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Another 20-something stuck in a rut
June 22, 2012 6:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm an underemployed 20-something stuck in a rut. Input needed, special snowflake details within.

Some background: I have a Bachelor's degree and license in nursing that I'm not interested in using, I currently work on contract basis as a certified massage therapist but no longer want to depend on massage as my sole source of income (because the income is non-existent), and I'm still dealing with residual guilt about having a degree that I basically deluded myself into attaining.

Anyway, I'm at a crossroads. After graduating and flailing around for a while, I've finally realized that I should take time to explore the interests that my heart is drawn to. But I've met an obstacle - possibility paralysis, anyone?

Suffice to say, I don't know where to begin. I'm overwhelmed because I feel like I'm starting over completely now that I'm free to do what I truly want. Money is a priority, at least to alleviate my anxiety about paying my bills, but equally (and possibly more) important is doing something that will help me zero in on what really interests me. I've been thinking a lot lately about occupational therapy, counseling, and public health, and in that vein, I'm taking statistics and a couple of social science courses in the fall at a community college, but that still leaves afternoons free for work or volunteering.

My question is, what's my next step? My mind is so muddled right now, and I need some outside perspective to gain some clarity. Thanks for reading.
posted by constellations to Work & Money (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Volunteering seems like a logical first step to me. I'm not sure where you're located, but maybe your local public health office could recommend volunteer opportunities.

Instead of jumping into another bachelor's degree, maybe you should consider becoming a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) instead of a full-fledged OT. It's an associate's degree so it would go faster than another bachelors. If you liked the work you could always go on for an OT degree later.

What is it about nursing that you dislike? It seems that nursing, OT, and public health would have a lot of similarities. What is it about nursing that you want to avoid?
posted by christinetheslp at 7:53 PM on June 22, 2012


The health and wellness industry is exploding right now - depending on where you are at you might look into health coaching or health advising as a way to check the space out and make some ok money. Check Red Brick, Staywell, Health Fitness, and United Health for opportunities, if in Seattle check limeade... All hiring.
posted by specialk420 at 8:02 PM on June 22, 2012


In your current state, you might want to be careful with getting back on the degree treadmill, whether it's another bachelor's or associate's degree. Especially if it's a very narrowly focused degree that only prepares you for a single, particular job that may not be available in your area by the time you finish that degree.
posted by Nomyte at 8:53 PM on June 22, 2012


Answering from the perspective that I've beeen in a similar place and needed to change careers several times. During my last transition I finally found something that makes me a happier person and I will put some of the steps that I took below (borrow what works for you).

-Brain storming. i liked my area of specialty but didnt like the job or traditional job. So I talked to friends ,read an alternative career bbok for pple with a similar background, and even had an angst filled ask meta to find a new career.

-I made a list of things that I needed at an ideal job plus deal breakers, which included life style (I wanted to pick where I lived, did not want to talk to pple all day, had a min amt that I wanted to earn, etc.) Be honest with yourself and even think 5 years from now. if you dont knownhow to start this, make a list of all jobs that you have had and pick out what you liked and did not like. Stay loyal to this list. Also decide how you want to get there (I did not want to pay for school/wanted to build on my skill set and not start all over again, etc.) But make your own list.

-Talk to people who do what you want to do. So i did info interviews who had my desired job titles. i made sure to drop in questions to make sure the job met my list withthese pples (e.g. Range of pay, describe daily job, etc.)

-Volunteering can be helpful (for me, it only helped eliminate things, but it was useful info )

-Once i picked a direction bc a potential career met my list, the next part wasfinding out how to get there. Info interviews were done again and they really helped (found job titles, key words for cvs, alternate ways to get into the crareer,ect).

-just start the new job. Stay loyal to the list (dont get what you want, go to the next job).

ive had the anxiety in regards to life several times, but i think that it may be useful for ou to just find something that pays bills while you start your search. Brainstorm, talk to people, but....jumping into another career may just be dice rollong (well it was for me). Good luck
posted by Wolfster at 9:03 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a Bachelor's degree and license in nursing that I'm not interested in using... I'm still dealing with residual guilt about having a degree that I basically deluded myself into attaining.

That guilt may well be the root of your paralysis. Your words seem quite charged, "deluded". You may be conflating two different 'you' – that is, you at different points in time. When you chose to take the nursing degree, you probably did so thinking it was a viable career path. Perhaps you had doubts at that moment, however, they were not significant enough for you to not pursue the degree.

