I cannot remember when I decided that I wanted to work in a museum, but it was likely sometime in college. I have loved history for as long as I can remember, and in high school was inspired by Ken Burns’ PBS work. There must have been a moment when I thought I’d like to work in a museum because the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I interned at a museum site, getting paid peanuts ( I think it was $750 for the entire summer). I had more projects in the field during college and landing a grant-funded full time job that started the Monday after I graduated from college. (P.S. if you’re youngish and reading this, do not do this. You will work your whole life, so you can take a week or two off before starting a full time job!) I went right from undergrad to graduate school to get my Master’s in order to have a decent career in the museum world. All combined, I’ve been doing this work for 14 years.
And I’m thinking my run might be up.
Maybe it is burnout or that it’s just time for a change. Both are likely true. Next week marks 9 years at one place, which is unbelievable to me since when I was hired, I thought this was a 3-5 year job. Sure, life has thrown its fair share of curve balls my way and the job has changed a lot from when I first started. And my place of employment is at a huge transition point too, which isn’t feeling as exciting as I think it probably could be to me if I felt like this is where I need to be or if the work felt challenging like it did before.
I cannot even remember all the museum jobs I’ve applied for, phone/Skype/in-person interviewed at, and mostly felt disappointed about in some way over the past 2 years. With the exception of a few that would have been exciting only because they would have involved a big move, I knew pretty quickly that I didn’t want the jobs. That lack of interest, dedication, and enthusiasm was likely clear to the people interviewing me too.
A few times I’ve started down the road of “doing the work” to figure out what could be next and I actually settled on the idea of writing full-time. I spent a good portion of the past few years trying to build a client base and writing interesting things in various places. But what I found about myself is that while writing for other people comes easily, I don’t have the “hustle” aspect required to make a freelance career to bring in the money I need. While I have the discipline to get the work done, I don’t have the drive for networking, selling myself/products, or pushing for that “next big thing.” I love to write and found that writing for other people was leaving me with almost no creative fuel to write for myself, either in my journal, here, or on my short story and novel ideas.
People who navigate a career change/pivot/reworking inspire me, but also make me feel overwhelmed with possibility, doubt, and fear. There are days I don’t even know where to start even in terms of job searching sites since I’ve spent my entire working career in such a niche field that there are specialized job boards for it.
Stories like these women who go from running art galleries to running restaurants are amazing, but my pragmatic brain stops me from applying these possibilities to my life every single time. I know so much of what I don’t want to do ( not interested in going back to school), but am paralyzed with possibility for what I could do. I’m not in a financial situation where I could take some time off from work minus a week or so to contemplate what could be next. I’m often mentally and emotionally drained after my day job that even finding my 5 things to be grateful for each night seems like a chore.
I don’t want you to think I’m in this dismal place, but I am at a moment where I’m trying to decide what’s best for me and how I want the rest of my life to look. I’m blessed with an abundance of possibility, which is also what is paralyzing me. I have a partner who is pretty much willing to follow me wherever I want– in fact, in our 4.5 years together, we’ve already contemplated a few big moves together, and with only one or two exceptions, he’s been game for whatever. I also know that I’m lucky to have the ability to dream big and take my time figuring things out because I am employed and educated, giving me more advantages than a lot of other people.
So what’s next? Who knows. I really am trying to explore possibilities- I’m reading A LOT about other types of jobs and things people do, and looking at what brings me joy outside of work that might equate into a real job. I’m not really giving myself a firm timeline, though we have a time frame in mind for selling the house, but that’s more based on the mortgage rate than anything else.
The signs are all there– more and more things showing up in social media about making the leap, following your heart, etc. The desire is there on my part and my partner. I’m putting the intention out there to the universe, with my mind set on a goal that isn’t quite formed yet.