A long-time foible of mine is to flee entirely a career path or field of study that has, to my mind, gone awry, caused me mortification or become painful to contemplate or gained negative associations.

My youth centered much on farming, plants, and the woods. In high school, I took the vocation agriculture program. I raised chickens, grew and sold strawberries, mowed lawns and did other yard work in my first foray into being self-employed. Just as well, since jobs for teenagers all but didn’t exist locally. My first paycheck job was groundskeeping at an apartment complex.

High school didn’t end well. I dropped out near the end of senior year and got top scores on the GED instead. That was so traumatic, I irritated my family by refusing to participate in my college graduation ceremony nine years later. I still feel like I went astray, going into the vocational program rather than a combo of college prep and music.

That first job didn’t end well. Granted, groundskeeping had ended. They offered me a choice of being out of work or taking an open janitorial position. I took that, and it’s what didn’t end well. I hated it. I had trouble doing just enough to look adequately cleaned, rather than trying to scrub longstanding stains out of impossible places, wasting time, wanting it to be perfect. I learned the tenants were slobs. I learned how futile it can feel to do the same thing over and over, day after day, with nothing apparent to show for it. I got fired.

That was not quite the end of my yardwork career, but it was a hit to it. My first good full time job was at a place where you had to hide it from the boss if you were doing another job or business on the side, because he figured all your will should go into that job. It was his one fault. I got tired of hiding it, and tired of doing just a few yards that didn’t pay well, so I stopped and never looked back. I became almost embarrassed that I’d ever thought landscaping or greenhouse work would be for me.

I finally went to college three years after high school. School was such a negative, I would not have dreamed of more school at first. The first little seed was planted by the guy who graded the GED exams and wrote me a note suggesting I continue my education because my scores were so high.

I started without a major, shortly landing in the brand new management science program, where I was torn between accounting and marketing. I had a 99 average in the first marketing class, and over 100 average (extra credit questions) in the first accounting class. My choice of accounting was for the theoretical high pay, to please my father and stepmother, and to avoid the dealing with the public that would be involved in the marketing program. Me? Stand in a mall and do surveys? Don’t think so. Besides, I liked it. At first.

Ultimately, some of the professors, mainly one, really turned me off of it, and the last thing I wanted to do was take and pass the CPA exam to make them look good. I was one of the stars, until the point when I crawled doggedly the rest of the way through the required (mostly general, not accounting) courses just to prove I could get a degree. Since my big love was cost accounting, who cared about being a CPA anyway.

Plus, surprisingly early in my school career, I worked for a CPA for several months. That wasn’t encouraging, for all it was cool, having done everything there that you didn’t have to be a CPA to do.

When school was done, I tried to get work. Tried and tried. Economy had tanked, if not the way it has this time. I’d worked upwards of 50 hours a week while going to school full time. I’d done anything. I’d worked every day of the year, all hours of the day. I’d endured the derision from some of the family about “four year vacation.” It was almost unprecedented, my even going, let alone graduating. Having just done anything, I hesitated simply to take any unrelated job I could get, not knowing that that the point was a college degree, not what it was in. It was already the new high school diploma, filtering in many cases for hire or not, specific career preparation (or lack thereof) aside.

After a few years, looking for accounting work became something I did only because I didn’t know what else to look for. My heart wasn’t in it. The education was getting stale. I kept adding computer skills, which I’d started learning and including because of the use of computers in accounting. Eventually that reached a tipping point where I was offered a tech support job. From there, another. From there, the business, doing tech support, software development and maintenance, etc.

From there? It’s looking like deja vu. Can I recover? Do I want to? Do I simply drift into something else entirely? And what if I am tired of drifting? That’s part of the impetus behind all this. I don’t even know what, for sure, I’d like to do. It sounds kind of lame to be open to whatever, yet it’s true to a point. At the same time, I at least want to exam myself, the options, and feel like I am in control.

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