I am back where I was almost exactly a year ago, back in rural Lancaster with the smell of dairies, baked oatmeal for breakfast, and candles in the windows of houses. I'm back to hearing stories of growing up on a farm and being peppered with questions about organic agriculture that I feel only slightly more qualified to answer after my California farming adventure. I'm back to the familiar feeling of living out of a suitcase and some boxes, of being between places and lives. I'm back to trying to picture what's next and acquire appropriate attire (here's to a smooth transition from a job where my uniform consisted of the same pair of muddy jeans and faded flannel shirt every day to something that will most likely require suits and daily showers!).
I'm particularly aware of being in transition and uncertain of what comes next, so it is appropriate that I spent the better part of my evening reading and thinking about a NY Times feature on "emerging adulthood", a new life stage to describe all of us mobile, "self-focused", relatively unattached 20-somethings. We're delaying adulthood (defined as financial independence, marriage, and having children...hmm) in favor of identity exploration and instability. Our lives are characterized by valuing change - moving and switching jobs often, living with romantic partners without being married, living at home... The author gives a nod to several of the forces shaping this trend, including changes in parenting, higher education requirements for jobs, changing sexual norms, but probably doesn't spend enough time on the one that looms largest right now: it's pretty hard to start your adult life if you can't get a job.
But there's a flip side of choice (and privilege) for some of us. I'm fairly certain grad school awaits me some time in the next five years and could make a reasonable guess as to the degree and discipline, but I'm in no particular hurry to get there. Even in this economy, I'm not in a rush to get my academic career started (though this is only Week 3 of unemployment - stay tuned).
It's not that I don't feel the strong pull of libraries and university campuses, and Being Able to Afford My Own Weekly Copy of the Economist is an income category I aspire to and take into consideration when applying for jobs. But I want to spend some time working. Exploring. Trying new things. I know I can do the books-and-writing-and-education thing, and I know I love that. But in even a cursory glance over the last five years I have to admit that the times I grew the most and felt the most challenged and alive were the times I spent doing things I doubted I'd be any good at at all: working as a camp counselor, living in a Cambodian slum, spending a year as a farmworker. Learning a new language. Singing silly camp songs in front of large groups of people. Raising chickens. Taking care of toddlers. Leading yoga classes. Cooking church dinners. The times I've spent realizing I have something more than my brain to offer.
So with that in mind, here begins the next adventure, which will land me (job or no job, hopefully the former) in New York City in a few weeks.