Contemplating A Career Change
Usually, I would have been sitting on an article like this for months. Stewing on it until I think I have an answer, or maybe not?
In this case, I hope to harvest some of the wisdom from other, wiser, more experienced personal finance and life-in-general bloggers out there.
I am contemplating going back to school, and it would both decrease my earning potential to create a job in this field, and it would not be an easy job.
But right now, it also sounds damn attractive.
The Norwegian system
To understand the issue, I suppose you would need to understand the Norwegian school system a bit. After 10 mandatory years of primary and secondary school, students get to choose their high school. There are two main kinds: Vocational and university prep.
The first being a mix of mandatory courses like math, Norwegian, social sciences and job training, such as hairdresser, car mechanic, plumber, carpenter, receptionist, waiter, fisher, cobbler, etc. Good, solid blue collar jobs society needs to go around.
Back in the early 2000’s, I did not know what I wanted to become. There were just so many different things I wanted to be! Gardener, farmer, chef, artist, designer, seamstress, pet technician… there were just too many options!
Well-meaning parental advice
My parents, of course, were active in discussions and suggestions when it came to what I “should” become.
“Don’t be a chef,” my dad would say. “They have to work nights and holidays when everyone else are off.”
“Don’t be a farmer,” he would say as well. “After the industrial revolution, that’s the loneliest job in the world.”
I landed on university prep. Despite being fed up with school and wanting nothing but to get out of the system and get a job. This in turn led me onto university and chemistry. I still didn’t know what I wanted to become, but this would do, right?
Little did I realise that my parents advice against farming would turn out to match perfectly with another exasperation they had: My parents were constantly nudging my to leave my books behind and go visit people. Least I grow old and lonely and sad.
Sadly, after more than 15 years, I still prefer the company of myself and a few, select friends. And after a few years working with university students, I’m afraid that “loneliest job in the world” is starting to sound real appealing to me.
I am thinking about going back to school to get accredited to do organic farming.
Of course, trying to turn a ship of life around is no easy feat. Shock and pushback from close friends and family being but one of the cliffs in the sea.
Another is location. There is only one vocational high school which teaches organic farming in Norway, and it is, as these things often are, on the other side of the country.
And it is a boarding school.
Fun fact: Unlike the UK, boarding schools for primary schools are rare in Norway, unless you count the awful forced assimilation of the Sami people. On the contrary, boarding schools for high school is/were much more common, as our population is few and far between, and some students have to travel for days to get to the type of high school of their choosing (many different types, as stated above, and you have the right to attend the one you want if you have the grades to get in).
So I would have to uproot my life again, even though I finally thought we were settling down. I would have to live away from Mr. Frugasaurus for a year at least, maybe two, and I have no guarantee that this life as an organic farmer is going to be sustainable for us.
Oh, and did I mention that tuition is free? Even though I have already completed high school? I would only have to pay room and board, equipment/clothes, food and travel to/from. Long live the Scandinavian education model.
On top of that, I also have a bit of student loan left from my university studies which would need careful consideration.
Interestingly, the Norwegian student loan fund is not depleted in my case. This is a government body which hands out a mix of scholarships and student loans to students, and all are eligible to get the same, fair rate.
I have currently “used up” five years of my rights to a student loan. But here’s the kicker: You can get up to eight, and high school is included. If no other solution presents itself, I could apply to receive a loan/scholarship from them to cover my living costs, which would also pause my current repayments.
That would of course mean my student loan would take longer to pay off, and I would be adding to it instead of chipping away at it – but it would also mean I could start at any time. Next year when the next admission is, if I so choose.
The alternative is of course to save up what I would need instead of taking up the extra loan. A responsible choice, but one that would take longer. Perhaps to the end of my current contract. Not necessarily a bad thing, but how much would two-three years of continuing to move my life in a direction that is feeling more and more contrary to my introvert, non-competitive nature be worth?
The value of time
1-2 years back as a student would also mean more time to work on side hustles. And I would be learning skills I can apply to said sidehustles. And I would be meeting people with similar goals and interests in life.
All in all, it could be a very educational and giving experience.
Or I could realise that farming, even organic farming, was not quite what I was looking for either and feel even more despair, I suppose?
But right now, that doesn’t seem very likely. My summer job as a gardener have given me some of my best memories, especially when it comes to work and a social work environment in which I felt like I fit in.
I cannot stop being myself
When I studied chemistry, I knew I wanted a traditional “lab rat” position. One where I did what I was told to do, but primarily had to deal with my colleagues on a daily basis, not so much customers or students.
Those jobs are almost all gone. You can no longer just be great at your job and hide in a lab somewhere, you have to be able to deal with the (for me) high-level stress of relating to and being responsible for dozens of students or appealing to potentially very powerful people with the money you need to keep your job.
I have tried to go out and be social, like my parents forced me to do as a child and as a teen. But more and more I realise, that just is not part of my nature. I do not like having a large social circle. I enjoy a small circle of close friends, and even then I enjoy and need to spend large parts of my time in solitude.
My parents tried to teach me how to not be myself, but I am here 15 years later, and I still feel the same obvious preference to choose a book over a party.