Funny how the dawn and the dusk can look so similar. It's a bittersweet thing in life, the way the end of something and the start of something else are often the same moment in time.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the big dilemma I was experiencing, in deciding 'what to do with the rest of my life' (it's hard so say that without melodrama). Should I carry on with the sewing business that would never earn us enough? Become a teacher that would take up all my time? Go for the Masters I couldn't afford? Return to the sustainable transport career I'd burnt the bridge on? Or get an undemanding admin job that would never fire me up?
I spent seventeen years of my life as a vegetarian. And I have to tell you, there's value in a limited set of choices. Going to a restaurant with any kind of dietary peculiarity cuts the menu down by a huge amount. And there are many times now, sat at the table and faced with columns of choice and struggling to be decisive, that I yearn for those days when choosing three courses was effortlessly simple.
After I wrote about the career limbo, my dilemma became vegetarian. By which I mean, the crunch time we always knew we were headed for (you try living on a single frozen public sector salary with three children, two cars and a nice house in a nice village) hit. It hit hard. Thank you to the government for reducing our tax credits by a couple of hundred a month, due to a pay rise of a couple of hundred a year. Thank you to the recession for freezing my husband's salary for years, for raising the price of food and fuel, and for cutting our profit on our London house sale by quite a chunk. Thank you to all sorts of other external influences that suddenly meant, this autumn, our slowly dwindling reserves had the plug pulled on them. We've been living very carefully, money-wise, for a few years now and there are no more cuts we can make (we are even, ironically, vegetarian again now on week nights).
And thus my dilemma went away. Before, the world of work had been open to me and I had the task of finding the 'one true vocation' that would fit me and my family. Now I just need a job. I need a job by the end of the year or all that stinky brown fecal matter hits the proverbial fan.
At first I felt liberated, weirdly. I couldn't be a teacher or do a masters, as both wouldn't start until autumn next year and I need to start now. Sewing curtains for people will never make enough to keep us. So it's back to the transport work, if anyone will ever have me after seven years away from it. Or it's into an admin job, if anyone will hire me when up against a huge wave of twenty-something job-seekers with no dependents and an unbroken employment history.
Having been completely, completely desperate to give up the transport planning world and never go back, oddly it now seemed quite appealing. Before, it had been the career I'd fallen into and left me unable to choose. Now I could choose it after all, and simply as a means to an end, and that was fine. And the admin work that I felt overqualified for now seemed nicely simple and a chance to interact with real adult human beings. The transport work pays better and uses my talents more. The admin work is more likely to be available part-time (full-time work will be such a shock to both the boys and me) and local.
But a job didn't fall into my lap that first week. I then spent a fortnight feeling - every single day - disappointed in life. A fortnight hibernating from the outside world. Wallowing in grief for the loss of the dream life we had up here. And then this last weekend I pulled myself out of it, and so here I am on the blog again, finally able to tell you all about it.
I don't know what will happen. I'm applying for everything that fits in with my family. Eventually, I'll have to apply for things that don't fit in too. I don't mind that, at the moment, the dream (which turned out to be returning to academia to hit the masters-phd-lecturer road) has gone. I just want to provide for my family. I want to stop the daily fear and worry that the money's run out. I want to enjoy Christmas. I want to see my glass as half full again.
I'll keep you updated. Cross your fingers for us.