Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stupid 20-Something Confusion.

At first, I was all yeah! I want to be a graphic designer! Yeehaw! Then, I was all HOLY CRAP. What was I thinking? Can I do this?

This weekend made me all Waaaait. What if what I really want to do is work with kids again? (They are freaking ENTERTAINING.)

Let me back up and properly explain my confusion. I was an early childhood education major in college. I loved kids. I was great with kids. After a year or two, I realized it just wasn't a good fit for me. Seven hours with the same kids five days a week? Yikes. Crowded classrooms and standardized tests would stifle my creativity. Being a good teacher in the US required FAR more work than I had bargained for.

I opted out of student teaching, and getting my teacher licensure, and was able to work at an environmental after-school education center for urban you
th my senior year of college. Although challenging, I loved it. Loved. It. The kids were wonderful - challenging at times, but beyond rewarding. My supervisors constantly told me I was great at what I did. I had confidence and it was a perfect fit.

It was also draining and more intense than I'd bargained for. I came home at the end of every day and just crumpled into a heap on the couch. Sometimes I'd cry in frustration. So, yes: It. Is. Difficult. And maybe I'm just a wimp. Not to mention, not many people are able to make a career in out-of-school education. There's no career path for teachers who don't want to teach in classrooms. And working after-school programs doesnt't usually pay much. If at all.

Enter my current job. A less-intense job that has allowed me time to really develop and explore my passions. I created an Etsy shop. I've spent some time designing. And I realized a flexible working life would give me the kind of balance I crave. A life where I could be free to be a freelance designer and craft a bit here and there while I'm working from home. A life where I wouldn't suffocate in a windowless cubicle. A life where I'd be able to raise children. Someday.

After a fabulous conference this past weekend, I'm questioning myself all over again. What ifs swirl about in my little head and I find myself desperately wishing I could live two lives and see which one I like better. Commitment is hard. Which is odd for me to say, as I got married at the insanely ripe age of twenty two. But, when it comes to deciding on a career or location, I'm paralyzed with fear. What if I get it wrong? What if I'd be happier doing something else?

I guess part of growing up is being able to make decisions and point yourself in a direction despite uncertainty. The uncertainty will never leave, I imagine, it just gets lost in the shuffle of daily life - in carpools, whiny toddlers, and diaper changes; in quarterly reports, deadlines, and emails.

Yesterday, I was questioning how my creative aspirations could possibly make the world a better place, when working with youth is so immediately rewarding. Then I got the most wonderful message from a woman who found me through Maggie's blog:
"I read YOUR blog (something I NEVER have time for because I'm raising two 3 year old boys whom we had adopted from Kazakhstan), then have been browsing through your items on Etsy, a site I've NEVER been on but have completely fallen in love with this afternoon (my husband is going to be absolutely thrilled with the bills from this discovery), and want to thank you for sharing a little bit of sunshine to my now pretty-funky-but-totally-off-routine day...I think your artwork is just so unique and quirky. All of it really makes me smile. As did your blog...so fresh and genuine. My goal this year is to keep more in touch with friends so I hope to get more cards from you as they would be such lovely items to receive in the mail -- I know that they are going to make lots of people happy."
It was as if God was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, Ash, you are doing something positive, okay?"

...I'm still a little confused, though.


  1. I think it's all scary, and that's part of it - but I know that for me the way I get around the terror is to try out jobs and hobbies, and then figuring out what bits I like, and then looking for more of those parts in what I'm doing.

    Beyond that, I think we're that the mercy of a lot of guessing and luck - but knowing what you need in your life, what your personal work/life style is and just always moving with that intention in mind is really helpful.

    And I don't think there's such thing as making mistakes as long as you're learning, so that makes things a lot less scary. It sounds like you're on the right path by following your heart to a flexible work life & working on hand made goods.

    As for babies - if you've got this kind of balance now, you can maintain it so why not see where it takes you? Maybe you'll end up owning your own store on real life real estate, or having your hand mades support you full time. I know that for me, I'm waiting until my biological clock is going off at full alarm before I take that plunge.

  2. I would say you are doing LOTS of positive things. :) This blog, the amazing work you do with kids, your craftiness and creativity, all those things you listed. Keep doing what you are doing, and I just know it will all fall into place in good time. It's so hard to pursue things you are passionate about when there are so many of them-- it's something I struggle with too! Even though I KNOW what I'm doing at this point in my life-- I'm a wife, a mom, a homemaker, and that's what I want. But even still. Balance is soooo tricky.

    you are fabulous, my dear, and I can't wait to see what the Lord has for your life-- no matter what it may be or when you discover it.

