Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Changing Directions

I'm thinking of changing careers. Well, I have been thinking about it. For the past ten years, in fact.

I've always wanted to write, so about a year ago, I dabbled in some magazine writing for a few months. It was a decent experience. I got to meet and talk to a bunch of notable people and see my name in print. It was hard to justify the time I put into it, though, for the pay I received. ($200 for an article I spent 2 weeks interviewing, organizing, and writing.) And writing about other people didn't feel as satisfying as writing about my own life. Not that I'm so self-absorbed, but I think writing is a very personal process for me. It helps me to sort out my thoughts, see aspects of my life in a different light, find the words and definition for some of my experiences. Magazine writing just didn't do those things for me -- and why should it? I'm starting to think that I don't need to write professionally -- not full time anyway -- at least not right now. I'm very content with the writing I do on this blog (when I do write, that is). And even though I sometimes feel the angst to do something bigger with it, I'm not quite sure what that is yet. So with my writing, I think I may just keep it at this level for now -- without the pressure to make it into something bigger than it needs to be.

I've considered the idea of doing litigation part time -- which is more or less what I've been doing for the past two years. It's not a bad career. The pay can be quite generous and I can work somewhat flexible hours. I also work from home without a secretary or a paralegal, and have found it to be much more manageable than I had expected. The problem, I'm finding, is that it really cuts into the state of mind I want to have to be a mom. Because it's so adversarial, I sometimes get nasty emails or letters in the middle of my day when I'm playing with little T. It casts a dark shadow over me -- even if it's for thirty minutes -- and I resent the emotional intrusion into my time with my little guy. I never minded before I became a mom, but now I feel the need to protect my state of mind so that I can be the kind of mom I want to be.

Lately -- maybe because I had such a great experience with my therapist -- I've been thinking about going to get a masters in psychology and doing some kind of counseling. I understand that it's a two year program, and I may have to spend an extra year doing some type of internship. In part, I'm drawn to the idea because I think it would help me personally to study some of those subjects and to understand it -- and myself -- better. I think it would also help me to be a better mom and wife. But I also like the idea of talking to people in a very meaningful way and helping them see themselves or their lives from a different -- and more constructive -- angle. I'm not sure if I'm equipped to do something like that. My therapist was just so amazing at keeping track of all the details that I just spewed out to her -- and so generous in speaking to me from a position of warmth. With my background in litigation, I'm more equipped to be confrontational and rule-driven, rather than supportive and warm.

Of course, I am also concerned about starting a new career when I am almost 40. It will take me a few months to prepare for the GREs and apply to schools. Once I apply, I think I have to wait until the following fall to start. So I will most likely start my program when I am almost 42. That seems quite old -- but then I think of people who were in law school with me -- people who had full careers before. Walter Pincus - the journalist for the Washington Post - was in the evening program at Georgetown when I was there, and I believe he was in his 60s at the time. And then I also think about continuing with law simply because I started in it, and it seems like a horrible waste of time. I tend to think of my last 12 years practicing law as a waste of time. I've justified it to myself, and it hasn't all been negative -- but on the whole, I feel that I have very little to show for my time being a lawyer.

I think it would be horrible to have lived my whole life being just a lawyer. I don't want that to be my obituary. Somewhere inside, there is a part of me that is very ambitious. To do something meaningful with my life. Not to discount being a mother or a wife, but to do something in a larger sense. Sometimes when I read other people's wikipedia entries, I think, I could have done that. And then I tell myself that I still can.

In my case, I think being a mom and now being pregnant with no. 2 heightens my sense of urgency in figuring out my career. I don't want to fall into the trap of being so bogged down with child care -- and prioritizing my children's needs ahead of all else -- that I forget to think about this before it feels too late.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that I would like to accomplish in my life. A part of it is driven by a fear of living meaninglessly -- something I thought my parents did when they worked day in and day out in a dry cleaners, without any humor or acceptance -- simply for the sake of making a living. And it is hard to pinpoint exactly how one goes about finding meaning in one's work. Maybe it's about finding something that aligns with one's values.

I've decided to take Jeff's suggestion, though, and talk to any many people as I can who are therapists -- and see whether they enjoy their work, and what they like about it. If anyone out there is a therapist, I would love to pick your brain!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crossing My Fingers

Strangest turn of events. I am pregnant again. This time, after hardly trying. We had talked about trying for no. 2 -- and after much deliberation, mapped out the best time to start trying. When the little guy is 8 months old? No, that's too soon. How about at 10 months. Maybe that's better. You think that's good? Don't you? You don't think that may be a little too late? I'll be almost 40 by then. Maybe 8 months is better. Yeah, maybe that's better.

Little T's eighth month came and went. And we weren't really doing much about it. Work was busy, and I wasn't looking forward to being bogged down with pregnancy slumber. Three months later, we still weren't trying. Which seemed to matter little at the time. Except that I missed the pounds that came off from breast feeding.

