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Brixey • Paulette
Ensign • Claire
Hegarty • