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Crossroads Blues
ChuckWriting
farawayeyes4
DeanAtCrossroads

I currently stand at a Crossroads---hence the title and image here. I could just settle for staying where I am, working in retail for many many more years to come---or I could do something else. Each path has its pros and its cons, and as I start to look at options, I know that I'm facing some very scary decisions that will impact my life for good or for ill.

First, the "staying where I am" fork of the crossroad. If I stay without looking into a different carer or job, I feel I will be settling for mediocre, less than my potential, and wasting years of my life doing something I don't particularly enjoy but feel I do somewhat well at. I'll also be settling for less than stellar (and by that I mean at or below poverty wages) pay that will forever keep me trapped my current living situation or force me to acquire a second job just to get by. It's felt rather stagnant---especially in the last year---and I know the cons outweigh any pros---a steady job with security and some benefits.

So, what of the other fork in my crossroads? The problem seems that I almost have too many to choose from with various endgames and results as possibilities.

I feel a bit like Rory Gilmore, facing one of her massive pros and cons lists.

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What's the first option? Publishing my book of course!

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But the big problem with this venture is that it could take years to accomplish---and in the meantime pay nothing. I am fully committed to getting my book out into the world, but I know I need something more. As they say, don't quit your day job. What I need, while I investigate and navigate the crazy headwaters that is the publishing world, is something that can pay the bills, give me full financial independence, and not suck my soul out in the process. But what exactly?

One option is to become a freelance writer. I write already for a website, The Winchester Family Business, where I write about the television Supernatural in reviews and other articles. This, however, is a non paying position. That's fine as it can allow me to grow my writing and allow me to share my words with others, but I would also like to write for other publications or sites, too. Much like getting my book published, however, I'm not sure that this option will pay enough to subsist on alone. It'd be mostly a subsidy type income. There is a slim possibility, I suppose, that a site or publication I end up freelancing for could become more or permanent, but to bank on that is foolhardy. I need something much more stable while I explore my world of words. So what else?

Another option is in the non profit field. I would like to change things up. Instead of helping people for the sake of a corporation's bottom line, I'd like to help people for the same of helping people. I love to write and to read, so literacy is the target for my non profit or government agency search. I think, regardless of its over-hyped, so called demise, print media in the form of books is still a vital element of our world. Much is made about the STEM education programs---that being Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math---but each of these become rather useless if you can't communicate to the world what exactly you're trying to do or how your experiment worked. Literacy is just as important!

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I am looking at getting into the Americorps, particularly the Minnesota Reading Corps. It's a 1 to 2 years position involving tutoring children aged 3 through 3rd grade on reading. It is also paid---perhaps not a lot, but still--full time, and at the end can provide a bonus. According to my career services councilor, this bonus can be up to $5000. My guess is you can then apply this money to outstanding student loans or acquiring a master's degree of some sort.

Libraryrobdam


A master's degree. For years I had only considered furthering my BA in Creative Writing---which meant getting an MFA in Creative Writing. It is still an option, I suppose. It could allow me to go into teaching at the university level. It'd allow me some stability while I explore my own writing career---but the con here is that it could be hard to get into a program or get a job afterwards. It might also require me furthering my education even more by getting a Ph. D. So what other Masters could I get? A Masters in Library Science. It'd make me a "Woman of Letters," I suppose. I could go on to working in a public library, a university library, a law or medical library, or a school library. It could help me to get into work within museums or other archives. I've been told that I'd do well in this field and that it might be worth pursuing.

I hesitate only for one reason. Student Loans. The idea of racking up more student debt frightens me. I owe $17,000 still on my BA. I can't imagine what a program for a Masters in Library Science will cost. What type of student debt will I carry after? The other roadblock I've discovered is that there is only one accredited program in my state---really in the whole five state area---that has the gamut of what this Masters offers. That school is St. Catherine in St. Paul Minnesota. The cost is about $850/credit. I don't know what the total would be by the end. But it's something I'd like to look into. It's at least worth researching.

All in all, though, i'm left feeling very confused about what direction to take or where I am exactly headed. I don't want to---and really can't--stay where I am forever, but I just don't know what scary option I should plunge into just yet. I may be venting to myself here, BUT hey, if any of you have any thoughts on all of this, feel free to share. Help someone out of their crossroads---unless you're a Crossroads Demon or Crowley. Then no thanks!

Far Away Eyes

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If you want to get a master's degree, do it in something that you can use beyond academia. Academia is hemorrhaging jobs like nobody's business - it is extremely difficult to find any sort of position with any amount of stability, financially/institutionally/insurance-wise. Tenure-track jobs are becoming a thing of the past, because universities can hire adjuncts for a pitiful portion of what they'd have to pay a full-time professor. And even then it's very difficult to get TT. I have friends with PhDs who are fighting tooth and nail for one- to two-year contract jobs.

Unfortunately, library science is just like law, in that there are a glut of graduates who are still unemployed because jobs are scarce. If you want to go back to school, I'd seriously suggest looking into a trade.

As far as advanced degrees go...speaking as someone who has one (a master's), and speaking as someone who has a lot of college friends who went into grad school, two points. First of all, if you're going to school in the US, find a school that will pay you to attend the program. Yes, they exist. Putting yourself into debt for an advanced degree is a fool's business.

Also - before you go into a PhD program (of any sort), make damn sure that's what you want to do: spend the next five to seven years working for a slave's wage to publish a thesis that may or may not take you any further in life than working retail will. I know retail hell sucks, but the depression that is the void of life in a program you are committed to but hate is 10000x worse. I went for my master's and decided that was enough for me.

Going the Americorps route is probably the smartest of the options you've laid out here. If nothing else, you'll be able to network like crazy (which is what actually counts more than degrees or grades or any of that stuff). I networked my way into my current position(s), which sucks because I wish I could find gainful employment off merit alone, but alas :-/

Thanks for the response.

All of these options are really options at this stage in the game. I am not really committed to any of them (outside the publishing my book and getting into freelance that is). I'd like to do as much research into the rest of the options to see which one fits me best.

My career services counselor told me that it is possible to get into a program that will have reduced tuition by becoming an assistant of some sort, but I still have to look into all of that to figure out if that'd be right, too.

I kinda figured getting an MFA would lead to little more than debt. After all, they say you can't be taught how to write anyways.

I am leaning towards the Americorps, too, if anything to at least build the networking. I sense that it is true that it really does boil down to that. The only issue I have is it is only for 2 years at most. It'd possibly by me some time to find something else, however.

Thanks again for responding!

I completely understand what you mean. I've been in retail for 13 years myself, far longer than I ever thought I would be. Unfortunately, it's not an industry that really cares to develop talent, encourage creative thinking or reward hard work. If writing is what you love and what makes you happy, then I would say keep working towards that goal. Don't be a "lifer."

Thanks for the comment.</p>

I know that I don't want to be a lifer. I actually have another blog to write about why I want out of retail or examining its pros and cons. I'm also looking to do that with every option I mentioned plus some others in deeper detail. I've been struggling---floundering really---despite some progress. I'm sure the only way for me to figure it out is to write my way through it.

Writing truly is my life. It's just making it work as a living that is tricky.


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