Woman, Get On My Horse!

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The Mid-Life Crisis, Part Next
(Wherein we speculate)

[EDIT: I have just sent in my application to MSU. Oh dear.]

At various points in my life, I have managed to effect great changes swiftly. This is sometimes with the help of others, sometimes on my own. At times, the change is not in my life, but someone else’s. I’ve thought of myself as an agent of change, a catalyst of sorts. My inner tornado.

Mike Neir balances me out here very nicely. Mike is circumspect and far less apt to make a sudden decision. He likes to approach things cautiously, from all angles, before he effects a change. I am often impatient with this process, because it is so alien to me – I want to DOOO EEET and he wants to INSPECT EEET. Still, this serves him (and us) very well, and I am working to be patient and comfortable with his process. His attention to detail is excellent. He foresees potentialities well. Where I would rather deal with things as they come, he would rather be prepared ahead of time – naturally, I do see his way is the wiser, but it is just not how I tend to operate in the world.

I am a Leaper, not a Looker, and we have all played Frogger and know what happens to those who fail to time the oncoming cars correctly. Sometimes, you get lucky – others, you get squished or you fall off your canoe (which shouldn’t be fatal to a frog, but those were the rules.)

So I’m all ready to make this giant LEAP, but I’m now part of this Team. I do not want to make a decision that negatively impacts the inimitable Mike Neir. We have a mortgage and plenty of bills – most of which he pays, but I contribute my own meager share and pay for the majority of my own stuff.  Were I to do what I would really like (quit work, go to school full-time,) not only would my portion of the income go away, but so would my health insurance and other benefits. Too, I would be piling at least a good $40,000 on top of my already not-insignificant student loan debt – and that’s just for a BS.

I don’t think we’re in a position where I could do that, at least not without a great deal of sacrifice. Mike Neir shouldn’t have to sacrifice a lot in order for me to chase down my happiness. So we need to do a budget, I guess, something Mike has been very keen to have us do together since we moved into the house, and something I have resisted most stubbornly. I’m weird and unskilled with money and math. Guess what? That’s what a budget is.

But ok, now I have this great reason to sit down and do this, get a picture of where we are. There are plenty of expenses I can personally cut down upon; I just need a good reason, and now I have one.

But let’s skip all that and talk about The Perfect Outcome.

I’ve been pondering these last few weeks, “what would really make me happy?” Sadly, I don’t have a great answer for this question that will pay the bills. There are plenty of things I’d like to do, the market for which is either astonishingly small or entirely absent. So I’m trying to be practical. I am not a good enough (or creative enough) writer to make any real money at it, and a great photographer I am not. The odds of me becoming a successful marine biologist who swims with whales and dolphins are not good. I need to be realistic.

I am happiest when working with living systems, particularly big-picture, entire ecological systems. That big picture could be something as small as my garden’s ecosphere, or as big as the planet. I really love the intricate balances, and I am passionate about protecting them as best I can. This leads me toward Environmental Science. This is a broad category, but as I drill down, I am drawn toward two areas: First, environmental impact assessments; Second, native habitat restoration.

As consciousness rises concerning environmental damage and its repercussions, there seems to be an expanding job market in this arena. Now, I have absolutely no skills here, other than being able to screech “STOP DESTROYING THOSE WETLANDS, YOU!!” from a very primal place. Acquiring those skills would require going back for another undergraduate degree. There are a number of paths I could walk here. The most appealing, and this is somewhat surprising even to me, is Entomology with a related concentration in Botany.

Looking over the curricula for any of these programs, I see a hefty amount of Chemistry, Math (Survey of Calculus I? I never even got to Trig!) and even Physics (eek, yikes, jinkies.) But ok, fine – the end goal is the important part here. If I want a rewarding career, I have to Earn It. Ok, I’m on board.

I am on board, and I need to jump on that train before it leaves the station. Get on the horse before it leaves the gate. Strike whilst the iron is hot. Et cetera.

I have this huge impetus right now, this bulk bin of motivation. If I let it ooze away through the cracks of self-doubt and fear, I miss my chance and who knows how long it’ll be before it comes back around again, if ever.

Yesterday, I took the first little Baby Step. I put a deposit down on a new bike, a Trek 7300. It’s nimble and really fun to ride. I’d forgotten the simple joy of flying down the road under my own power. I’ve been flirting with the idea of getting a bike since we moved into the house. We have some spectacularly pretty roads all around us, and we see bicyclists all the time. If I can get my chubby butt out of the house and onto a bike a few nights a week, that will help me get the weight off, get my energy up (I hope,) and make me feel a little better about myself on the whole.

Priming the pump, as it were.

Sure, we’re heading toward winter, but the bike will be there in the spring, and I hope to have a month of riding this year once it is bought and paid for.

