Right before graduation, I competed against my two best friends in the program for a one-year full-time teaching award. I received the award, and I remember crying for nearly an hour, at not only my relief, but also my guilt that I had won. So, for the third year since I had entered the world of graduate school, I would be given a working schedule that would allow me to be home when my children got home from school. As far as my children knew, I didn’t even have a job.
The next three years were more difficult: What do you do when you live in a small, rural community, are prevented by custody arrangements from leaving, and you must work to provide for yourself and your children? I worked first as a special ed teacher at the junior high school. That was a disaster of gargantuan proportions. Not only was I not qualified for the work, but it started to eat my soul. The next job I would take would nearly finish eating it.
Next, I worked as a project coordinator at the local medical school, and was promoted to the position of assistant director of the research institute. I had more salary than I could have hoped for after seven years staying home full-time with my children. Yet, working full-time outside the home was exhausting. I was depressed. I am not an exemplary housekeeper, but I had the salary to hire a college student to help out around the house. But the daily grind of picking up kids from after-school care, making dinner, supervising homework, attending to bedtime rituals, and then falling exhausted to bed every night without any time for myself—it is the same story we all tell. It was the same experience. But I hated it. I didn’t think I could do it much longer, let alone forever.
After two years of going to medical conferences, I was also starting to figure out another possible career path for someone with a graduate degree in English. I started to realize that physicians need someone to look over their manuscripts and grant applications. And that someone with a Master’s degree in English was the perfect person: we aren’t over-qualified to do the work; we are grateful to be gainfully employed doing something besides flipping burgers. An idea started to grow: Could I do this as a consultant? Could I do this full-time?
It seemed irresponsible of me, now with a new husband and a mortgage and still the three young boys, to think of leaving the security of a steady salary in order to seek the personal satisfaction and flexibility of full-time medical editing. However, two years after the idea first occurred to me, that is exactly what I did.