencies that align with reality. Today I learned that my recommendations were largely adopted, though without any requirement for the applicant to actually demonstrate how those behavioral characteristics are shown through work history and education. So, partial win, at best, I suppose.

I know some people will think this sounds great because it opens up opportunities. Speaking from experience, it does not. It’s one HUGE bait and switch that devalues higher education. Just imagine getting in on the ground floor as a Research Analyst I and working your up to running a research and analysis group as a Research Analyst IV. Then, you lose your job because of budget cuts… Guess what? You’re now not qualified at the level and pay-grade you are accustomed to, and you WILL BE starting over as a junior analyst. I know because I’m in that position now. My position, before today, allowed candidates to substitute graduate work with job experience. Now it doesn’t even require experience.

Setting aside the devaluing of education and the fact that my group lives and dies by grants that rely on those higher education qualifications, it’s got me realizing if I’m laid-off because of budget cuts, I’m not qualified for the job that I’m the most suited to do. What’s more, I am easily the least educated among my coworkers. Most of the people I work with are PhD, or have some form of master’s degree. It makes me feel awkward and pretty uncomfortable when we’re submitting grant proposals, and I suspect folks reviewing those documents absolutely notice that the lead data analyst doesn’t even have his MS. I used to feel like it was something of an accomplishment that I managed what I have without going through grad school. Now I realize it has been a pretty big liability all along.

Anyhow, that’s where I’m at—trying to find an online program that doesn’t suck balls and costs less than an arm, a leg, and the first-born child. I don’t know if I’ll end up following through in the end. After all, it’s fabulously expensive, and I’ve got kids now looking to their college careers.

Image by Nikolay Georgiev from Pixabay

Why are you counting days on Twitter?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that on Friday I started counting days. I’m on Day #6 as of today. What is that? You might remember that last week I wrote a post about how I was in something of a dark place. And so many of us are for all different reasons. I think I’ve heard it described that we’re all in a storm. Each boat we inhabit is different and some are sinking faster. Our norms have been destroyed and our daily reality changes almost by the hour. Regardless of someone’s financial or personal situation, a dark place means the same thing, and it can lead to bad things no matter who you are. My count is the number of days since I’ve decided to focus on getting myself out of that dark place by focusing on ways to cope that aren’t self-destructive.

What have I been doing on those days? To start, on Wednesday, I wrote a blog post, forcing myself to recognize I needed to fix some things. Thursday, I spent time on the phone with a friend who is going through some shit. I’d argue his shit is shittier than any shit I’ve got, but it’s been good to connect with him. Don’t think we’ve spoken this much in years. On Friday, I took steps to actively recognize an accomplishment —it’s an esoteric thing relating to my day-job, but could become one of the biggest accomplishments of my whole career. Yesterday, I slept in, cleaned the house with my family, played Microsoft Flight Simulator (I have a YouTube channel about Alaska if you’re interested in a bit of demography, history, and general sight-seeing), and then we watched TV together. It was nice. Today, I spent most of my day on Twitter.

*insert record screech* – What? Twitter? A wellspring of dystopia – that can’t have been good, right?

A week ago, starting the day on Twitter meant dodging anger, vitriol, and honestly a hell of a lot of misinformation, plus general reports of the US coming apart at the seams. It wasn’t fun. Today, it was a totally different story. I was greeted by a great thread about road trips and a mad uncle. It it made me think of my own last road trip, nearly 20 years ago now. As you do, I put out a poll about the longest road trip. To my surprise, most people (and as I write this I’m up to about 90 votes) who responded have traveled in excess of 3000 miles on a road trip. My longest was around 4500 —not unusual for urban-dwelling Alaskans. Better than that though were all of the stories. I met new people and got to hear their tid-bit.

My whole point? I’m working on it still and still holding myself to it. Today is better than Tuesday last week, but I have a long way to go. As I said before, I’ll likely continue to use this blog to just talk, because it keeps me on track.

Image by tigerlily713 from Pixabay

A bit erratic

Look at me! I’m blogging again —I mean, not because I’ve got time or anything, but because I’ve had a few thoughts. The first thought I wanted to share comes from some serious start of the year reflection after having written my January 1 post. If anything, this expounds on that a bit. We’re just two weeks into 2021, a year I simply haven’t got high hopes for, and it’s proving to be all the awful of 2020, but with new awful stuff thrown in for good measure.

This post could be about how I’m losing faith in humanity, as I watch thousands of people choose to believe, repeat and forgive verifiable lies without thinking twice about the consequences. It could be about the gaslighting out politicians are trying with the “We need to unite talk”. Yes, we do need to do that, but it’s going to look like certain people taking responsibility for their actions and holding those responsible accountable, not giving people a free pass and claiming it’s “unity”. That’s what you do in a society based on the rule of law.

No. What I need to talk about, and probably shouldn’t in a public forum, but will anyhow, is me. I had a moment the other day where I realized my behavior has started to become a bit erratic. Not so bad that I went out to storm the capitol building with full intent of doing harm, but bad enough I’ve finally noticed it. My temper at work has been short, I’ve been impatient, and I’m not as prepared for things I need to be. In my personal life, I’ve ranted on Twitter, been unnecessarily negative, and even more self-deprecating than is normal even for me. To top it all off, I’ve accomplished very little. Normally, I’m always in motion, always moving and trying. These days, by the end of a day, even a relatively calm one, I’m unable to function.

As I reflect on myself and who I want to be in 2021, I realized that I’m in a pretty dark place. It’s hard not to be when the sun sets at about 4pm. In the latter part of 2020, I found MS Flight Simulator 2020 and got all hooked up on that – my problem now? Too much anxiety to play. I made it halfway through a flight last night and was told something got into the duck-yard and killed some ducks. Yup. That was all I needed to break me. I couldn’t even sit comfortably and watch Mrs. Maisel (I love the writing & dialogue, BRILLIANT).

Really, I don’t know what the solution here is. So, I thought I’d turn to this blog —for the same reason I started it. The whole point of sharing my thoughts etc… was to force myself to achieve my goals. Only this time, it’s not about forcing myself to finish that book, or make another YouTube or even find ways to talk about being an indie author. Instead, I need to force myself to find a way out of this damn hole – a way where I can get back to making and thinking and generally getting people to ask me: How do you manage all of that? A job, writing novels, raising kids, and even normally cooking a pretty okay meal. What’s more, I want to feel good about it again. Anyhow, if you made it this far, thanks for listening. I’ll try to do better on the blogging more, and maybe even try to keep it shorter.