I've been saying this a lot lately and thinking it more. At Alpha last year, when we talked about our fears, it cropped up in my speech. Here is an explanation.
The crooked path is the path that is not straight. I have this magnet on my fridge for a reason; it nearly made me cry when I read it. But I have no trust in my ability to walk the crooked path. I plan for and understand a straight line, like a board game. High school, college, grad school, postdoc, professor, tenure. Dating, engagement, marriage, kids. Not a lot of money, some money, lots of money. These overlap. Every step leads to the next step, and while some backward movement is expected, there's only one path.
Then, you know, grad school turned out to not be my thing. It took me years to get over that, if I am over it now. It took years to say left rather than dropped out. Now I say, with a hesitation, graduated. Not even graduated with a master's. I graduated.
I graduated into a terrible job market with no idea what to do without a PhD. The people I had expected to help, the ones I had been told would help, were not helpful. The connections I had didn't connect. Applying for jobs drained me, being rejected for jobs drained me, not hearing about jobs drained me. I concentrated on the fact that at twenty-five, there was very little I could do to screw up my life that could not be repaired with a lot of work.
I could stall, I could backtrack, but I would not ultimately leave the straight path.
Contrast this, if you will, with my dad. He went to Iowa, got married partway through, got divorced shortly after, and spent eight years getting through school working a variety of jobs including caterer, pizza guy, janitor, and toothbrush maker. This may have also been the era of department store salesman, and there was the thing with the chicken farm but I don't think that was his investment really. He graduated, got a job teaching, and then there was a girlfriend.
So he quit teaching and followed her to California, where he either worked in an oil refinery or on an oil rig, I'm not completely sure. Refinery, probably. He spent a few weeks to a few months doing this, then he realized that he missed teaching and wasn't too into the girlfriend.
So he went back to teaching, this time applying to schools close to California. This led him to Eureka, Nevada, where he lived in a trailer with a cat and a rattlesnake he'd rescued from a bar (the rattlesnake; the cat came from Iowa). He met my mother, they dated, fell in love, and got married quickly. Dad lost a significant bet with his mother that he'd never marry again. They moved to Honduras, had me, moved to Harvard, Illinois, had my brother, moved again to Indiana, had my sister, and then settled in Freeport where we all grew up.
That is the crooked path.
There is a thing going on that leads to counting chickens. I am hoping. I am hoping fiercely. And I am looking at the last few years of my life.
Here's the biology experience, with a lot of writing. Here's my decision to go into science rather than writing because I can teach myself writing but not molecular biology. Here's engineering. Here's more writing, both Alpha and Clarion West, here's a looooot of critting. Here's me trying and failing to get a job at a coffeeshop, or Staples, or CVS. Here's my job as a paraeducator substitute, working with students of all ages and abilities, occasionally getting whacked in the face, learning how to handle kiddos, learning how they learn, learning to use an iPad.
This might be the crooked path I'm walking. It might all add up to something really good. Probably not a bar rattlesnake because as much as I love my father, I sometimes wonder how he lived to father children, but I can see where these disparate bits of experience can add up to a whole. All these steps, no two in the same direction, add up to the path.