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Calling all Careers - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Calling all Careers
I'm seriously considering a career change.

That probably sounds like it's coming out of the blue, but honestly, I haven't been the same since Disney. Artistically, while I still draw well and still basically enjoy the act of drawing, I feel no desire to do it. More troubling is the fact that I feel no desire to improve. All the fire that drove me is ashes.

A career can be good and worthwhile without being a lifelong pursuit. I never thought about the 'after' of pursuing animation. My ultimate goal was to work for Disney. I assumed it would take a lifetime, but I made it there at 21 and was tired of it by 22.

I'm not even sad.

If there's anything about this I don't like, it's that I've still got the ability, and I feel like it's going to waste. I'd sell my talent if I could. I'd even give it away just to see it used, because I'm sure it'd bring pleasure to someone. I feel the urge to do something new, something practical. Even when I genuinely enjoyed my work I couldn't help but feel I wasn't contributing anything of value to the world, I was just another hack making commercial art to be glanced at and discarded.

The problem is that after ten years of nothing but design / animation / illustration, that's all I know how to do. Sideways steps out of this industry are nonexistant. Whatever I do now will require me to go back to the beginning - start again. Still, my mother went back to uni when I was twelve. I don't even have kids yet; she did, and she managed. I've been talking about doing this for years. If there's a time for it, that time is now. Living down here is ridiculously cheap and jobs are surprisingly plentiful for anyone with half a brain. If I wanted to I could walk into a position at Subway tomorrow. I might actually do that, at least until the end of the year, just to put a bit more bread on the table. Haha, sammich joke.

The question now is this: What do I do with myself? Where do my interests lie? What might I be good at? What am I not capable of?

As a child my backup career ideas included veterinarian, author, police officer and psychologist. While those options still interest me, practicality has knocked each of them out of consideration, sometimes in ways that surprised me.

There are no courses for this in Tasmania - not even Vet Tech courses (and I'd happily settle for vet nurse; I'd probably even prefer it). Joe and I gave up too much to get ourselves here and we are not going back to the mainland for years just so I can study this. So it's crossed off.

This is not a viable career choice; it's like counting on winning the lotto. I'll continue writing in my free time as I have been, but I won't waste years studying this. If what I write is good enough for publication, I'll be published with or without a degree. Furthermore, the closest thing to a Creative Writing major on offer in Tasmania is made up of units that are basically irrelevant wank-fests rather than targeted towards improving fiction writing skills; this is the kind of meandering meaninglessness that gives the B Arts a bad name. So that's crossed off, for now.

I've toyed with this one a couple of times. But I'm 28 now, turning 29 this year, and I don't think I can afford to promise the next four years of my life to full-time study. I had hoped I might have children someday. If I'm studying until I'm 33, and then just beginning a career, I don't see much room left for motherhood - and I don't want to rule out that option just yet. So at this time in my life, psych is out.

Police Officer:
You know, I was genuinely excited about this one. I love practical problem-solving. The older I get the more I enjoy the physical, and based on my current workouts compared to the physical requirements listed for policing, I could get in without a problem at the level of fitness I've reached right now (and that level is on the uprise). Disasters, rather than upsetting me, leave me feeling simultaneously calm and excited, and I respond with more clarity at those times than any other. Past incidences - the time I was first on scene at a car accident, the time I faced down a charging bull, the time dad fell off the roof and split his heel open, the incident with our drunken abusive flatmate back in 2001 - I took all those things in my stride and a part of me actually enjoyed the situation every time. Additionally, I'm well-spoken and well-written, prepared to study to advance in my field, I don't mind paperwork, and I'm already well-armoured against abusive language from a childhood of public schooling on the charmingly bogan Sunshine Coast. Know why I had to check this one off the list? The police won't take applicants who are colourblind.

Yep, you heard me. Mildly colourblind, I can spend ten years as an artist but apparently I can't wield a set of handcuffs. I've already vented my outrage - but it's still ridiculous. It's not like I'm trying to become a pilot or join the bomb squad.

So that pretty much wiped out all my initial ideas. I'm not left with much. After some poking around today I came up with two additional options:

Natural Environment & Wilderness Studies:
A three-year degree run through UTAS, this appeals because it's outdoor work and it offers a broad range of potential jobs, from tour guide operator through to park ranger. Living in Tasmania, it's hard not to adore being outdoors. Practically every time I leave the house I see something that makes me happy. Some days I see things that steal the breath right out of my lungs. Three years is still a long time, though.

