Growing up my mom used to tell me that education was my ticket to happiness in this world. She would say that if bagging groceries was what made me happy, it was fine as long as I had made that decision myself. I did well in school. I had potential. (Que Marlon Brando) “I couldda been a contendah.” As I’ve said before, I’m 29 and have yet to finish my college degree. I took some time off to party which subsequently led to the birth and raising of two children. I waited tables for a long time, taking classes when I could and about two years ago landed a job as a receptionist/legal assistant only a mile away from my apartment. Right now, I’m doing the best I can without an education.
Last Friday I learned the firm is going to be hiring another paralegal. I panicked. Everything in me told me I had to apply for this job. It made sense. I told my friends and family about it and we all agreed, “being a paralegal is the next, right step.”
I went into work Monday fully intent on handing a partner my revised resume, saying in a throaty, deserved voice, “I’d like to officially apply for the paralegal position.” I went home on my lunch break to put a few finishing touches on the old “list of accomplishments” and “reasons I’m an Ace” paper between bites of a bologna sandwich. I diverted for a minute to check my email and found a new one from my son’s elementary school principal. A week ago I’d asked him if we could set up a time to meet and go over my ideas for organizing a volunteer drama program after school. He wanted to meet later in the month! I was so excited!! I took a quick glance at my finished product and headed to the office, grinning from ear to ear and ready to tackle my future as a drama instructor! Wait- I was headed back to work to apply for a job as a paralegal…because it was…what am I doing this for?
I was meeting with a partner of the law firm who could easily double as Garrison Keillor from Tales of Lake Wobegon on any given day. His voice was so deep and soothing that before I could give him my spiel about how I was a good- (cough) the best-candidate for the job I quickly found myself in a trance. I was looking past him imagining how I would present my ideas to the principal. The first few months of the group would have to be dedicated to terminology, improv, and confidence building. After this I’d have to go online and look for age appropriate plays…
“Ashley. As much as I love telling you about what I had for lunch, you really can’t be this interested. Is this another one of your morale boosters that correspond with the first letter of the weekday? Today’s Monday, so this would be… Make me talk about lunch while you smile like a schoolgirl day?”
“Uh… yes. Sorry about that. I was testing it out on you. You think it’s too much? Maybe we’ll wait for a different day of the week.” I went back to my desk, resume in hand. I’m not applying for this stupid job.
It’s been two days since I made the decision to stick to my original plan: pay off debt, get back to school, and be creative. But I keep feeling like I’ve made a bad financial move for my future. Why am I so full of self doubt when this feels like the best move for me right now? Because I was raised to reach higher. It’s the American culture after all; climb the ladder of success to achieve the dream. stop at nothing-go go go. I can hear my mom saying, “no one wants to bag groceries for a living Ashley.”
But I don’t know. I think right now I do. At this point in my life I’m happy being an observer! I’m a writer, a cartoonist and possibly a drama coach! I have a job with an inspiring cast of characters for any rainy day story I want to write. I’m not a permanent fixture here and I like that. There’s so much pressure at home (bills, kids, family, etc) that sometimes it’s nice to come here and sort through it all.
Maybe people like me, people without that golden ticket (college degree) or a solid plan in place have to be a little more inventive with how we get to where we ultimately want to be. In my case, I have to stop trying to prove to everybody that I’m smart enough, capable enough to make the “right” decisions. Being a paralegal might sound better, but it’s not for me. For now, achieving my American Dream might mean telling myself to slow down and allow myself the time and space to create. I have to take a deep breath and allow myself to be happy in the moment.