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September 19, 2011


no regrets?

by Andrea O'Connell

Some nights I can’t think of anything I want to talk about.  Well, that’s not entirely true, there are nights that I just want to bemoan about how tired I am after working a full day teaching.  Teaching kids would be so much easier.  I teach adults which is more difficult; especially when adults act like children.  That’s when it gets really problematic.    I teach a new hire class of new employees at the university.  It’s a two-week intensive training that wipes me out.  I wrote all the training I teach, and I conduct the training, too.  Usually one person creates the training and another person delivers it.  I prefer to create the curriculum and not train it.

I have been a one-person training department for nearly five years; now I have a boss to split the work with, and that’s nice!  But, it’s going to take her another year to get up to speed on the curriculum, so the training is all on my shoulders, still.  My boss helps, though.  She puts all the participant guides together for me – and that’s a crummy job.  She also assigns which project I need to develop next, and does all the preliminary setting up for me.

She’s like my agent setting up “gigs” for me.  I hope that pretty soon the work will even out and I won’t have to be in the classroom as much going forward.  It’s exhausting to orchestrate the learning activities of a whole classroom of adults for seven hours a day.  The funny thing is, when I’m in the classroom and working with my students, I love it.  I completely enjoy seeing people learn.  I enjoy the fun we have in the classroom, too.  Fun, you may wonder?  Yes.  Adult learners need to enjoy the experience of learning and it is my job to make them laugh and enjoy themselves because it enables their learning.

So, I enjoy the moment to moment interactions with the participants, and they respond well to me, which is really helpful.  What I have trouble with is waking up in the morning and starting the day.  I would rather be doing so many other things.  I’d rather be writing.  I need to start listening more to what I want to do, I’ve realized now.  My passion does not involve being in the classroom. My “work” passion involves writing training programs; it’s fun and creative, but it’s also not what I really want to do with my life, for the rest of my life.

I want to write stories, a book, and try play-writing, and photography, too.  But it would mean quitting my job, most likely.

I want to read more.  I have so many books lined up to read.  I’m reading Wendy and the Lost Boys, by Julie Salamon, right now.  It’s wonderful and I’d like to be reading right now, but there is this blog to write.

Will the earth open up and swallow me if I don’t write my blog post every night?  No.   It’s become a habit now. But a good and nice habit – usually.

I get hooked on things, and I’m hooked on blogging.  I used to be hooked on smoking – about ten years ago.  I’d come home from work, sit in my comfortable chair and smoke and read and drink soda until midnight.  For a while it was difficult to read because I really wanted a cigarette to go with my book.

I am really conflicted right now.  I am overcome with “shoulds.”

I should find another job (I like my boss, but the office environment I work in is toxic).  I find it sad how unhappy the employees are who work in the office, and yet, at least 25 percent of the employees have worked there over 10 years.  Why would you work in a place for so long and be miserable?

I don’t want to live in a state of  long-term misery, that would be an awful way to live.

People think it’s prestigious to work for a university, and I suppose it is.  And, it’s wonderful to be a part of the excitement that goes on at a university.  On that level, it’s really great.

So, I’m torn.  I could continue to work at the university, get a Ph.D., and be well-educated but would that make me happy?  A Ph.D in my pocket would allow me to teach at a university level, but I don’t want to do that, so I guess the Ph.D., wouldn’t be the best thing for me.  Well, I could do research articles and publish with a Ph.D., and I like research writing a lot, but I like creative writing more.

I love the law.  At least three times a week I think about throwing everything to the wind and try to get into law school.  But, then I come to my senses.

My real passion has always been the theatre and writing.  I am a pretty good actor, but I wasn’t sure if I could write.   The last couple of years, especially since beginning this blog, has helped me realize I can write, but need so much more practice.

I think I’ve figured out what I need to do.  Well, I know what I need to do, but do I have the courage to do it?  That’s the sticking point.  (The bottom line is, I am full of too many doubts; and my ego needs a kick in the pants.)

Should I throw caution to the wind and follow my dreams?  How will I pay the bills?