Paramedic Practice:
This is the top of my list right now. It's a two-year degree in which one studies while learning on-the-job with the Tasmanian Ambulance Service. Pretty sure that's how it works, anyway; it's a little unclear from the sometimes-contradictory materials online. I'm going to call them for clarification and detailed application guidelines.

I think I'd still rather do police work, but as that's not an option, this is the closest alternative. I've never had a problem with blood and all the same reasoning about high-stress situations I applied to police work applies here.

- I've never been drawn toward health before and I'm not sure I'd enjoy it now. Arguably, though, being a paramedic is more about immediate problem solving and maintaining life so that others can take over the long, slow job of healing.
- I've never seen a dead body, nor any injury more serious than a deep wound or two. I've never been faced with someone screaming in unending agony. I do not know how I'd react to that.
- I also don't know how I'd cope emotionally if someone died on my watch.

- Paid work while learning.
- Practical, on-the-job learning - I get the sense that this course isn't as much of a time-waster as certain other courses I've been looking at.
- Blood has never bothered me. I've never fainted in my life.
- Smooth transition from study to full-time work.
- Applicable to everyday life. I'd sure feel better about long hikes and having children if I had the skillset of a paramedic.
- The hours are similar to those I worked when I was an online customer service supervisor for that dodgy e-casino. Four long days on (two day shifts, two night shifts) followed by four days off. I loved those hours, LOVED them. Of all the jobs I've had, I think I miss the casino one the most, purely because of the working conditions.
- Well-structured options for career advancement.
- Reasonable pay scale. Not fantastic but many opportunities for promotion.
- Every day would be different.
- I'd feel like I was making a genuine difference to people's lives.

From what I'm reading online, I'd get into the course just fine. And the questions left hanging - can I cope with this work? - are the kind that can't be answered until I leap in and find out. Additionally, part of the training is about how to cope. I'm not a stupid person, and I'm relatively emotionally stable - more so now for having had a hiccup in the past. Two of my friends are paramedics, they've both already seen some pretty unpleasant incidents, and they both adore the work anyway.

I don't see why I can't do this. I think I might like to try.
15 have fought ~ fight the power!
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: August 24th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I think being a paramedic might be the ticket. I don't think anyone's ever prepared for that sort of gore, that's why they train you for it and hope for the best. It's not like most of those students have ever seen someone's arm off before. If you're the type who reacts well under pressure and doesn't act like a deer in headlights in a time sensitive situation, you'll be fine.

Perhaps in pursuing something totally not art related you'll find your passion for art again, but just as a no-pressure hobby :)
tania From: tania Date: August 24th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC) (Link)
That would be a nice perk. The 'renewed passion for art' thing, I mean, not the 'oops his arm fell off' bit. ;)
aibo From: aibo Date: August 24th, 2010 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)
My favorites from the lists are Natural Environment & Wilderness Studies, and Psychologist. The first one because you live environment, and also because this education will give you a wide range of options and tasks that you can adapt even when having children. And you could profit from your experiences in freelancer working.

Psychologist - just because I think you would make a great one that actually works with people. And if working from home, it would well fit with any motherhood plans as well. Drawback - you will have to maintain a regular schedule over a long period of time. I am sure you are aware of that, but remember that if you take Psychology seriously, it means that things may will take its time, and you will have patients getting literally attached to you for years, and you won't probably not like all of them.

Paramedic - I don't think you want that. Yes, it is a 180 degree change of your current lifestyle, yes it gives you a lot of responsibility that you definitely would manage. But then again, I see issues you had in previous jobs - starting from high workload, pressure all the time, and, most important, frustrations caused by stress, patients, a salary that does not necessarily pays of for all the trouble. This might work for you as I can see you still performing well under pressure, sometimes even better, but in the long term, you hate ongoing frustration and pressure. But medical service is, in my eyes, something like a lifetime profession.

My personal favorite in your list is the Natural Environment & Wilderness stuff. It just looks like you, can't help:-)


tania From: tania Date: August 25th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I have given the stress thing a lot of thought - but Joe observed that my stress in art jobs comes not from the work itself, but from frustration with bad management and repetition. Boredom and frustration = stress, for me. I suspect the variety and the short sharp bursts of tension in paramedic work would be better for me than the grind of design.