I’m contemplating joining Weight Watchers’ online program, because the Points system worked for me really well previously. My one reservation there is the whole vegetarian/gluten-free thing. Too, if I just use common sense and eat well, I could do it on my own… but I know I do better if I have a fairly firm regimen to stick to, and if I make it up myself, I won’t think it important enough or “real enough.”

The mini-goal for now, then, is to get a handle on my habits, focus on being healthy. I should have been doing that this whole past year after my gluten allergy was diagnosed in February, but it’s a weird thing to go through. There’s a lot of adjustment, and for me, there was a lot of trying to find replacement comfort foods – most of which are direly unhealthy.

Chances are, I won’t be able to enroll in winter classes at this late date, and financial aid won’t be an option until next year. I also need to figure out what classes I could take at LCC that would transfer to MSU to save money.

It’s exciting and intimidating, thinking about all this stuff. I share many of the concerns T expressed, which I wrote about in the previous post. It’s not going to be easy, whatever approach I take, but I have to keep the end goal in mind.

If I can have a rewarding career for twenty-plus years, I should make that happen.

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8 responses to Woman, Get On My Horse!


  1. I think sometime you just need to do things so it’s great to see you’ve signed up for college!

    As for Weight Watchers… I was on them for awhile and I hated all the artificial products they pushed. I just got depressed in the meetings. They recently got a nutritionist at work and that seems much more individualized and all-around healthier. Maybe there’s someone like that around you?

    People say that when you change habits, you should concentrate on one at a time, but jumping in with two feet and no safety net has always been more my style. Who wants little changes when you can remake your whole life the way you really want it?

    Just focus on why your doing the things you are – your values – and I’m sure it will turn out great. Difficult, but satisfying.

  2. George

    About the bike, a few things:

    *its very very important you get the bike fitted to you reasonably carefully. Nothing puts people off more than the pain from a mis-fitted bike. That said, you will be in some discomfort early on.
    *Your bike probably comes with knobby fat tires. Have them switched out for thin road tires, which are much faster and lower rolling resistance.
    *Consider getting clipless pedals – you will need special shoes, but they are much more efficient for riding and ultimately more pleasurable as you will be attached to the bike.
    *Probably most important – you should probably get a bike computer (i.e., speedometer, odometer, etc.) but more important in your position is to wear a HR monitor, because it will accurately gauge your effort, work, and for many of them, track calorie burn. Weight Watchers et al are fine as sort of weight loss heuristics, but ultimately it always about the math. A HR monitor helps you figure out what that is.
    *Mileage, mileage, mileage.

  3. Nancy

    You decided nursing was not for you?

  4. Erin D.

    April – I’m an “all-in” jumper, too, so Just Doing It suits who I am. I’m trying to find some kind of balance, though, a series of events that will satisfy both my urge to leap *and* my need to pay the bills. 😉 Thanks as always for your thoughts!

    George – Good points, all of them. For now, I’m going to keep it fairly casual. My overall size and shape won’t let me do a 50-mile day, so I’ll start out cheaply and if, come next summer, I need the special shoes and slicker tires, I’ll be down for that.

    Nancy – Indeed, I have. It still holds *huge* appeal for me, but it comes down to not trusting myself with someone else’s life, given how my brain will sometimes just completely Flake the Frick Out. There’s an upcoming post on this, as well. It is still tempting to go down that path, for sure, because it is absolutely *fascinating*… but I don’t think I could live with myself, were I to ruin/end someone’s life by virtue of a really stupid mistake.

  5. Michigan Heather

    Wow, congrats!!! I hope you can spend some time sitting down with someone in advising and seeing how you can get through more quickly. You have an undergrad degree already, I would think a lot of courses transfer to meet the general education requirements, right? Maybe you only need to do 2 years?

    I’m excited for you!!

  6. Erin D.

    I surely do hope so, too! I’m trying to get an appointment with an advisor set up, but they don’t seem to answer email very quickly. 🙂 I’ll try calling tomorrow. It looks like, using their transfer calculator, that I’ll get out of the standard humanities, writing and electives stuff pretty certainly. The rest remains somewhat vague.

    Whatever program I end up, though, there will be Math. SHIT.

    I’m looking forward to the sciencey stuff, not so much the math and whatnot – provided, of course, they let me in. Looking over my early transcripts was pretty mortifying. I can’t believe the number of classes I just let slip through my fingers! Oy.

    Love you!

  7. Judith

    Great news! You unslump fast!

  8. Nancy

    I started eating low carb in April. Yes, vegetarians can do it too. So far I’ve lost 70 pounds. More to go but have made a big dent.

    Check out Mark’s Daily Apple and lowcarbfriends.com.

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