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* Act 3 – but what is it?

So let’s just assume Act 1 was my life from birth till I finished undergrad at of the U of Minnesota. About 22 years, 2/3rds of them as a baby to a high school kid. It was a time of growing up. Given I went from a kid to a young adult in the last few years, a lot happened the last third of Act 1. An intensive time where learning prevailed over most everything else. Where I almost entirely lived with my family, primarily while growing up in Madagascar.

Act 2 then began when I married Becky and then started grad school. It lasted till 2010, age 53, when my time at my last full-time job ended–30 years. A time of moving from young adult to middle aged to just into my 50s. A time where work predominated, full-time jobs all of them. The first 15 years with the clarity of my work overseas and the 10 years of grad school preparation I put into that. Since then, the last 15 years of this Act, it was much more confusing. A series of jobs that have each ended with disappointment. At least some of this especially now in retrospect at least in part due to the late onset bipolar I’ve ended up with. Lacking in anything near the clarity of the first 15 years.

But most certainly not just work. From newlyweds we fairly quickly became new parents, blessed with a daughter and two sons. Moving multiple times across the oceans and back. A time of several major health scares. A time of successful doctoral studies. Years of a great deal of time spent watching one or more of our kids engaged in sports which they all loved. Working hard to raise our little family. And then seeing each of them graduate not once, but twice. And move out on their own.

That was till 2010. At which point many things had changed. I was not well. In spite of 4 years of therapy and meds I was not improving as much as any of us had hoped. Still some crushing times of depression. And unexplained times of thinking too positively to be realistic. Or wise.

And so the start of Act 3 in 2010. Fortunately, before I got too deep into it I was diagnosed as someone living with bipolar 2. This provided new insights on a decade or so that hadn’t made sense as my being someone “just” living with depression. And got me connected to the meds and wise people I needed for the treatment of bipolar instead of what I had been doing when we thought it was “just” depression.

Now, in Act 3, like when we came home from Madagascar, I don’t know where I’m headed? I spent much of from 2010 to 2016 looking for work. I was able to teach in higher ed part time so that helped. Then a part-time job with a nonprofit I enjoyed but which only lasted 2 years. I’m now over 60 so no longer so much young. Also living with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), a form of neuropathy, which, while not that serious, is life-changing as it’s slowly taking away my mobility.

In terms of work, in an age that looks for specialization, I’ve been a generalist. I’d still like to work for some time in an area which makes use of the concern and compassion I have for those who are struggling in this world. But what to do? What to do indeed?

Part of it’s where to look? I don’t appear to have been looking in the right places. But where are those places? Who will still have me? Who can help me figure this out? Higher ed? Nonprofits? Something else?

* growing old(er)

Some signs one is no longer young:

  • your pharmacist knows you by name
  • a moderate workout is just thinking about doing a moderate workout
  • the ground grows further away and is much further down
  • hair of any color is a luxury
  • hearing? not so much
  • your lawn has increased in size by at least 50%
  • it’s dizzying enough to just watch your granddaughters run around the front of you without trying to spin in time with them
  • one nap is mandatory. two is a delight
  • more and more life is done by watching others live through times you’ve already had.

* what do Tiggers do best? (part II)

Since part I of this post much has happened. NAMI is no more. This became inevitable and my therapist felt this was for the best anyway given how they were not making use of my skills. Job searching has been very disappointing–I’ve only had 3 initial interviews, all by phone, all the same week. On the other hand, I finally found work (though unpaid) with the Center for Victims of Torture (finally!).

So as to bouncing career-wise, not so much at this point.

And that silly grin displayed by Tigger? Not so much–though I need to spend more time focusing on all there is in the rest of my life to celebrate. And grin at least every so often! 😎

* way over there

I’m an MK. As in “missionary kid,” someone who grew up “way over there” as in other than my parents’ home country. This is also known as a Third Culture Kid as someone who grew up in a culture in between my parents and the world I was raised in. In my case this was Madagascar. As in somewhere very far indeed from Minnesota. Another world on the other side of this world.

I grew up in a little town on a peninsula sticking out into the Indian Ocean with ocean within a mile of me on 3 sides. (Here in Minnesota we do have Lake Superior but it’s several hours away and not so much the same thing.)

One of the challenges of my time “way over there” is it’s easy at times like this for my thoughts to float back there. Memories of times past, wonderings of times present. This is especially true at times like this when I’m so much in between jobs as I am again now. It’s easy to go back to previous days, especially when some aspects of the present just isn’t much fun. Back there I never lacked for things to do. This just wasn’t a problem. Here, on the other hand, while there is much to do, I am unable to find a paid way to do this. If retirement was an option then I could just volunteer. But in my case at this point in time, not so much.