Maybe I am where I should be right now and I shouldn’t try to ruin a good thing.  And here’s the rub: If I did quit my job and go out on my own, would I have the same kind of regrets as when I left the theatre?

I tell people I had a great career as an actor – and it’s true, I loved every minute of the work.  But, I do have regrets.  I do.  The regret is that I didn’t stick with the theatre longer.  If I’d just given it five more years, moved to NYC, things may have been different.  My friends were making it, the only reason I couldn’t?  Self doubt.  I took the safe way out, quit while I was ahead and got the things that many theatre people don’t have: A nice car and a mortgage.

But, did I leave the theatre so I could have a nice car and a mortgage?  Yes, I did.  And I left the theatre because I was tired of working as a waitress after a show ended and before the next one began.  The time in between theatre jobs could sometimes be months. And I couldn’t stand waiting tables. I really despised the work with every ounce of my being.  I still have nightmares about being forced to wait on tables again.

So now I’m asking myself, what the hell am I doing and where the hell am I going??

The only answer I really have right now is I need to get off this computer and sit down with my book and relax.

I’ll figure out my future tomorrow – perhaps.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 19 2011

    Been there, done that, sort of. There’s nothing wrong with a nice car and a mortgage. Insurance and retirement are pluses, too. But with a toxic workplace and the prospect of long-term misery, it sounds as if you need to be working on an exit strategy. And on finding some dream-play along the way. It can happen. Best wishes for a happy and productive search.

    • Sep 20 2011

      Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for your insight. And, you are absolutely right, I should be implementing an exit strategy. Actually, I guess I sort of am doing that because I’m putting together a business plan and a website to start my own training company. But now I am having second thoughts about that, too. Focus is the order of the day for me. I tend to be all over the place, but I eventually will make a decision and stick with it. I’m a Libra, after all and decisions and Libras are enemies!

  2. Sep 19 2011

    I sure do know where you’re coming from. I don’t have all the education that you have (I have no college at all), but I still wonder, often, what to do with my life. The biggest thing holding me back is that big one: SELF DOUBT. I’ve told myself I could go to school. But how to go to school and still hold down a full-time job that pays the mortgage, car payment, etc? My oldest daughter tells me “Mom, you could definately go to school! Don’t let age stop you.” And I tell her “Yes, I could go to school. But then when I finish school, guess who I’m competing with for those few jobs out there? YOUNG people just like you!” I doesn’t take much self-doubt to make me shrink right back into the little hole I’ve been hiding in for the past 18 years with my current employer. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful to have a job, thankful that I’ve been with the same company for so long. On the other hand, I’m getting a bit stale. I started out on the low-end of the totem pole, worked my way up to some more “preferable” positions with better pay. Even did two years as a production manager/supervisor (against my will, I might add. I was more or less thrown into it, but gave it my best shot and even enjoyed learning new aspects of the day-to-day operations, learning new programs, etc. What I couldn’t deal with, and what I didn’t get much help with? Dealing with PEOPLE!!! Adults can behave worse than children at times. There were many times that I just wanted to put them across my knees and spank them. Ok, truthfully…I wanted to take a few outside and just beat the livin’ %#*^ outta them!). Anyway, back to the self-doubt. It’s what keeps me where I am. It’s safe. I won’t get hurt or disappointed, or laughed at, ridiculed or defeated. I live in this self-imposed prison, telling myself that I’m just lucky and happy enough to have a job that DOES pay the bills. Meanwhile, I occasionally pick up a few lottery tickets on the way home. Hey, there’s always hope, and as they say; “You can’t win if you don’t play!” Haha. By the way, congratulations on kicking the cigs. I struggle with that. I had quit for 7 years. Was a widow for 15 yrs, raising my two girls. Then I remarried, it was shakey ground. I had to learn to let go of some of the control that I’d held (as head of my own household for so long and sole decision-maker) and compromise with the new hubby. Within 2 years of marriage, I was secretly puffing. Then when he told me that I stink, I figured ‘ok, he knows. Why hide it?’ So now I’m on and off the cigs. It’s a tough one. I WILL beat it!!! If it’s the last thing I do!!! Ah, feels good to vent. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Sep 20 2011

      Hi Kitt, you dear heart! I completely agree with your daughters that you are never too young to go back to school! I got a second Masters degree when I was almost 50 years old! Even if its not for a job, but for the joy of learning, I say go for it!

