Dreams…A Constant Evolution

I have a friend who seems to be at a bit of a crossroads in his life. In his twenties, not sure exactly of where he wants to be, but knows what he wants to do. And I started asking him some hard questions that a guidance counselor or career advisor would – in other words, questions I wish someone had put to me back in my twenties before I went to law school. It reminded me of many, many conversations I had with students over the years and how some of those conversations led to our being friends, which we still are today. Yes, I’m thinking of you, Claudia. :-))

And then it hit me – I’ve got to answer those questions for myself as well. I’ve got to be blunt and honest with myself, my financial situation, my living situation, what it is now and what it can become. Where I want to end up, and what I want to do with my time here on this earth. I still feel like I’m in my twenties a lot of days, and can’t believe I’m turning 44 this year. I guess age truly is what you make of it. It’s just a number, if you ask me. Your attitude defines you.

14080001_10154173687084930_8639474599137396149_nThis morning, I was thinking these thoughts and I remembered when I was taking prerequisite classes for a vet technology degree. At the time, Harvard was helping with the tuition payments through its tuition assistance program. That of course ended when I left its employment. And then I turned to my left and saw this little brown bird on the ground. It appeared to want to be able to fly but it just couldn’t. Its breathing was a bit labored. At first, I didn’t want to touch it, thinking, it’s just injured, and will eventually fly away and I don’t want my human scent to be on it because then if it’s a young bird, its mommy won’t want to be around it again.

However, I did reach out to help it, and realized it must be really hurt because it didn’t even attempt to fly away from me. I tried to give it some water but that only ended up getting the little guy wet which made me feel even worse. Soon after, he took his last labored breath. I petted him and told him I would take care of him, and shortly afterward, found a place to bury him outside of my apartment. That’s the second bird I’ve now buried since I live here. And it reminded me of the post that I wrote about a month ago on listening to  and watching for the signs that are presented in front of you.

I then spent a good part of today looking into the possibility of again attending vet tech school. And this evening, I spent some time looking up grant opportunities for the local animal shelter to apply to (Page Animal Adoption Agency.)  I realized how much I love the thrill of the chase of looking for information, and finding it, then evaluating it, and figuring out if it’s relevant or not. From having worked with a large number of students over the years, I have realized that it’s a skill that not everyone has. I need to have confidence in these abilities of mine and use them to accomplish my dreams. For some reason, it made me think of a conversation I had with my mom just a few days ago.

The other day I had a conversation with my mom during which she asked about my job and soul searching and what I was thinking of doing. I told her about the phone interview I had a little while ago with a farm animal sanctuary. And we talked about what would keep me interested in a job and use my skills, and as she said “You’re not stupid. You’re very smart and can use that intelligence and skills. Eventually you will have to find a job that will pay enough so that you’re not starving.” [My mom can make things seem much worse than they really are. It’s not that bad in the world of animal welfare, it’s just a huge pay decrease.)

The animal shelter and rescue had a team meeting last week and we spent some time talking about applying for grants, and finding someone who can do that type of work. I’ve only worked on a few very small grant applications, but one thing I know I can do is research the hell out of something like that! I feel like my writing skills are strong, and I know that one thing that those who run animal shelters and rescues never have enough of is time.  In addition to money, there NEVER seems to be enough time to do everything you need to keep the shelter running. It’s not just a 9-5 job that ends on Friday night and picks up where it left off, the following Monday morning. Animals need to eat and be walked, and they poop every day. They don’t know if it’s a Monday or a Saturday.

So, now I’m wondering …. can I somehow use my research skills to help shelters find and apply for grants? Is this something I could start to do on a freelance basis? How does one even get started on something like this?  And then, of course, I started looking into the possibility of attending grant writing classes or workshops. It’s my natural inclination to think this way – come up with an idea and then look to see who I can learn from, someone who already knows how to do it well, and then I will feel more qualified to offer my own services in that field. (Possibly, it’s having worked in academia for so many years that has me thinking that way. Or, maybe it’s because it provides a structured way of working on a goal. There’s still that part of me that likes the comfort of something that is structured and pre-established. It’s that fear of the unknown creeping in.)

So, yes, this is my long-winded way of saying, I’m still trying to figure out what my simple dreams are and how to achieve them. I have this feeling that they will always be changing, even if it’s just with little tweaks here and there. And slowly but surely, I am becoming more comfortable with that concept. (Oh, but trust me, there are definitely days where this constant questioning is super stressful and I just want to throw my hands up in surrender and just wish that life could be easy and someone could present the answers to me on a platter.)