So one of my challenges these days is to not slip too far back into “way over there” memories and “If only…” wishes. For they are but memories, some of them quite old now. And “If only…” wishes are just those and no more. As in “If only…” is not to be. I am thankful it was, though.

* blogging

As I sit and reflect on life at this point one of the things that is working is this blogging that I continue to do. I can do it in small pieces, letting go of whether what I write is good enough as I can always go back and edit or even remove what I’ve posted. It allows me to venture out with thoughts without having figured out exactly where I’m going with them. It comes quite easily and I get positive feedback from it.

At a deeper level it allows me to surface things I’m thinking or at least partially have thought. To reflect in writing on some of what roams around in my head, as in reflections on this life of mine. Hopefully in so doing to get some of them nailed down better as in “been there, thought through at least some of that.” Or at least written down as far as I’ve thought through some things. With the opportunity to add if I so choose.

Are there any hints here in terms of what should come next? Ways the above can suggest for me next steps?

* so what’s next?

As I sit here looking online for jobs to apply to I realize much would have appeared to pass me by, at least–as far as I can tell–in terms of organizations’ views of what I have to offer them.

“So what’s next?” is indeed the question I am faced with at this point in time.

  • My time as an engineer ended when we moved to Madagascar and I was placed into another type of work–community development.
  • My time in Madagascar, doing what I’ve loved the most in my career, ended back in 1995 except for a few “teaser” consulting trips since then with none for awhile nor in the forseeable future. I had spent 20 years in higher ed earning a bachelors and masters in engineering and then a PhD in Adult Education preparing and then upgrading for that work. I had finally gotten to the level of expertise I had wanted to have for that oh so complex and important work and suddenly we had to come back to the US.
  • My time as a program evaluator at this point seems to have ended when I left Search Institute in part as that’s now 20 years ago (2000). This though due to my time in higher education my evaluation abilities have grown a great deal since then.
  • My time in full-time higher education ended in 2010 after 6 years at Bethel followed by 4 years at Concordia universities. Full-time teaching at Augsburg I’d hoped for after Concordia didn’t and won’t open up without some major changes I doubt will happen.
  • My time in adjunct teaching has been in a slow decline from a lot of adjunct teaching at several schools to now only a small remnant left behind at just one school.
  • My time back in community engagement, in some ways an extension of some of what I did in Madagascar, done for NAMI Minnesota, ended abruptly last year. Of all the different types of work I’ve looked for since then, this is probably what I’d most prefer doing if possible.
  • So now I volunteer with the Center for Victims of Torture hoping it might somehow lead to more as it has the combination of positive, quality outreach and international work I’ve looked for since coming back to the US in 1995. Though with budget cuts I’m increasingly skeptical anything will open up. Time will tell.

Up until 1995 I’d hoped I’d have another 4 to 6 years in Madagascar. Then up to 2005 I hoped I was going to become a tenured professor. Neither happened.

My journey has been impacted in a major way by the bipolar I live with. A part of living with bipolar is that there are times when the illness decreases your executive function and you do and say things you shouldn’t. In working on all this with my therapist we revisited my unsuccessful time at Bethel where I was tenure-track. We did this through the lens of the late onset bipolar I was most likely beginning to live with during that time. This was before I started seeing my therapist, before I was on medication for the depressive modes I was having and about 5 years before bipolar was finally diagnosed with certainty and mood stabilizers became part of who I now am–a person with far fewer mood swings.

So that’s my career. I am eclectic so that’s part of why it looks this way. I am also a “field person,” preferring working on the outside of offices with those the office serves to being “back at the office.” And bipolar has most certainly affected me as well.

So given the above, where do I look for what comes next? “Where?” and “what?” are both mysteries to me at this point in time. As a generalist I can apply and have applied for many jobs but evidently don’t rise to the upper levels any lists of potential candidates for the jobs I’ve been applying for.

So what’s next? Can someone tell me? Please.

* olderness

Just spent a couple days proving I’m now officially living with olderness. As in somehow the ground has gotten further away, things that were close are now further away, tasks that were easy are now not so much, and legs that used to move without thought? Not really. When did this happen?!

I’m going to call it living with olderness. At 61 I’m not actually all that old in this world of folks working well into their 70s. And with 3 little grand daughters I don’t want to be that old at least while with them. But doing some yard work these past several days has clearly indicated there are changes which have happened. I’ll hang onto the hope that I am getting wiser as I clearly am not getting any younger!

So I think part of living with olderness is that exercise has become increasingly a necessity as that’s part of the challenge–my tendency has been to slow down as olderness has progressed when I need to actually move a bit more (we’ll leaving speeding up alone for now anyway).

So it’s not so much “olderness, here I come” as “olderness, here I am!”