The High Road to Nowhere

As a 30 something year old I have begun to change perspective on where I’ve been heading most of my life. When I was under 18, that was the age that I aspired to; then it was 21. I wasn’t particularly concerned about aspiring to any certain accomplishment. I had the rest of my life for that. I knew that I wanted to have children while in my mid-twenties and still young enough to chase them. I knew I wanted to be an artist, and I wanted to be successful.

 

Once out of high school and into college, I was forced to overcome many fears that otherwise may have prohibited true independence such as negotiating college financing and a four-month trip abroad to Seville, Spain with no one I knew. I was able to refine some art and social skills or at least to become more comfortable with myself socially. Whether others would agree, I can’t say. With that final Bachelor’s Degree I should be set or at least I thought.

 

Although I studied graphic design and received a small annual scholarship for graphic design, it was more fine art that I loved and related to. Even now I look at the circles and shapes in advertising and know that I could do that but wonder why anybody would. Upon my first job interview with a small newspaper, I was defeated. I lacked some confidence and rightfully so. I had never worked for an agency or had the opportunity of an internship afforded to those who studied fine art or those who could afford it as a $900 extra; chump change now, but a big deal for me at that time. I confessed to my interviewer that I would be able to learn from others but didn’t know it all yet. I lacked the two years of experience that all graphic design positions require and my four years devoted to studying it were tossed aside as irrelevant. I made a few attempts to find employment as a designer since that point but without success. With no trouble at all I was hired for a major retailer.

 

With passing time came increasing distance from my goals and obsolescence of my degree. I made an attempt in 2004, a year after my college graduation, to return to school and gain a teaching certificate. I was able to complete two courses during which I realized I was pregnant. I couldn’t imagine continuing school with a new baby to care for a stopped taking classes.

 

During and after my first baby’s birth, I worked part-time for the retailer swinging shifts with my husband who worked in HVAC. I was promoted to a part-time customer supervisor and during this time had my second child. Two years from the date that I started with them my husband had lost his job, and I was fortunate to be promoted again to an assistant manager. I had to relocate at that time and long hours and crying babies meant hard times. The next 8 years I spent devoting myself to work with a little of the family stuff snuck in.

 

As a manager one of the first things you lose are holidays except Christmas day with my family. This was one of the hardest challenges to overcome. Not only did I regret not being there to share in family festivities but also I feared about not being present to watch my children, drunk drivers on the road, neglectful eyes, who knows. I had no choice but to deal with it so I felt.

This reality has brought me to the question on several occasions, why can’t I be a stay at home mom. Did women’s liberation ruin this forever? Two of my neighbors, while I was a customer service manager, were young mothers staying at home, collecting state aid, and running daycares from their apartments. Their husband’s made decent incomes, and they were comfortably getting by. I never felt I could afford this. A college loan, auto insurance, phone bill, rent, day care, formula, diapers, credit cards, medical bills…

 

My husband got a new job a few months after we moved with my promotion. He wasn’t a great stay at home dad anyway. I came home to sticky floors and counters and a pile of clothing on my side of the bed regularly. With his new job day care was our newest expense at about $600 per child per a month. One child was two and one was three. Changes came again with a new change to my work rotation. I would work 12 hour shifts and no longer be able to pick my children up after day care on those days. I would work a rotating schedule so day care charged me for a full week. With the newest schedule change my only choice was to move home with my parents for their support picking up the kids. Over the last several years, daycare became gradeschool. Little else has changed except we’re all getting older. My parents have become less physically able to help, but my children are also becoming more independent.

 

I’ve managed to sneak in a little painting and keep up with the latest Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and put out a few applications as well hoping to jump back to my original path, but in the last few years I only managed one interview. The typical response that I receive is simply that I’m not qualified. I spent a few months substitute teaching on my days off until I was promoted again. Now I have an hour commute each way on top of a 12 hour shift. No big deal though if you ask any of the other managers doing this. I’m left to wonder, “Where has life gone without me? Why does family mean so little to so many that time-off is a dirty word? How can there be work-life balance when the largest portion of waking hours is spent working and time-off is spent catching up on sleep, housework, grocery shopping, doctors appointments, and homework?” I am proud of what I have accomplished, but I feel a sense of failure with the passing of my dream and that sense of family during the Holidays that I always anticipated as a child. I can’t share that with my children, and I don’t explore my passions as I would like to in art, but I dream and have a paycheck. After all, art is only a hobby unless you are making money with it right? I still dream Leonardo and am attempting at http://creationcreatures.com.

Beth Marie

 

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