Have you ever felt like this? I’m curious as to your thoughts on this – am I completely insane to be thinking along this route as a potential career path?

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By the way, I’ve made a few small changes to the appearance of the page – what do you think?

10 thoughts on “Dreams…A Constant Evolution

    • Yep, and i’m trying to not stress about it but rather get excited about it. That’s how I was when I was getting ready to leave Boston but trying to figure out where to go!

  1. I just googled “making a living being a grant writer? and found several links. As a researcher you know that you always have to keep in mind the source, but it seems like there’s lots of information out there along these lines. I think you’ll have to volunteer for at least a couple before you could put out your shingle and advertise for a paying gig…but it’s possible.

    • Hi Dawn,

      Yep, i definitely would have to give some of my time away for free to get started. My problem is with valuing my work – even when I was doing the freelance research, I always felt bad about the high dollar amount i was charging, even though the lady who I was working for told me to charge her more than the going rate, because she felt that confident in my abilities. Why do we always undervalue ourselves?? But yes, I plan on looking into some of the places you most likely found. And yep, definitely good to really evaluate the source – that’s one thing I definitely learned in library school!

  2. Well, that sounds ideal! Grant writers are always in demand because everyone is terrified by the thought. Until this year, I taught a graduate-level grant writing course. Honestly, there is much online about tips and tricks, dos and don’ts that a motivated, organized, and already skilled writer/researcher like yourself would have NO trouble picking it up without formal training.

    I say take the plunge, get funded just once, and boom …. you are a successful grantwriter. Another suggestion would be to take a local University grant writer to lunch and pick his/her brain.

    Believe me, you can find work and people will think you are a magician!

    Good luck!

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement, Kim! Do you think it’s also helpful to get certified through the American Grant Writers’ Association? They offer courses but they seem expensive to someone in my situation.

      And yes, I definitely plan on looking into this, for sure. Especially if I could do it on a freelance basis, that would be awesome.

      • The certification question would be a good one for that academic person you might talk to. I would hold off on that until you submit a few and see how you like it. Any animal welfare organization would be grateful if you found one and submitted for them. Grateful would be an understatement.

      • Yep, I plan on submitting a few for the organization I volunteer with right now. Of course I’m happy to do it for her for free too! I think I know who I can talk to at the community college who could point me in the right direction of who I could talk to.

  3. Hi Terri!
    I’m finally someplace where i can actually make a comment here! I have done a little grant writing, not my favorite things to write, but have been successful with most of them. Used to be a lot of places you worked or wrote grants for had a good chunk of your salary come from the grant. In otherwords, you basically wrote your pay into the grant. I guess it worked as incentive as well as keeping costs down for the business. Unfortunately, if you didn’t get the grant you also lost a big chunk of your pay. I think most places paid you something as a staff, but most of your salary came from the grants you’d write. Anyhow, as a freelance grant writer maybe consider a base pay for your time plus a certain percentage from each grant. I’m sure if you can talk to some people who do it a lot, they can tell you more than i can. But grant writing is a skill & a highly sought after one for non-profits. I think as a freelance grant writer you’d do very well & would always have places to write grants for. Plus it’s something you could do remotely. Live wherever you want but write grants for organizations all over the country.
    Your questioning everything, as frustrating & stressful as it is at times means you are working on the stuff in your life you need to work on. You are trying to figure out the answers to the BIG questions in your life, & you will find them when the time is right. Maybe think of it like doing a research project on yourself! You’re chasing the answers down – searching, analyzing, evaluating & testing, trying to find what YOUR purpose is in life. And you WILL find it. You’re just still in research mode & look how far you’ve come! You really have accomplished a LOT in the past couple of years & have tried & tested many possibilities. None of them were wrong, just not the right thing yet. But would you have ever known if you hadn’t tried? Probably not. So you are doing great girl!! Just keep the “Terri research” going & enjoy the ride as much as possible.

    • I love that idea of “Terri research” because yes, that is definitely what I have been engaging in. The reason grant writing came up in my mind is because I do like research, I do like writing (always have, and it’s mainly what kept me in law school after the first year), and it would allow me to help out organizations I believe in. And yes, the freelance aspect of it, while terrifying at first, is also exciting because I do want the freedom that would come with such a type of work. Definitely putting a lot of thought into it.

      And yes, I remember when I was in my first Harvard job, working on formatting grant proposals and seeing the bits about salary being written into the grant. Definitely affected the size of our staff from time to time.

      And Oh My God, yes it is frustrating! I’m thinking more and more of it as a positive though.

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