Classes for this semester are over, I’ve turned in all my papers, taken all my exams but one, and now I feel like I have this giant void in my life. I was walking around on campus today with literally no idea where I was going or what I should do.
With school out, I’m getting ready to leave Provo for good. I won’t be coming back for the winter, seeing as I’ll be in Washington DC. As for post graduation plans, nothing’s solid, but I probably won’t be coming back to Utah. Not for a while, at least.
It’s exciting and scary, but mostly exciting. 2010 is going to mark the end of my academic career and my first venture into the real world. Beyond this internship, I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’m starting to formulate some plans. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- Go to grad school
- Work side jobs while writing novels
- Travel across the Middle East for a year or two
- Start a career in Washington DC
The first option (grad school) isn’t going to happen right away. I’ve already decided that I’m not going to go to grad school until I have a definite plan for what I want to accomplish with it (an “exit strategy,” if you will). Interning in Washington might give me an idea of what I want to study, but I’ll probably take a year off from academics just the same.
The second option (side jobs & writing) is an interesting option that I haven’t really thought through. It would involve a lot more focus on writing and trying to get published, but it would also involve a lot of uncertainty until my writing career really gets launched. However, I’d have a lot of flexibility in where I could live. I could stay in Washington DC, or move back to Massachusetts, or come back to Utah.
The third option (travel) is definitely the most exciting and adventurous of the four. It would involve living in a Middle Eastern country for a year or two, teaching English to support myself while I see the country and work on my writing. Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, even the Gulf…man, it would be awesome! I have friends from the MESA program who are doing it, too.
Man, that would be fun–and definitely give me a lot to write about, besides awesome life experiences! Finding a girl and settling down, though…probably not going to happen until I get back. That’s the downside.
The fourth option (career) is entirely dependent on what happens this winter in Washington. If I find that I love what I’m doing with my internship, I’ll probably look to get a job with WINEP or an organization like it. I’ve got to admit, it would certainly give me a comforting degree of direction and certainty if such were the case–to graduate with a job in hand, doing something that I love.
At the same time, however, there’s a danger that a career in this field might not leave me with much time to pursue my writing. My dream job is still to be a full-time novelist, and I need to remember that while I’m in Washington. If I find that my work with WINEP leaves me with little to no time to write, I’ll have to re-evaluate my plans.
So really, this internship in Washington is going to be more about testing the waters than anything else. I’m going to have to periodically ask myself 1) whether this is the kind of work I find enjoyment and personal fulfillment doing, 2) whether this is the kind of work I can balance with a writing career, and 3) what opportunities are available for me in this particular field. Since it all depends on how the internship goes, I can anticipate one of three things happening:
Possible reactions to my internship:
- I love the work that I do for my internship.
- I hate the work that I do for my internship.
- I am utterly indifferent to the work I do for my internship.
If #1 is the case, I should focus on getting a job from my internship connections, provided I can still make time to write while doing this kind of work. If not, I can probably still find a similar career path that does allow me enough time to pursue a writing career on the side.
If #2 is the case, it means that policy making and research is not my thing, but I still have a passion for the Middle East. Taking a year or two off to travel will become a very appealing option at that point.
If #3 is the case, it means that I’m going to have to completely retool. I have no idea what I’ll end up doing if this happens. Travel, maybe–but what good would it do me, if a Middle East related career doesn’t interest me? Maybe I’ll take a year off to work on my math and go back to grad school for astronomy. Maybe I’ll work odd jobs like Robert Charles Wilson until I get published. Maybe I’ll become a hobo and vanish into obscurity. I don’t know.
Whatever happens, writing is going to be a priority. If I can make an adequate living writing fiction, I’m going to do it. Which makes me wonder–what does that mean about all my other plans? Is all of this Middle East stuff just a temporary fix until I get published, hopefully in the next five years? Or is it something more permanent?
I have absoultely no idea, but this post is already getting pretty long, so I’ll cut it here. Regardless what happens, however, I’m 100% confident that everything will work out in the way that it should. These life changes are more exciting than they are scary. I’m looking forward to the new year very much!