As for the salary, the original list I found was outdated by a few years - I googled up the current one and I have to say, it's decent money. After four years of paramedic work I'd be earning at the same pay grade it took me almost ten years to reach in design.

Heck, just in my first year as a paramedic student I'd be earning more than I ever earned in my first six years in design.

The other issue to consider is that Natural Environment & Wilderness jobs are highly competitive - there are very few positions. Whereas there are often shortages in Health (especially nursing, but I don't want that level of personal attachment with patients, that WOULD trouble me).

Someone pointed out I could join as a volunteer for a while, but the volunteers require you to have a licence outright, whereas I won't have mine 'til June next year - which should be fine for the uni course but obviously that's too late for the volunteering. Decisions, decisions - I'm going to have to ring up these guys and discuss my options.

Big hugs! And thank you for your thoughts!
rahball From: rahball Date: August 24th, 2010 10:50 am (UTC) (Link)
That's such a poo about the colourblind issue.

But maybe ambulance workers have less stupid "office politics" to deal with than police officers? Like, you always hear about these dumb directives coming down from management, and judges letting off the criminals they worked so hard to catch, not to mention drunken idiots wasting everyone's time (not that a significant proportion of an ambulance worker's time wouldn't be spent mucking about with them too)...

So, yeah, maybe a similar amount of crap from the people on the street, but a reduced amount from colleagues?

My secret career ambition is to be one of those ghouls that cuts up dead people in the morgue. :)
rahball From: rahball Date: August 24th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Also, having a science degree, I am yet to be convinced that it is a useful route to jobs in the tree-hugging / fish-hugging (etc.) sector. You always have to do extensive volunteer work to get actual employment, and it's likely that they'll still be paying you monkey peanuts, degree or no degree. As for academia, way too stressful and demanding, and you have to constantly beg for money.
tania From: tania Date: August 24th, 2010 11:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Those are my concerns precisely.

Re the potential stress of paramedic work, I think it'd be a different kind of stress to what I experienced in design jobs. The stress in those jobs came from bad management and being forced to redo work that was suitable the first time (the redos, non-art management edicts from above, usually ruined the piece). That led to stress borne of frustration. I actually think I'd be far better at handling the immediacy of the stress that'd come with being a paramedic.

Good point re police and frustrating management, I hadn't thought of that - and it's something I'd like to avoid! See this is why I ask advice on my LJ, yougiys always manage to teachme something new!
saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: August 24th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I sympathize. I've been feeling this way a lot too, and it unsettles me because I've wanted to be an artist my entire life without question. Unfortunately, my ideal alternate career choice (marine biology) probably wouldn't be much more lucrative, and I'd have to do at least another 4 years of school, which I currently can't afford.

In my situation, I'm hoping the issue is just that I'm not really doing the type of art I enjoy. I've been working in the Flash gaming industry since I graduated college and only two years of that was enough to convince me that I hate working in Flash, and it's killed my motivation to do any art outside of work. My hope is once I can eventually switch back to actual illustration (I wanted to be a children's book illustrator) I'll rediscover that passion.

I feel like you and I share a similar problem: we get bored easily. At least that's what I've gathered from your journal entries. Whenever we start something new, it seems exciting and fresh, but after a while of doing it, it just loses its shine and we feel stagnant. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It continuously pushes me to learn and have new experiences, but it certainly can be frustrating in terms of trying to do something long-term, like manage a career. :/

Actually just yesterday I was looking online and discovered MIT provides free course material on their website (all the lecture notes, assignments, and assignment answers). Maybe check online for similar things in your fields of interest? It seems like a great way to start dabbling in learning a particular subject without having to fork over the money for an education until you're sure you've picked the field that interests you?
saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: August 24th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
And honestly, I wish there were some practical way to "test out" careers. My boyfriend and I were just discussing this the other day. We wish there were some way you could just...try out different careers throughout your lifetime until you find the right one, instead of a career being something you have to plan for from the start and build up over the years.
tania From: tania Date: August 25th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I've always felt the same! It's INSANITY to expect an 18-year-old to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives! This is why we see so many uni dropouts and early twentysomethings on the dole. Hell, I was more ambitious and had more direction than the vast majority of 18-year-olds and, looking back, I was a bloody idiot myself - imagine how tough it is on those who really have no idea what they want to do!

