What next? Musing on alternate futures

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” – Woody Allen

Around this time of service year, thoughts start turning to what you’re going to be doing after you get out of Americorps. Of course, some people already knew what they were going to be doing before they even joined, such as folks who are doing the ‘corps between graduate levels and so on. I, on the other hand, have now developed a plethora of paths and am finding myself stuck in analysis paralysis on which way to go.

Just as an overview, here are a list of goals and/or things I want to do in the future and some of the pros and cons and obstacles relating to them:

Rev up copywriting to create a full-time income without taking up full-time hours.

Pros: should be easy enough to at least get started on this with a bit of marketing and networking; I enjoy it; it results in income I can use to further other goals.

Con: need to update my woefully useless website to something effective and productive before making any big push, otherwise I’m just wasting my time when potential customers hit my page and realize that the cobbler’s kids really are barefoot; could take a lot of my time up for first year or so and not leave a lot for other activities; need to upgrade my skills via taking some courses; might not pan out.

Get started on project of creating economic development center in housing development

Pro: I’m really excited about this and eager to get started, so is everyone else I’ve talked to – I don’t want to let the energy or momentum flag; it would be a great legacy to leave if it was successful and it would be a great learning experience either way; I could make a real difference in people’s lives; there’s a fellowship available for projects like these that, if I were accepted, could pay up to $30,000/year for 2 years for start-up costs (including my salary).

Con: Need some way to pay bills while I do it if fellowship not available and that would cut into my time that I could devote to the project; no idea where to start or what I don’t know that I don’t know; need to get some hands-on experience in field (volunteering at local economic development charities) and possibly need more related education – both of which could stall the project for a few years.

Go back to school

Pro: I will have an ed award which will have to be used within 7 years; I love school; I could gain greater knowledge and credibility for other work; I already have an AA, so a BS or BA would only take 2 more years; my grades and Americorps service could qualify me for scholarships

Con: Takes time; ed award may not cover tuition thus creating more debt than I already have (which is a lot); going back to school could simply be my way of avoiding the question by hiding out in academia and not actually doing anything; not sure which educational track to pursue if I did:

  • Business and economics degree with an emphasis on non-profit management at College A: BS degree, tuition cost $21,000+ per year. Ideal for what I want to do with my life, but expensive beyond the hope of graduating without serious debt (which I already have plenty of) unless I could qualify for a full-ride scholarship of some sort, even with my ed award and the fact that the college will match it.
  • Management degree with focus on marketing at College B: BS degree, cost of tuition under $2000 per semester. Affordable without debt (or not much), but the degree is very general and the list of classes offers only one class aimed at non-profit management (an accounting class), otherwise it’s a standard management course full of classes I really don’t need or want to take.
  • Business Administration degree at College C: AA degree, tuition is about $700/semester. Affordable, but even less specific of a business degree than option 2. Lots of classes I’ve already taken in getting my AA in English, but I doubt they’ll transfer to another AA.
  • Web and Networking Tech certificates at College C: Certificates, not degrees. Tuition runs about $700 per certificate. Cheap way to get some portable and useful skills in line with my geek tendencies, lots of ed award left over to take other classes of interest. On one hand, it will enable me to be a useful member of any organization (ie the onstaff writer and geek who knows how to fix the network when it goes wonky, set up a blog and update the website, which is sorta kinda cool.) On the flip side, I’ll probably only be able to use it to get jobs I don’t really want (ie tech monkey who gets called at 3am because the networked latte machine is down and who gets screamed at all day because the mouth-breather in cubicle 4-A is pissed that the company’s firewall blocks his favorite porn site.)
  • Or, alternately, getting a degree from somewhere else in something else entirely.

And that’s just the “serious” stuff, and doesn’t account for stuff like wanting to resume my yoga practice once I get some of my time and energy back, or wanting to retrieve my crafting supplies from storage in Missouri and throw myself into a frenzy of making stuff.

As you can see, I’ve got lots of options and no real sense of direction yet. I do know I’ll be taking the rest of the year off to build my business and complete some existing contracts, and talking to some mentor-type colleagues. After that – and during that time – I’m not sure what else I want to pursue and in what order. There’s a lot of “prerequisite overlap” going on – needing to do “A” before I feel ready to do “B,” but embarking on “B” could make which version of “A” I need to pursue more clear, and so on.

Gah. My head’s all ‘splody. The future is confusing. I think I’ll go lie down.

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