  3. Aww. It's never an easy decision to find what you want to do and really go after it. There are always moments of doubt. But if you can pursue your passions outside of it, it's not a bad thing. FYI: who designed your site, I love it!

  4. I hear you- I am totally commitment-phobic when it comes to a career- and I haven't even had one yet! I love kids- but as you know, they don't pay much. But I love teaching/learning at a graduate level. What is a girl to do? Just take it one day at a time.

    You are doing positive actions for the world. I think the struggle is to find which actions make the most sense for you and the world together. = )

    Good luck. Thanks for your posts.

  5. That was so sweet. I think my goal in life right now is work at home doing something slash live off an etsy shop. Except I need to get a job first to actually live. Maybe I'll end up liking my job a lot. Who knows? I guess I don't really have any answers for you.

  6. It really is hard trying to figure out what you want to do for a career. I've been there before and for me, the answer was switching companies that I worked for. Granted, I still would prefer to be doing something else, but overall I do like my job.

  7. I'm 30, and I'm still confused (just read my last blog post)! But, I guess we just have to learn to embrace the possibilities and realize that there is no perfect career or thing to do. We can do anything (and everything) we want.

  8. You should talk to Sharpie at notwinningmotheroftheyear.blogspot

  9. I wish I knew what my future held for me. I have so many things I want to do, but I never follow through with any of it. So I'm always wondering what if. You have something really good going for you Ashley. You are talented, and sincere, and an all around amazing person. Do what makes you happy, and the rest will fall into place. :)

  10. I went through all the same things too. In college I changed my major like 8 times, and now, I"m not even using my degree. LOL. As long as you are learning and loving you are not making any mistakes. :)

  11. This post makes me happy. I think we all have moments where we wonder if we're heading down the path we are supposed to. We have no crystal balls, so the only thing we can do is keep truckin. As for your little message from your new found Etsy-fan... I'm glad it opened your eyes. You are fabulous.

  12. I think it's hard too when you're a creative person. I spent many years envying people who were accountants or doctors or something where the job is easily transferable to another arena if the current one is no longer working. It feels like life would be much easier if you longed to be an accountant, you know? For me, finally zeroing in on what I really really really wanted to do, aside from practicality, and working on that along side my other responsibilities until I could shift my focus over completely is what's worked the best. I think I'm rambling. Sorry!

  13. all of this confusion is what comes along with being a 20something.

    but at least you have discovered a few of your passions in life, unfortunately, i'm still working on that part.

  14. My motto has always been to do what you love, even if that means not making a lot of money. I know it's easier said than done, but I still think it's important to fill your life with things you love.

    p.s. There's an award waiting for you over at my blog :)

  15. I've been having a little quarterlife (third-life?) crisis, too. Thought I'd be a newspaper reporter forever and then newspapers died. Sad story. I think jobs these days are less defined. Which is OK, I think. You're not JUST a teacher, you're not JUST a designer. You're you on a journey. And that's just perfect.

  16. You know, I just started reading your blog recently, but it seems like every post has at least one line that speaks directly to me.

    I got married at the ripe age of 22 as well. 6 years later, we're still going strong, yet I don't like commitment either. I don't like making choices that close doors for me. It's not that I'm afraid of choosing the wrong path; it's that it gets more and more difficult to change the course if it's not right. So, I think I know how you feel.

    I also have this brand new desire to work with kids in an after-school program but am worried about the lack of hours, lack of pay, etc. I've considered going into youth counseling--is that something you've considered? My guess is that the pay is better, but you still get the reward of helping/mentoring kids.

    I do think blogging and making cute things to brighten people's day is meaningful, but it's all about what makes you feel satisfied at the end of the day. You don't have to do any one thing forever.

  17. Oh my gosh, this is something I do every day of my life...question whether this is where I want to be in my life or not. Scary to think about, but I think we all get these little question marks from time to time. Good luck!

  18. Ok seriously..where have i been...love your blog

  19. You're wonderful.
    Your blog is wonderful.

    I'm so glad I found you on this miserable day.

  20. This quote usually helps me:

    When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take, choose the bolder. W. J. Slim General, British Army

    I find making decisions SO hard, but as long as I keep making the bolder choices, life just keeps getting better and better. It's how I found myself in Amsterdam, and I couldn't imagine living anywhere else right now!


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