But first, a bit of a preface...
This time last year, I was consumed with the impending Professional Engineer exam. You may remember. Aside from working 40 hours a week, doing all the normal work involved in raising three children, and attending a 2-day-a-week boot camp, I was waking up at 4am to study for the exam before I started my day.
I got by with a little help from my friend.
October 29th rolled around and I sat for six of the most mentally exhausting hours I can remember in my well-examined life. Less than one month later, I was laid off from my job of five years, a realization that was as painful for me as it was for my boss.
Just after the New Year, I got a thin envelope from the testing company. In two short, but oh-so-sweet words, I passed. The irony was so thick it almost dripped out of the envelope. All that I'd worked for in my past five years of the "real world" and the prior four years of engineering school had finally come to fruition. I had attained my license as a professional engineer.
And I didn't even have a job.
Fast forward to now.
I walked back from the mailbox with a letter in my hand from the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers addressed to my whole formal name, complete with my PE license number, inviting me to a dinner and reception in honor of the new professional engineers from the October 2010 and April 2011 exams.
I'm not sure why it startled me. But it did. Here I am, nearly a year later, feeling as though that was a lifetime ago. And, honestly, I don't know what I am these days.
Whenever I have time to kill (aka - the breather I catch from a 25 minute episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), I sit down to fill out internet surveys in exchange for swagbucks so I can trade those in for $5 Amazon.com giftcards. This is how I "earn my keep". If I don't make a salary, I can at least earn $5 Amazon cards, right? (So silly/ridiculous/unnecessary, but this is how my mind works.)
On almost every one of those surveys, it asks my employment status - full-time at home, full-time out of the home, part-time at home, part-time out of the home, self-employed, full-time homemaker, currently unemployed, retired.
I never know what to pick. Am I a homemaker? Or am I unemployed? At this point, I have settled into my role at home, but I still think of myself as unemployed because had I not been laid off, I would absolutely still be working. I haven't given up on going back to work, but I am also a realist who knows that civil/environmental engineering jobs are not exactly plentiful in central Georgia at this time. On top of that, we are now having little Shep #4 in March, so I have a desire to put the hardcore job search off until then, especially if I pursue teaching.
I don't know what I am. And when I stop to think about it, this is incredibly frustrating for me. I have always liked to put people in boxes and categories. And I don't seem to fit into one right now.
I've always had an all-or-nothing perspective on life and accomplishments. Maybe it's time for a paradigm shift. I can't expect myself to be everything to everyone all of the time. What I need is to be who I can be, as best as I can be, with no excuses. And if I do that, who cares what box I fit into?
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23
P.S. - It might not hurt to wake up and say to myself, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Who's with me?