Ignoring the Urge for Change

A while ago, I made a bad decision. When I say a while ago, I mean in 1980. OK, it was a long, long while ago. It was my the start of my second year of university after finishing high school. I had chosen a four year social work degree because I wanted to learn about how to help people. After the first year I had learned two things, I was great at psychology, and I hated social work.

Social work is a good first degree in many ways, because it draws an a wide range of disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and philosophy in addition to social work specific theory and practice. Its general education that takes a little bit from here and there. Psychology 1 was a compulsory first year subject taught by the Psychology Dept to a wide range of incoming students from a variety of streams. I liked humanist psychology, and I could do the “rats and stat” although I wasn’t convinced that scientific research on animals was a good way to understand the human heart and mind. Even so, I excelled at this subject, and that feedback was difficult to overlook.

The first year social work subject Australian Social Organisation, on the other hand, had me bored out of my mind. It was the first sign that an in depth study of the welfare system wasn’t going to be my thing. I was interested in how peoples minds worked, rather than in social and organisational support systems. Looking ahead at the course structure I could see that the psychology strand was going to dry up and be replaced by more welfare subjects. What to do?

OK. Its obvious what to do. Switch to psychology. Get myself out of there and try something else. I could have switched to Arts and done Psychology and English. I could have switched a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and become a Clinical Psychologist. This possibility was so obvious that it did occur to me to find out the last day to change courses and research options for continuing psychology.

So here’s what happened. Nothing. I watched “last day to change” move closer and closer. I racked my brains about whether I should change or not. On the  night before the last day to change I agonised intensely about whether to change. But I didn’t change.

I don’t  regret any courses or jobs that I started, but I do regret finishing a few things. I regret staying in courses that I wasn’t enjoying. I regret staying too long in jobs that were no longer challenging. I regret completing four years of a social work degree which I was not enjoying, and spending the rest of my life feeling like a “failed social worker” because I never went ahead and got a job in that field, even though I didn’t enjoy it.

Looking back to that agonising non-decision so many years ago, I wish I knew that it was OK to try something then change your mind if it didn’t fit. It’s OK to do a course for a little while, learn what you need to know, and move on. Its OK to try different jobs to see what you enjoy, learn new skills and experience variety. I wish could have cut myself some slack at 20 years of age, and tried a few different options.

Knowing when to move is still something I struggle with, because although I am someone who craves variety, I don’t love the process of change. I don’t enjoy applying for jobs, and I am not a big fan of applying for courses that take months to commence and years to complete. Having said that, its  uncomfortable to stay with something when the excitement has left the building.

I am still working on this question of how to decide what to do and when to move on. Right now I feel the need for a change, but I’m not sure how to quit “doing nothing” other than by “doing something.” Of course I am not doing nothing; I am writing and exploring options for having a small business. I have been loving the freedom to decide what to do with my days and I want to continue to have time to explore my own interests and try out new things. Having said that I am starting to get a tiny bit bored, and I am not enjoying seeing my finances dwindle. I am thinking it could be good to get back out into the world of structured work on a small scale to connect with people and make some money. I don’t want to make the mistake of ignoring the urge for change for too long.

  1. Linda!!! How refreshing it is to see someone admit that they regret something given the recent explosion of blogs and posts that tell us regret is stupid and should be avoided at all costs. Nonsense. I love my life, but I do have regrets such as one similar to yours where I continued my music ed program in college despite having not the least interest in teaching. I love the guitar and playing the guitar, and even teaching the guitar, but not teaching general music. I am hoping your small biz idea works out and you are obviously a marvelous writer. My solution in 2005 was to work for myself as a guitar instructor. 1/2 the hours for the same pay as a music teacher has worked very nicely. And it is allowing me a lot of exploration in complete comfort. So perhaps your small scale structured work is the answer.

    • LindaMay said:

      Thanks for the encouragement. Generally speaking I like to sound like I have got it all together, and always did, but I think the things that we struggle with make the most interesting and dynamic subjects. I am aware of that phenomenon of comparing the worst of ourselves to the best of others, so maybe its helpful to talk about the messy bits as well as the things that are making sense to me. This question about how to make decisions, especially about career has always been one of my major dilemmas.

      Although I wish I could have made a different decision all those years ago I don’t blame myself anymore, because I was doing the best I could at the time. I didn’t have enough decision making strategies in my toolkit to know how to sort out my dilemma. I think todays 20 year olds have more tools and options available to them, at least I hope that they feel they do.

  2. tammyrenzi said:

    I loved your honesty, Linda May. I did finish a four year degree in psychology and then went into a job that was social work. Social work was not my thing, and so when we moved to TX, I tried teaching. Public school teaching is not my thing. Working with children one on one has been a much better fit for me (and them because they are actually learning!).

    I do sometimes find myself wishing that I’d sought a master’s in psychology rather than education though. I love learning about how the mind works. Please let me know if you have any books you love in the field.

    • LindaMay said:

      One of the themes in my life has been an interest in experiential learning, or action learning. Action separates out what seems like a good idea in theory from the reality of lived experience. When we choose educational programs it can be a long time before we actually get out into the field and I have found over and over again that just because I like to learn about something doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be a professional practitioner in that field. The increasingly specialised nature of careers and education makes us feel that we have to do a lot of formal courses, but at my age I am thinking that it would be OK to get a quick hit via short courses and educate myself through reading.

      I am a scavenger when it comes to books or other learning materials. I devour whatever helps me understand the “question of the day”. At the moment I am reading Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions by Margaret Lobenstine which is another take on the “multipotentialite” or “scanner” personality. I suspect, as Margaret suggests, there is a continuum with people who specialise in one thing and devote their life to it at one end, and people who thrive on change, variety and interdisciplinary overlaps at the other end.

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