      I really hope you can kick the cig habit. It was the most difficult thing I did, i cannot lie. I did it with the patch and some will power. If you totally kick the habit, you should notice how different you feel and how nice your clothes smell! I have nothing against smoking, but the smell of it now is really awful – I can smell it on the clothes of people who smoke. My sniffer became so much more sensitive after I gave them up. I wish I was one of those people who could smoke one or two a day and forget about them. Not me. If I was out of cigarettes, OMG, the world came to a stop! I would go out to the store in the middle of the night just for cigs back then – such a horrible thing to do, but I was hooked! I wouldn’t start smoking again unless I got to be really fat because the cigs were the best diet! Back then I’d smoke rather than eat. It’s a little embarrassing to think about how hooked I was on them – they had total control and I gav4 them so much power… it was crazy!

      Anyway, I must go and write about Troy Davis… I am so sad tonight about this situation…..

  3. colleen
    Sep 20 2011

    Andrea, good post, I’m with you girl! Completely understand. My motto is “I’d rather regret things I’ve done, then regret things I didn’t do” Though these days, I am not living up to that. I’d like to go back to school or save the world ha ha, not really sure, but I feel like I should be doing something different, especially now that my kids are getting older. I guess I really am grateful, that I have choice. Good luck Andrea!!!!

    • Sep 20 2011

      Hey Colleen, I’m with you…. I would like to not have the regret of not trying something, or taking a risk, or following a dream.
      I wish you luck with your dreams, too, my dear! And, you’re so right about how lucky you are to have a chance to sit back for a bit and really think about what kind of impact you want to have. That’s what I’m doing, anyway. I made the decision, after the Casey Anthony debacle, that I wanted to do something to help children, and lo and behold I was asked to sit on the board of the YMCA in my county. So, I think that patience will carry the day – and good intentions, too, of course! Big hugs, Colleen and please keep me and everyone here, posted!

  4. Faith
    Sep 20 2011

    Dearest Andrea
    You can vent anytime,we’re listening. I’m sorry your work environrment is so toxic. You work for a university so I have a suggestion. Could you take a class in Creative Writing? Maybe one in Literature. You might want to wait until your boss gets caught up and you get out of the classroom but it might help you to decide if you have what it takes to dump everything and just write. Maybe when this year is over you could cut back somewhat on this blog and use that time to write. How about a short story or a childrens book. You could even include photos. I sure don’t need to remind you this would not be the best time to quit a job,especially one that you seem to enjoy most of the time.

    Just keep in mind that you can do anything you set your mind to do and age is not a factor. Remember Grand Ma Moses.

    • Sep 20 2011

      Faith, you dear soul, thank you for your wonderful words of wisdom! In fact, there is a writing program at my school and I have been thinking about it. But, it would mean I would have earned three Masters degrees and I don’t know it that;s a bit crazy! And, if I take advantage of the tuition waiver to get another Master’s degree, it means I have to stay put where I am for two more years, at least. Honestly, when I was hired at the university, in 2006, I wanted to keep working there until I retired, and part of me still does because it’s a lovely campus….great benefits, etc. I guess, Faith, I am going through a period of realignment. Like Colleen said, I’m glad I have choices.

      I should be cutting back on this blog because it takes a lot of my time, but I’ve made this commitment to myself to write something every day for a full year… and I’m too stubborn to let a day go by…. Once the weather gets cooler I will begin my outdoor photography again and post pictures, too. That will relieve much of the pressure. Anyway, I cannot thank you enough for being there! 🙂

  5. Sep 21 2011

    since you enjoy creative writing or possibly writing for the theater,have you considered a M.F.A. program…it may be more suitable to your interests and needs…..just a thought…good luck!


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