They try to give kids a little experience in high schools here, but it's very half-assed: students get to spend a week or two doing work experience with a business of their choice. The only businesses to choose from are the ones willing to have a student hanging around - so it's not a huge list. If you wanted to do work experience somewhere really specific or unusual (a laboratory, marine biology, animation), you'd be hard-pressed to find a placement.

I actually developed a 'rotation year' in the schooling of one of the societies I created for my book, during which students who've graduated from general schooling get to spend a couple of months at a time working in different fields. This allows them to figure out what they enjoy, and allows the supervisors of those jobs to identify students who work well in those roles. The society in question is very much a cogs-in-the-machine sort of thing so it's important that they work out who should be placed where as early as possible, and that they get it right the first time. I still think something like that could work well in the real world, but Joe points out that it's not likely to happen in a capitalist society.

I agree re getting bored easily - I KNOW I'm like that. I think I might be the sort of person who'll have more than one career in her lifetime. I can see myself having three! An 'irresponsible youth' career (animation), an 'active middle-age' career, and an 'intellectual mature' career.

I've been doing my research, and one of the comments a lot of paramedics make is that the job is always different. Every single day is different. I think that might be one way I could fight the boredom issue.

Re trying it on for size, there is a volunteer ambulance service here, but I need my licence to get in - and I won't have my P's (complicated Australian licencing system, don't ask) until mid next year. I'm still researching to find out if I can do the uni course on my P's, but it rules out the volunteer work in the meantime. And if it turns out I need my opens from the very start of the uni course, I won't be able to get in until the start of 2013, as I won't graduate to full opens until mid-2012. That could definitely throw a spanner in the works.
(Deleted comment)
tania From: tania Date: August 25th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
They have that here too - volunteer fire and ambulance depts - and I'd love to sign up but they require you to hold an open licence from the get-go, and I'm still on my Provisionals.

I have to call the formal (non-volunteer) service and uni so I can find out if I can actually do the uni course on my P's. P's mean you can drive unsupervised, but while on the P1 (which I will be from June '11 to June '12) you're limited to 80km/hr. If this means I can't do the course, I guess it's another option ruled out. Hoboy.
cassu_bean From: cassu_bean Date: August 25th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Such an interesting read and it sucks about the Police Force. Sometimes I think about giving up an arts-based career but it mostly due to finances, not a lack of passion. In your situation it's different and I think it's a great idea to find something else you and enjoy and are good at.
I wouldn't feel bad about 'throwing your talent away' either because I'm sure there are heaps of other things you're good at too and it's your gift, not anyone's elses.' What you choose to do with it is up to you. :D
alby_lion From: alby_lion Date: August 25th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I should send you my "Leaving LA/Walking and Thinking" CD mix. It's full of good change-of-career songs. :P Actually I think you might enjoy it.

Even when I genuinely enjoyed my work I couldn't help but feel I wasn't contributing anything of value to the world, I was just another hack making commercial art to be glanced at and discarded.
In all fairness, the in-betweening in TLK 1.5 was superb, especially the bit you did. I noticed that before I knew you worked on it. "Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed ended up looking okay. Same with Timon and Simba and Pumbaa. I was afraid Simba would look different throughout the movie like he did in TLK, but he was a solid object, and perfectly designed." from my LJ Feb 15, 2004 <3

I want to say that it's utter bullshit that they won't let colourblind folks on the force. I mean, I can see how it might be useful if you had to give testimony on the colour of shirt the guy was wearing, but . . . I dunnow; seems like an overlookable requirement in Tassie. Not like it's the LAPD where you're getting sued for racism every day.

I know you got your app in with UTAS, and I think that would be a great job for you. In the meantime, what do you think about office work?

Aside from that, I wanted to say what I always say in these matters: 'Follow your heart. You'll end up right where you belong,' and 'If you truly enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.'
alby_lion From: alby_lion Date: August 25th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you're interested http://www.sendspace.com/file/qnzzhj

I'm not sure what your taste in music is, but most of these are mainstream. I like them all at least.
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: August 25th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's not out of the question... I did it too, and it's working out.

The world likes to categorize us as one thing, but we can be many, and good at many if need be, usually. If your calling changes, here's hoping it'll be a good transition for ya :>
15 have fought ~ fight the power!