Friday, May 23, 2014

My Midlife Career Change

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach? The one that tells you the idea you have is a really great one - if only you were bold enough to go for it? I've got that feeling.

Here's the backstory. My family and I were just cruising along in our busy, happy life where my husband worked and I ran the house, homeschooled the kids and made sure life ran smoothly. And then, two and a half years ago, my husband lost his job without warning. We didn't panic - he's a smart guy and we could get by on unemployment and our savings until he found a new job.

The months stretched on and unemployment eventually ran out. We started dipping into our 401(k) money. Surely we had plenty there, right? Time marched on and the 401(k) balances kept shrinking.

I needed a job of my own. if only to stave off the complete depletion of our retirement funds. In order to continue staying at home, I started to do freelance work - mostly editing, but I would take on almost any job from ghostwritng to transcription to long-distance motivational coaching.

Ends met and I loved the success I was having, but the 16 to 18 hour days were tough. After two years my husband found a great job and I stopped working. I loved the break, but after just a few months I was really itching to get back to something. The kids are not young and they really don't need my hourly supervision and it would be great if we could bulk up our savings again.

I spent some time thinking about what what I would like to do and the one thing that makes my pulse race and makes me grin like an idiot is...Physics. Specifically, Astrophysics.

M31 (Andromeda) Galaxy - star formation happening right now! Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL

Yup, I'm a big ol' nerd, and I love science. My BS is in Chemistry, so it's not really that much of a stretch, at least not in my mind.

I have a history of making big decisions and then somehow making them work. In this light, going to grad school doesn't seem like such a hurdle. Granted, I'm not free to relocate, so I will have to limit myself to schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. But really, if you had to limit yourself, Massachusetts is a very good one to pick.

Right now I'm spending a lot of my time studying. I graduated from college a long time ago (1989!) and even with homeschooling the kids, I'm fairly rusty. I've been working my way through the MIT OpenCourseware lectures in freshman Physics and Calculus.

I'm almost done with the freshman classes and I have a plan that I think is a viable one. I'm going to start taking some courses at UNH before I even apply to grad school. As effusive and excited as I am (every other day I come up with another excitng area to research), I'm not very confident about my skills. I think this is realistic for my progress - I really don't know enough to get into grad school yet.

The biggest hurdle I have is paying for classes. Even with the NH in-state, continuing education rate for classes, my Astronomy class this summer is going to cost me about $1700. To help defray the cost and keep the financial impact on the rest of the family at a minimum, I have started picking up some freelance editing.

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