Doing some big thinking lately. I love graphic design. When the juices flow and everything starts working together and coming in and you can maintain the grids and proportions and arrive at a design that kicks butt (and the client actually lets you keep it that way), it's a high I can't describe. Ecstasy I'm sure is very close to it. When a client tells me that a design we did for them is bringing them in new customers or making their sales easier, that's also a big jolt. Heck, I had one client who's criticism is that I made them look too professional and their customers thought they had been bought out by a big corporate interest (but still increased their customer list, just lost some older customers)... well, bad designer, I made them look too good. That's fixable (and it was the direction they wanted to go - with a more professional image).
However, graphic design is a young person's game. When I got the job at a printer I was pretty happy. That's an old designer's job, and my boss was younger than me (which meant, I thought, I could have a job until retirement). I did well in the job, and I got to do some good design stuff. But I look out and I see at least half the graduates in my class are no longer working in the industry. I'm at that point in my career of dying my hair to appear youthful (although the Wii Fit say's I'm in my early 30s - Wii Fit Age), and I never wanted to be that guy.
If I can stay in design, I would love it. I'm looking at expanding my skills. At the moment I have a bunch of PDFs about how to program XML to drive InDesign (not cutting edge anymore, but I doubt the kids know it). I already know how to script Xpress. XML, though, is the near future and I've been remiss by not looking into it. I can automate most repetitive things in most programs, but not InDesign. So I need to fill that gap. And just in case you're wondering and don't know what I'm talking about, I am a power user of design software. I like knowing how to make them dance and sing and get files that are easy on the production end (hint, stop using transparency, most RIPs don't handle it well and you're costing yourself a half hour of expensive production time by saving yourself 5 minutes). But we're back to being 43 in a field that likes to eat youth. People see my 20 years of experience and think, "his ideas are old" instead of "he knows how to get things done." That's a handicap.
So I'm starting to look at alternatives. If Bette was able to get health insurance, it would be easier. I probably would focus on writing novels in that case. Today, shoveling the driveway, I was thinking about healthcare. See, about seven or eight years ago I shattered my left fibula by slipping on ice in my driveway. If I had done that today, or a kidney stone like I did last summer, I'd be screwed. I don't believe I would qualify for Medicaid yet, and I have some money put away that I probably wouldn't qualify for charity care. Instead, it would bankrupt me. That's not a fun thought as your clearing away snow and breaking up the plowed drift at the end of the driveway that threatened to close off the end (it's where the street plow would throw snow - so deep, heavy, compacted icy snow).
For those of you who don't know, my first major in college was computer programming, math option (yeah, XML, and HTML in it's day, doesn't scare me at all). I didn't leave programming because I couldn't do it (actually, I was quite good). I had already passed the weeder courses and was admitted to the honors program with computer programing as my degree. However it felt empty. Sure, it's a kick when you do your first recursive sub-routine successfully. But you can't walk into Home Depot store and point to a computer program and say, "I did that." Although you can with a Hunter Fan box or a Delta Woodworking tool (yes, I've designed both, unfortunately it's been long enough ago that those designs have cycled out now). And the first thing I'd learn with a new programming language was the output routines so mine would be nicely formatted (instead of a blank array of numbers which were the outputs) and labeled. Information architecture is in my blood and design offered more of an outlet.
Health care jobs are the growth industry (and still will be even with healthcare reform). It's too late to do doctor (I would probably go for anesthesiologist) or pharmacy. Also, I don't have that kind of drive for those that it requires. However, I can do (and would like, I think) radiological technician (Bureau of Labor Statistics outlook page). Having a bachelors degree already would help (somewhat). And the schools Bette teaches at offer classes (mostly associate degrees), so there's some financial help there. It pays well (from what little research I've done). It's a nice balance of healthcare and technology usage. It's experiencing a evolution of tech. They work for hospitals, federal hospitals and military hospitals, private offices, and specialty centers, so there's plenty of places to work.
It's too late to register for classes this spring. Summer would be the first classes I could take. I have until then to land a new job, have a successful freelance practice, be working somewhere, or line up financial aid (I don't know if I'd qualify for retraining funds or not), work through admissions, line up classes and a schedule and explore the profession. Of course, nothing is stopping me from doing all of the above. I love design, but I'm not sure it's loving me back at this point.