English translation: career
My translation: I think I need a new one…
It’s been ages since my last post. Well, 22 days to be exact, but it feels like forever ago. These last few weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a creative slump. I read back through some of the previous posts to get some inspiration but found none. There were a few that I promised updates to, like the other 2 things that have surprised me since moving to Germany and when we finally got bikes of our own, but I just couldn’t seem to get the creative juices flowing enough to write full-bodied posts about them. So I’ll just write a little tidbit about them before getting into the real meat of this post.
The bikes: We did get bikes. We bought them second-hand at a bike market one weekend in front of St. Agnes’ Church in an area called Nippes:
The market rotates location every weekend, so it was a fun excuse to see a new area of the city (we live in Neuehrenfeld/Ehrenfeld – about 15 minutes from Nippes). An elderly gentlemen, who spoke zero English, sold us the bikes, and it wasn’t until we got home that we realized both were broken; Matt’s chain kept slipping, and my back tire was quickly losing air. Whether he tried to tell us and we didn’t understand, or if he scammed us on purpose, we’ll never know. The bike shop that we took them to though was incredibly helpful and quick with the repairs, so now we have fully functional bikes, complete with bells and baskets over the back tires! Matt rides his to work through the park (unless it’s a downpour), and I use mine for getting around town – especially grocery shopping!
The other posts that I promised – the other two things that have surprised me since moving here – were hard to write because it seems that what’s surprising me is always shifting and changing. Something surprises you, you get used to it, and then forget that it was surprising in the first place. So many things in Germany are similar to the States too, so the surprises tend to be little things that you wouldn’t have expected: drinking alcohol in public, pedestrians actually obeying traffic lights, not finding brown sugar or chocolate chips in the neighborhood grocery store, the complete absence of baking soda, artisanal bread at affordable prices, etc. It’s easy to forget the little things, so it was hard to write about them.
But the most unexpected surprise was the realization I made about myself, and those personal realizations are hard to verbalize and admit.
The creative slump that I mentioned earlier quickly evolved into a general life slump. You know, the kind where you aren’t sure what’s coming next, things feel pretty stagnant, and if you have to wait for that divine inspiration any longer, you may just explode.
My original plan when moving here was to teach or tutor English, learn German, and prepare myself to return to the states ready and qualified to teach English/French/German/Latin…pretty much all the major languages taught in America minus Spanish. Learning a new language and communicating with other cultures is so incredibly fruitful – you can read more of my thoughts on that in my Fremdsprachen post. But as I thought about applying to teach at English Schools and looking for work teaching and tutoring English as a freelancer, I kept coming up with excuses as to why I shouldn’t: it’d be easier once I get a residence permit, I need to register as a freelancer first, I don’t actually have a degree in English, etc. All of these are semi-valid reasons, but as time wore on and life felt more and more ‘slumpy’, I realized that the problem wasn’t all the excuses I’d been giving, it was that even though I had plenty of experience teaching, it wasn’t my passion.
By the time I arrived at college, so many adults had advised me to turn my passion into a career. I was clueless as to what I wanted to be when I “grew up” and the only passion I had felt so far was for languages. Linguistics maybe? Nope, too scientific – not my cup of tea. So I squandered a semester or two trying to find something that stuck. I had taken French for a few years in high school, so I kept taking those classes.
I didn’t declare a major until the year before I graduated – picking French because I loved learning about a different culture and reading, and because it was maybe my passion? I had always thought I’d do something language related, so it made sense. It also didn’t require too much of my time. I could take the classes and still hang out with friends, have a part time job, and make it to all my family functions. I wasn’t super passionate about it – I didn’t join any clubs or participate in research competitions – but finally settling into it as my major meant that I could graduate in a reasonable amount of time. I eventually even earned an MA in French, even though I left the graduate program halfway through before returning to finish it a year later. So now, I have a graduate level degree in French Literature and neither want to become an academic nor teach.
BOOM. Truth bomb. Highly qualified adult seeks career in…something else.
I had to own up to never taking the time to be introspective, to really sit down and figure out what my future would look like and how my career would play a role in it. Careers are funny things, because while I don’t believe that they should define your life, it’s rather hard to picture what your life will be like without them. They help add purpose and destination, a social environment and personal improvement. If I didn’t want to continue with French or be a teacher, what did I want to do? Being unemployed in a new city has definitely given me lots of time to be introspective, which led to the slump and then back out of it again.
I spent a good part of a week thinking about what kind of environment makes me happy, what I like to do when I have free time, and what some of my natural talents are, hoping to somehow follow these insights to a dream job. This was the conclusion I came to:
- I like creative, open environments where helping is natural and where I can work individually and on a team.
- In my spare time, I like to knit and bake, to create something from raw materials and allow others to enjoy the end product…and play games on the computer.
- And as for my natural talents? Picking out your own talents is hard. I believe I’m naturally gifted at solving puzzles, seeing patterns (read: languages), and being a leader.
Of course, there are other things that I could add to each category, but since I started with the idea of trying to pick a career field from these, I kept the lists short. I mulled over these qualities and waited for inspiration to strike.
Nothing. Waited some more…nada.
But then one day, I can’t even remember why or how, I got onto a blog about coding – web design, computer programming, developing – all those computer lingo things for the inner workings and makeup of the Internet and websites. The more I read, the more things started to click. Programming uses languages and syntax – Click. You can create something from nothing with this language and its useful to others – Click. Your skills count for more than your degree – Click.
So I thought, “Why not?”. And it has been a blast. I started going through tutorials about HTML and CSS to start, just to get my feet wet and see if I liked it – I do! Now, I’m not saying that in 5 years I’ll be a hotshot programmer for Google, or should I say Alphabet? However, I do know that I have 2 years here in Germany to learn as much as I can to get me started.
And the slump?
Have you ever been in a slump (work or otherwise) or changed careers? How did you get out of your funk? What was it like changing career paths? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below