Last night I dreamt I was at work when I found a wad of dollar bills on the conveyor belt of one of the cash registers. It was wrapped in a rubber band, with some of the bills carelessly coming out of the stack. I picked it up and realized they were large bills–some ones, but mostly large bills: $500, $15,000, $100,000. Every time I’d flip through there would be a larger bill, and they were colorful. The $15,000 and/or the $100,000 were white with red lettering. The $15,000 alone would help cut my first student loan in half. I didn’t immediately have a thought to keep the money, but rather that it didn’t belong to me, and I’d need to turn it in. So I told the store manager, John, who’s actually no longer our store manager, but in my dream he was. This guy Drake was standing nearby and I think he was the manager on duty, though in reality he’s not a manager, and I told him too, mainly because he was nearby. I gave it to one of them, maybe to Blake, and they took it into the office, probably to keep in the safe, for safekeeping, because we knew it wasn’t ours and that the owner would probably come back looking for it. I had a brief concern that Drake would try to steal some of the money, and wondered if I should’ve counted the money to make sure it stayed the same amount, but then remembered that the store manager was in there with him, then I had the thought that it didn’t matter because I wasn’t getting any of the money anyway. It may have crossed my mind that if he stole some of it, the owner would know, and maybe think I’d taken it. But then I had this feeling that the owner probably wasn’t ever coming back for the money. I felt like if they did come back for the money, they might give me a relatively small amount, like $500, and that none of it really mattered because it was never my money. I had a brief regret of not taking a picture of the large bills since I’d probably never see that amount again but then again realized it didn’t matter. I also had a brief thought of taking a small amount or even keeping the whole thing but again that quickly was replaced with the thought that this wasn’t my money, and that the serial numbers would be recorded anyway and I wouldn’t be able to spend it.
I think I dreamt that because I was thinking last night about how I’m borrowing all this student loan money for a degree in a new career that I have no idea will work out. I’m having serious doubts right now because my biochemistry class is so difficult, and my midterm yesterday was so challenging. Physiology isn’t that hard but it’s a lot of detailed memorization that I can’t remember because I’m so busy studying for biochemistry. I just don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, and I wish I could get some sort of sign either way so that I’d know what to do.
Will this be like when I got my creative writing degree and tried teaching for two semesters before giving in and admitting defeat, deciding that I didn’t want to do that? Looking back on it, if I’d given it my all I’d probably have been able to do it and been okay. If I had worked at the community college as an adjunct, taught as many classes as I could, lived on a meager salary, worked another job if needed, worked hard, taught at another college if necessary, I probably could’ve eventually worked my way up and have been fine. It would’ve been hard and I wouldn’t have made a lot of money but it would’ve gotten easier as I continued to teach the same classes. But I chose not to do that.
What can I learn from that experience?
I have at least two options. One: I can just quit trying to find some career, and just be happy in my job. I won’t make much money, but I could move up, become a manager, and one day buy myself a little place, a mobile home, tiny house, or a condo. That would not be the end of the world.
Or maybe I should just stick to school, realizing it won’t be easy, and work hard no matter what, regardless of where I have to move, what money I may or may not make, what subjects I may feel deficient in, and just keep studying and doing what I have to do to learn the material. Yes, I have to borrow a lot of money, and no, it’s not mine to keep, but that would not be the end of the world either. I think I will feel more fulfilled if I take this route, but there’s no way to know for sure how I’ll feel or what it will really be like. I still have student loans to pay back no matter what I do, but I will have more to pay back with this option. A lot more.
If I had to do it over again, if I had the knowledge and wisdom then, I’d have become a nurse as an undergrad. I’d have gotten the lowest degree necessary to do that so that I could pay back my student loans as soon as possible, and then I’d have gone back to school to move up. I think you can start as an LPN and then become an RN, but I’m not sure. Maybe after that I’d have gotten my master’s in nutrition—or maybe I’d have gone straight to nutrition, gotten a bachelor’s then a master’s or PhD. Or I’d have picked some other trade or field and gone straight for that. But I had no idea what to do at the time. I didn’t think about the long term and careers and what my life might become. If you’d told me I’d be 40 years old and stuck in a field I hate and that I’d have to start all over again… well I guess it makes sense that would happen. If you don’t have a plan, it’s rare that something good can come of that unless you’re very lucky. If I had a child, I’d encourage them to find something early so that they don’t have to go through this, because quite honestly, this sucks. The message I got instead was that it’s okay to not know what you want to do, because you can change, and lots of people change careers. If I had a kid, I would investigate all options, I would do everything in my power not to let my kid make this same mistake.
I can’t live in regret though. I have to accept that the life I have today is the result of the decisions I’ve made, and here I am, now. If I live to be 65, I’ll have worked in this field for 20 years. Who knows? Maybe I will love it.
Here’s a song, “Money” from one of the greatest bands ever, Pink Floyd.