This is an update to a post I wrote a few months ago.
When I Grow Up
When I was a kid I always knew my career choice. Farmer, veterinarian, Coast Guard, forest ranger…It changed once a week, but at least I had a goal. After I read the novel, “My Side of The Mountain,” I wanted to live in a tree and survive in the forest like the protagonist in the book. I currently live in Los Angeles so that didn’t work out. At one point, as a teen, I wanted to own a ski lodge. I hate snow skiing, so I have no idea where that idea came from.
As an adult I’ve worked in the service industry exclusively. Most of that time I worked for Marriott. I started with them as a bellman. When I left the company I managed a reservation call center with 250 employees. I had the big office, excellent pay, stayed in beautiful hotel suites and travelled to exotic locations…I hated every minute of it.
I did a little research online and every website I read said the same thing. Jobs for those who have bipolar should offer:
The last job I had was managing a coffee shop. Talk about awful. I was pretty desperate at the time because I hadn’t held a stable job after getting sober. Other than being salaried, none of the above applied. It was while working there that I felt I was losing my sanity. I left not knowing what was wrong with me. It wasn’t much later that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Trying It On My Own
Maurice and I have a coffee table book called “Men Together,” which is a compilation of interviews with male couples. One of the individuals in the book has bipolar disorder and during the interview he said he could not work for anyone so he was left having to work for himself. It’s one simple sentence in a book, but it stuck with me. Our church needed a redesign of their website and I had been studying web design on my own so I jumped in and took over. I loved it. Learning design and coding gave me a sense of self-worth. That was it, I decided. I was going to become a self-employed web designer.
I studied more and became markedly proficient at it. I was on disability and went to Vocational Rehab and was told there is a need for web designers. They would put me through formal training, pay for any materials and even provide transportation. I hit the jackpot and then went into panic mode. It dawned on me that being a web designer meant I had to be a sales person as well. I would have to go out into the world and sell myself to clients. My anxiety level skyrocketed and panic attacks ensued. A friend began studying web design at the same time and has made a successful career of it. Watching her makes me grateful I made the choice I made.
After the web design debacle I became more involved at my church. It hit me then that I had heard my calling and I decided I want to be a minister. A chaplain actually. I don’t want to minister a church because it’s running a business again and I’d been there and done that. As a chaplain I’d be able to work directly with people at a hospital, college or hospice care. When I went back to Vocational Rehab they did that thing they do in their computer and this time told me they could not assist me. There was not enough need to guarantee I would be able get a position in our area. I felt defeated, but quickly became more determined.
Back to School
I looked into our local community college and learned I qualified for a tuition waiver and took advantage of it. It was a bad decision at that time. I wasn’t balanced. I signed up for a full load of classes, got my books, had major depression and crashed and burned. A lot of wasted time, money and it’s now on my school record that I dropped from a bunch of classes. I had no idea I had to cancel them since I never showed up. I wasn’t in that space of mind.
I finally took some classes and did well. Then I took more and crashed and burned again. Both my psychiatrist and my therapist recommended I take a break from school and that’s what I’m doing. However, staying home and doing nothing led to isolation and depression so I had to stop that. I needed to do something so I created a job and added some structure. My job is blogging and my structure is going to Starbucks each day and working. Thank God for their 50 cent coffee refills. I now have stability, consistency and flexibility. I’ve also joined a writer’s group and consider that part of my current vocation. I’ve grown to love writing, which is one major benefit from this entire experience.
Back to When I Grow Up
I’m not a chaplain yet. All the joy I’m getting from writing has now made me rethink that idea. Sticking with one idea is difficult, For now I’m happy where I am. Sometimes I get frustrated. I wish I was a more productive member of society. I wish I brought in an income, but I’m doing the best I can.
What do I want to when I grow up? Maybe a chaplain, maybe a writer, maybe both. At this point I have no idea. For now I’ll continue doing what I’m doing and, for now, I’m okay with that.
4 comments on When I Grow Up Revisited
i really identify with the idea of ‘not having grown up’ yet. i did however have what was for me, an ideal job for most of my working life. i love taking care of people, and i was a CNA for over 20 yrs taking care of all sorts of people for all sorts of ailments in every possible situation (hospital, nursing home, private home, etc). unfortunately, it doesn’t pay much more than minimum wage, so was hard to live on exclusively, and i couldn’t afford the insurance, and now that i am disabled, and older, i cannot take the physical and emotional stress. i do want to work, to be useful, to support myself….but excluding caregiving, i have no experience and no idea what i want to do…and find myself thinking ‘what will i do when i am all grown up’? when that happens, i’ll let you know 🙂
I’m happy you were able to have an ideal job that made you happy. Most people, bipolar or otherwise, never find that.
Just because you are not working, does NOT mean you are not a contributing member of society. You put a lot out there, and help a lot of people, just on this blog, and I’m sure many more in your “real life.” You are a good husband to Maurice, I am sure, and it sounds like you guys are doing well. Those are big friggin’ deals. It is hard to be bipolar and be in a relationship. It is hard to be bipolar and work a traditional job or take college classes. The only reason I am working is that it is just about the easiest job on the planet, I can take off any day I want, and I only work about 20 hours a week during peak season. I don’t think that job makes me any more contributing than you are. We just have to find something that works for us. You truly ARE a good writer, and I think that if that is where you wanted to put your energies, it would pan out for you. I truly believe in you, Bradley!
Thank you for the reality check, Rose. You are right on all counts and I needed to hear it.. Since I’ve taken blogging as my “job: I have had a lot of satisfaction and I sincerely hope I make a difference. Thank you for your faith in me. You’ve brightened my day.