Changing my career path

A lot has changed for us in the past year. Things tend to change, when you have a baby. But I feel like, we took the changes a little further for ourselves, especially for me. From the outside, that seems so stereotypical. “Oh, she had a baby, she’s using that to change up her career path a little.” “She’s finding herself again.” “She picked up sewing baby clothes.”

And those are all true. Well, except that I’m not changing my career path a little but rather decided to not go back into civil engineering altogether. I’m starting to believe, that many of us aren’t really happy where they are. We just haven’t had the chance to realise and admit it to ourselves yet. It’s scary to question whether what you worked for for so many years was worth it. And though you wouldn’t be admitting failure, you’d be questioning a part of what seems to define who you are. And what comes next?
I’ve been struggling with giving up my job. Not because I miss the job itself, the income, the company car. Way not! Handing in my notice was so easy. But because I grew up learning that I was smart and capable and could have a great career. Or should? I have a beautiful resume, a masters degree in a trendy, sought after field, a variety of internships and work placements. Letting that go is what I was struggling with.
Until I realised that I didn’t need to let that go. Every step along the way I learned things about me and about the world around me – not only about load cases and material properties. My path is part of what defines who I am, not where I work at this point in time and what my career goals are.

I talked to my aunt recently, telling her I wasn’t going back into engineering. She was surprised: “You were always so passionate about it”. Was I? No, I don’t think so. “Then why did you do it in the first place?”.  I was a little dumbstruck by this question. How can you know what you’re passionate about until you tried it? Walked down this path or another for a little bit? Sure, I’ve always been impressed by people who knew what profession they wanted to pick up from an early age, followed through, and loved it. But I also knew that I wasn’t one of them and that’s ok. I’m very slowly coming to understand who I am now. And yes, becoming a mother has been a huge catalyst for that. Why shouldn’t it? Becoming a parent profoundly changes your perspective – suddenly there’s this little creature so dependent yet so full of wonders and potential.

I love variety, working on one thing today and something completely different the next day. Sometimes I want to be outside and get my hands dirty with soil or bike grease. Other times I’d rather straighten up at my desk and delve into matters of language or education or self exploration (like right now). Sometimes I want to be surrounded by others, arguing, analysing, exploring, laughing together. Other times I want to shut everyone out and just exist in a little bubble for a while. I love watching things grow, taking on a life of their own.

At some point in the summer before Isabel was born, my husband and I met down by the river in the evening. It had been a hot summer day. August, so it felt like half the staff was on vacation and I was juggling two additional construction sites. I was running way above capacity and hated almost every day of if. I was stuck in traffic for 45 minutes and couldn’t find parking. Meanwhile, inside me, this little creature was growing, kicking and bulging. We hadn’t exactly been planning on having a baby. So when I arrived down by the river, mentally and physically tired, Pat said “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.” Not in disguise, that wasn’t what he meant, but definitely in more than just the obvious way…


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