Last October, I wrote about my layoff from Grays Harbor Historical Seaport. Nearly three months later, my professional life has taken an unexpected turn: I’m a college student again.
My career path is much like the zig-zag of a UFO across the sky. I started out as a journalist, mostly because I wanted to write and earn a steady paycheck. The fact that I loved reading newspapers and later fell in love with radio was icing on the cake. It was relatively easy, however, for me to drop into the software industry when RealNetworks wanted me to write articles showcasing its audio software.
It was around that moment that the seeds for my decision were planted.
While at RealNetworks, I took the opportunity to learn about computers and networks. I nearly stopped writing altogether while I taught myself basic skills, such as web programming. I never became an expert, but I always felt comfortable around digital devices and the people who made them work.
An advanced degree doesn’t do a writer much good, unless he or she wants to teach.
After RealNetworks, I started a one-man web development company, Compel Interactive. Three months later, 9/11 happened, and the country went into a recession. I also started writing again as a free-lancer for magazines. Gradually, I shifted back to writing, though I maintained an interest in computers and networks. Eventually, I was hired by the Historical Seaport to do public relations, which became a hybrid job as I wrote news releases and maintained the company’s websites and social media accounts.
Then I was laid off last October.
I followed the usual strategy of application after application. Though I landed interviews, I received no offers. I’d never considered school as an option, because what more could I learn about writing that I couldn’t teach myself with practice? An advanced degree doesn’t do a writer much good, unless he or she wants to teach, and I don’t have the patience for teaching.
Then I heard that an agency at South Seattle College, which is minutes from my house, might pay for schooling if I signed up for a specific program. As someone collecting unemployment, I automatically qualified, so why not check it out? Several of the programs focused on computers in an effort to train technicians in high-demand.
My communications career was in a cul-de-sac. I signed up for the SSC program and now I’m in my first quarter studying computer operating systems and related concepts. If I’m still in school two years from now, I’ll have an associate of applied sciences degree in network administration. Add that to my two bachelors degrees.
I’m never going to give up writing; I just finished the third novel in my series with climate change themes, and I’m pitching it to agents and publishers. I’m writing and pitching short stories, and I’m about to start a novella. Though I may never be a bestselling author, I know I’m good and might win some recognition.
But the day after I receive my Hugo or Nebula, I may be heading back to a workbench, replacing a hard drive or installing Linux. That’ll be fine by me.
Would you ever start school again after decades?