Now, a month after T turned one, I find myself pregnant. I hardly even kept track of my periods -- and the other day, I suddenly realized that I hadn't had my period the whole time we've been in San Diego. And we've been in San Diego for exactly one month.

So I rushed out and bought some pregnancy test sticks. And tested myself -- and was amazed to find myself pregnant. Not that I had such difficulty getting pregnant the first time around. I had more difficulty staying pregnant. But here I am -- pregnant once again.

The first thought that ran through my mind was how horribly I've been eating for the past months. Hot dogs. Daily cups of coffee. Occasional glasses of wine. Hardly any vegetables -- except bits of olives, mushrooms, and onions on my pizza. And not a single vitamin. For some reason, my diet had been worse than usual. I'll blame it on the move and my hectic schedule.

I remember reading about how spina bifida is determined during the first few weeks of gestation. And how I am low on my folic acid.

I started popping my vitamins again like an addict. I made a big vat of creamed broccoli soup -- for me, little T, and No. 2 -- which I downed along with celery sticks and carrots. I stopped the coffee cold turkey, and caught myself as I started shoving soft cheese and crackers down my throat. And warned Jeff that I would no longer be picking up bottles of pinot noir on my trips to Whole Foods.

It's time to get back on the regimen -- whatever it takes to ensure the well being of this little person growing inside of me. And cross my fingers that this one is a keeper.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heading South

A month ago, we celebrated our little guy's one year birthday. We rented a hall along the Bay, invited our friends, decorated the place with paper lanterns and custom made posters of the little guy's past 12 months, and laid out enough food and cake to feed all the smiling faces. We put the little guy in a hanbok and made him pick from an assortment of objects - following in a Korean tradition that I know little about -- more for kicks than anything else. When he picked the piggy bank, symbolizing a life of wealth, and the crowd broke out in laughter, we knew we have an entertainer on our hands.

The day after, we loaded our station wagon with our luggage, bottles of water and leftover cake, an umbrella stroller, and enough toys to last the upcoming drive. I packed our little guy in his car seat, and my parents piled in. We left Jeff behind to deal with the moving company - and all the leftovers in the fridge until he was ready to follow suit a couple of days later.

Around 11am, we started driving. Away from the home I had known for the past six years, away from the city I had loved for the past eleven. We drove straight down 280 and then to 101, past Daly City where I had regularly stopped for Hawaiian plate lunches, past the airport I had often hovered over before landing, past all the exits that led to houses of our friends and acquaintances. We stopped in Paso Robles for lunch and proceeded to Santa Barbara for the night. The next day, we kept driving, until we reached La Jolla.

For the past month, I have been calling La Jolla home -- from a rental that we have for the next six months while we try to figure out whether to become Southern Californians for good. Out of our master bedroom upstairs, we overlook the Pacific -- a view more stunning than any I have ever known. We are surrounded by palm trees and people in flip flops. Guys and gals tote surf boards, as casually as if they were carrying laptops. On the freeway, we drive past convertibles -- and monster trucks.

To try to fit in, we have made a concerted effort not to wear any foot gear other than flip flops. I have yet to tuck a surf board under my arm, but Jeff has been going to work regularly with a boogie board and a beach towel in his trunk. We have strolled up and down the streets of Bird Rock, a little enclave of La Jolla, and hit many of the take-out joints in Pacific Beach - but have yet to brave the bars where we see women clad in bikinis and men in cut offs partying as if they were in a John Cusack film.

The past month has passed in a blur. The first few days were dedicated to unpacking and sorting out our material possessions to approximate some state of stability even as our two car garage remains filled with unpacked boxes and plastic bins. Then the dam of work I had put up while our lives took their course broke and I have been drowning in it since. Even though we hired a part time nanny to help us, we don't know what we would have done if my parents hadn't put their own lives on hold to help us with the transition.

Yesterday, I took the day off. We piled in the car and drove one exit over to Sea World. Once there, we pressed our palms against the glass panes and marveled at the orca whales swimming past us. We lathered sun screen on the little guy and braved the sun to watch the dolphin show. And giggled at the sea lions barking for more food. Later, we gobbled up ice cream bars shaped like Shamu.

I purchased an annual membership to the place - and the second year is for free. So until little T turns three -- and if we find ourselves lucky enough to make this our new home -- we'll be there regularly, befriending the whales, the dolphins, the sea lions, and the sea otters. Maybe even the moray eels.

I think about how life must look to a little person like our T, who has suddenly been transported 500 miles and planted in a new home that is three times the size of the only home he has ever known. Who is now showered with overwhelming attention -- and incessant feeding -- by his grandparents from 2500 miles away. Who suddenly finds himself exposed to humongous creatures he has never seen in his one year of existence -- dolphins and orca whales that jump out of the water and crash dive back in.

What else does life have in store for him -- and for us?