I can go anywhere and do anything, what do I do?
April 2, 2013 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Should I join the Coast Guard? No really, I suddenly find myself with no ties to anywhere or anyone in life. I have no lease. I have a boatload of medical debt, and about $100k in law school loans. I am currently in SF, but willing to change that. What should my next move be?

So, I recently broke up with my boyfriend of many years. I am on medical leave from my job, but my doctors have told me that in their opinion, I should never go back. I'm pretty close to all the way mentally and physically healthy though, and working hard on getting back in the awesome shape I was in before the medical issues. Skills include basic tech start-up stuff (not programming, but doing the "everything else in the company" part. Also, I'm a licensed attorney, but not in CA, and I'd prefer to be the only lawyer in my life for a while. I can do everything from writing a contract (or a poem) to managing an international team of tech support workers.

A lawyer friend in a similar situation became an Army medic and loves it (just finished first tour in Afghanistan). I am willing to consider extreme life-change suggestions like that.

So, what should I do next?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Go teach English overseas. S. Korea is a haven for first timers, but there are lots of opportunities in other countries if you're willing to do a bit of training. Also, not sure about your age or location, but you may be eligible for working holiday visas in places like Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Italy...

Other ideas: become a tree planter or wildfire firefighter. Or at least try a new city.

I don't know about your debt situation, but if you can have your debt set up on a manageable payment plan then you can do any of these things. Good luck.
posted by hamandcheese at 9:27 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you ask the mods to amend this to put in more about your interests and dreams? Some people might like to join the circus, but would hate to teach English in Guatemalan villages. Others, vice versa. Do you like learning? Helping people? Adventure? Are you private or public? Do you have any major phobias? Are you a spiritual person? Tell us a little about yourself so we can come up with good ideas.
posted by latkes at 9:31 PM on April 2, 2013

If this person is American, s/he cannot do a working holiday visa (...aside from the fact that I discourage people from teaching EFL because they need something to do rather than having learned how to do so).
posted by wintersweet at 9:37 PM on April 2, 2013

Have you considered the Peace Corps? Have you considered being a skilled migrant? Work in the trades? You have options upon options.

I seriously considered joining the military (at the suggestion of my family) when I was younger (free two years learning another language! travel! money!) . My brother was sent to Iraq three times. After he went off to Iraq the first time, my mother thanked me for not listening to her advice to join the military. I am so thoroughly glad I ended up deciding that I wanted the legal freedom to make my own decisions about what I do with my own body.

I know someone who joined the coast guard and although they absolutely hated the military aspect of it, they loved that they had the good luck to be one of the people whose job it was to explicitly help save lives (locally, in the USA). And now they're back in school on the Coast Guard's dime. So I see the appeal but unt-unh. no way no how never ever. From my perspective, the military is what you join when you believe there are no other options. You've made it through law school. You know how to do research when the need arises. You know there are other options. Let this Ask.Me thread be encouragement to keep looking; you'll find them.

I'll say just it one more time. You'll find a way to pay off that debt. You can make it happen. There are options.
posted by aniola at 10:15 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Wintersweet: hamandcheese is correct. I am American and have recently held a working holiday visa.
posted by aniola at 10:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might consider the teaching English overseas thing. If you don't mind getting a certification first, and if you can handle the cultural shock, my understanding is that schools in wealthy Arab countries love highly educated English speakers. You might be able to pull a few years of being a highly paid ESL teacher and use that to pay down a huge chunk of your debt.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:41 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

With $100k in law school debt, you sound like me ($91k in grad school debt). I got on an Income Based Repayment plan and will be working in public service so that the remaining debt is discharged in 10 years. You won't even need to pay anything on the discharged amount like you would need to pay if you did the non-public service discharge after 25 years. It's basically the only way to get rid of student loan debt without paying the full amount. I am currently researching American companies abroad where I can work and still meet PSLF criteria. I've considered The Peace Corps and teaching english abroad. Also wwoofing or learning a trade. Basically, anything that is the opposite of my soul-sucking office job now.

And honestly, if it were me, I would file for bankruptcy to discharge the medical debt. I know it's not the most ethical of decisions, but it's an option.
posted by Nickel at 11:50 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Foreign Service Officer? Our ranks are filled with former lawyers and law school grads.
posted by whitewall at 1:47 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Taiwan also want English teachers and they don't have the same, er, potential of hostilities as that of South Korea.
posted by holloway at 2:19 AM on April 3, 2013

Yes, join a branch of the military. With your legal background, you will be coveted and have more ability than others to map out your career path.
posted by lstanley at 5:59 AM on April 3, 2013

When making such a decision, I would suggest incorporating as much silence into your life as you can. Cut out as much noise/content as possible (i.e. tv, radio, news, podcasts, surfing, .......metafilter) and see what surfaces/dissipates after a few days/weeks/months.
posted by mrmarley at 6:43 AM on April 3, 2013

Little known branch of the U.S. military, and I believe the only un-armed branch, is the National Health Service Corp. If you want to get rid of your debt but are not sure you're in for the full-on military experience, they do all kinds of neat things and as Nickel pointed out, you would be eligible for the Income Based Repayment plan.


Also, after reading this thread about joining the FBI, apparently being in decent shape and having a JD greatly enhance your chances of employment.
posted by forkisbetter at 10:21 AM on April 3, 2013

NOAA also has a uniformed service. I think forkisbetter meant the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, not the NHSC.

It is hard to say what to do next. Is it reducing debt? Trying something new? Travel? One of the best pieces of career advice I've been given was to imagine the kind of environment and culture I felt comfortable in, then to try to find jobs that had those.
posted by QIbHom at 11:20 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry! Last I'd heard, the US did not get WHVs because we did not grant WHVs. (It looks like we have a sort-of-WHV program extended by certain countries. At any rate, it's worth looking into for the OP.)
posted by wintersweet at 6:29 PM on April 6, 2013

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