Now, you may be looking back at what has happened since, and think "why did I do that? I shouldn't have done that. I knew then that I shouldn't have done that..." Yet none of those things are either true or helpful. We must believe in ourselves, that is to say, that whenever we make decisions, we do so in the belief that those decisions will move us closer to our goals. You can argue all day long about the validity of goals and whatnot, but the fact remains, when you made the original decision, you did the best you could at that time. Things may have changed – it sounds like they have – but it does not serve your future to doubt your past.

You can use the past to inform the future, that is helpful. Yet if you are 1) feeling guilt, and 2) are paralysed, the former may well be causing the latter. You may have the process going on "last time I made a decision, it was not a good decision, so how can I trust myself to make another decision, when it's quite possible the result will be the same?" It is possible, but it's not pre-written. You may well make a much better decision this time because of your concerns about the last decision. Regardless, you cannot let your feelings about the results of last decision put you off from making emphatic decisions moving forward.

Anyway, I'm at a crossroads. After graduating and flailing around for a while, I've finally realized that I should take time to explore the interests that my heart is drawn to. But I've met an obstacle - possibility paralysis, anyone?

Again, charged language. What happens if we change 'flailing' to 'exploring'. Flailing means to struggle uselessly. Have you been struggling uselessly or have you been trying things out, and see what holds your interest. To me, it sounds like the latter. Thus, identifying with the former will not serve you. This relates to the first point in some way, as you feel guilt about your decision to pursue the degree, thus the time after becomes 'useless'. It very much sounds that your paralysis is coming from the fact you are being very hard on yourself at how things have worked out.

If you are okay with where you are right now and can see each decision made in the past contributing to your life journey, you may well undo the paralysis.

Suffice to say, I don't know where to begin. I'm overwhelmed because I feel like I'm starting over completely now that I'm free to do what I truly want. Money is a priority, at least to alleviate my anxiety about paying my bills, but equally (and possibly more) important is doing something that will help me zero in on what really interests me. I've been thinking a lot lately about occupational therapy, counseling, and public health, and in that vein, I'm taking statistics and a couple of social science courses in the fall at a community college, but that still leaves afternoons free for work or volunteering.

There are a few things here that you may do well to prioritise. The first is the difference between money and aspiration. It will feel like a lot to handle both at once, as neither is rooted at the moment. It's like trying to solve the equation (X*Y) = Z. If neither X nor Y is pinned down, it's not so easy to find Z. As soon as you get X or Y pinned down, everything becomes more manageable.

To facilitate this task, you must make peace with your decision for your degree, and your experience since, for that is the root of the feeling that you are completely starting over. You're not completely starting over, because you have a very rich base of experience to draw from... if you can see that experience as 'good' rather than 'wasted'. As long as you see it negatively, you will be blocked from using it.

Thus, starting over completely is a choice you are making. You can easily make the other choice, that this is the next chapter in your book. The main character (you) builds on the story from the last chapter, although this part of the story may well take the plot in a totally different direction.

I see a direct connection between nursing, massage, occupational therapy, counselling, and public health. All involve an interest in helping people to feel better and manage their mental/physical experiences. All require care, discretion, commitment, and openness. All are socially-relevant pursuits. There is a lot of variation within the spectrum as well, from directly working with individuals to working at a policy level. There is also the theme of pain relief. If that is your goal, the first pain to relieve is that of yourself and your guilt. Let the guilt go and I bet you'll have a better go at finding your momentum (it's there, whether you honour it or not) and moving to the next chapter.

Good luck!
posted by nickrussell at 4:14 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


nickrussell - Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed response. I definitely needed that kind of analysis rather than specific career advice. You've really helped me understand and reframe my thinking, and I'm certain I'll be able to move forward with a much lighter weight on my shoulders. Thanks again.
posted by constellations at 10:03 AM on June 23, 2012


I just wanted to chime in that Husbunny is a former RN and he changed careers, so I get that you don't want to use the nursing degree, however, there is so much money there, and so much flexibility that in the interim, it seems such a waste to write the whole thing off.

There are all kinds of ways to use your degree, administrative work, you can pick up shifts PRN, it pays great and you only work when you need to/want to. Husbunny did a telephonic nursing job where he just called folks and discussed their chronic conditions. There are also nurse/educator jobs, where you counsel folks one on one in a clinical setting, regarding diabetes, asthma, hypertension, etc.

Husbunny HATED nursing, but if you don't hate it, perhaps while you are on your existential quest, you can find a branch of nursing you enjoy, to pay the bills.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:55 PM on June 23, 2012


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