- 4 years ago
I recently finished my degree in an extremely specialized and extremely competitive field. In this field, there are very few jobs, and we have continually been at the bottom of pretty much every recent list of “Worst paid jobs that require a master’s degree.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the top salary for a person in my field is currently reported at $69,500. That’s the HIGHEST IT GOES. Most people, especially those who are just out of school like me, work in “fellowships, “which pay around $20,000, offer no benefits, and the contracts are only 6 or 12 months long. The few jobs that are out there are in very expensive, highly populated cities (think DC, NYC, and LA). There are literally ZERO jobs in other places, so a lot of people try to make it by doing the work on a freelance basis. This is what I have been doing since I graduated. SO and I moved back to my Midwestern hometown so that I could try my hand at this because I learned while I was in school that I DESPISE living in big cities, and I also hate instability, which would be the result of having to move around for fellowship after fellowship. SO shares these values, and has been nothing but supportive and wonderful during what has been a rough 8 months after my graduation.
The truth is, I am getting plenty of work here. Too much, actually. I have had to put clients on a waiting list and turn down work. The problem is that the work is very meticulous and take a long time to finish, which has translated into me not getting it done fast enough to actually make a living off of it. I recently had to start a part time job just to make some steady cash, which eats even more into the time that I have for my freelance work. Discussions with colleagues who are in the field indicate that it really doesn’t get better unless you are comfortable with hiring assistants, which I am decidely not. After trying it, I just don’t think I am cut out for running a business. I had been questioning this field even when I was in school, and now I have gotten to the point where the stress and financial struggle has given me anxiety issues. SO remains supportive, and says that he will be absolutely behind me 100% until I say definitively that I have had enough. Despite his support and love, I know that the stress has been getting to him, too, and that this could really start to affect our relationship if I don’t do something about it.
While I was getting my degree, a partnership between my school and another private college allowed me to take half of the credits required for a degree in a related field, and to earn a Certificate of Advanced Study in this field. Were I to finish this degree, (which can be done online through the same school where I earned my CAS, allowing me to transfer ALL of my credits), I would earn a degree that would allow me to basically hold a position that would be responsible for hiring and supervising people in my current field, if there happens to be a department for that. If not, the degree would allow me to take advantage of many other opportunities. While the top salary in my current field is $69,500 and the median salary is $35,000, positions in this related field START around $45,000, and the median is $57,000. Additionally, opportunities in this field exist literally everywhere. I know that some of you will wonder whether I would really be happy in this new role, and the truth is that I can’t say for sure. I have never done anything other than what I am doing now, but what I do know is that this current role no longer makes me happy.
So here’s the deal: SO owns a house in his home town in upstate NY. He has been living with me in my home town, paying half of our rent and bills while still paying the mortgage on his home (his cousin and a friend currently rent the house, but he still pays one third of the mortgage) so that he can support me and be with me while I gave this dream a shot (his job is 100% travel based, so he can actually live wherever he wants). If we were to move back to his house, he has offered to let me live there with him without paying for rent or utilities. The plan would be for me to get a full time job in the new field (I do have half of the degree already, so I could get something entry level pretty easily) so that I could finish the degree without adding to my already substantial student loans. Once the degree is finished and I get a better job, I continue to live in the house rent free and work on paying off my loans. Although I am not entirely comfortable with living in his house for free, he has pointed out that we’d be saving him money just by moving back there, since he is currently paying for our apartment as well as the house. Also, he and I both really want to get these loans out of my life so that we can move on, get married, etc. etc. On top of this, I have already spent a lot of time in his town, so I know some people there already. I feel comfortable there, I like the area, and I LOVE his family who live close by. Additionally, I know that returning to his home will make him infinitely happy, and I really do believe that I would be happy there. I spent all of last summer at the house with him and his family and friends and it was one of the best times of my life.
This all sounds like a wonderful plan, except for one thing. The field that I am currently in is VERY small and close-knit. Everyone knows everyone, and we are all very invested in the activities of the others. It’s like living in a small town, really- except that everyone has to live in big cities for their jobs…. but anyway. I already annoyed quite a few people by choosing to do freelance instead of going for fellowships, which is not the normal path (though it IS becoming more common in light of the truly horrible economy and lack of positions). I know that there is a good chance that I will alienate many of my very close friends in the field if I make this move. I care about these people, and if even if I go into the new field, they will still be my colleagues. Though I will still be considered an “allied professional,” I know that many of my friends may view this move as selling out, since they will continue to struggle and accept lower wages in order to do the work that they love. They might even see it as a betrayal. The alternative, though, is to continue to struggle and put stress on my relationship with my boyfriend, which I would probably end up losing either through the stress or because I would eventually have to move to a big city for a job, and he also despises big cities.
There is really no arguement for staying here, except for the fact that I worry about the effect on my friendships with other people in my current field. I am leaning very heavily toward moving back to his house with him, but since all of my closest friends are in my current field, I don’t feel that I can talk with any of them about this until I have made a decision that I can stand by one way or another. I’m not really looking for advice here (though feel free if you are so inclined), I really just needed to talk to someone. This community has always been so supportive, so I felt that you guys might be a good group to turn to. Thanks in advance for your support.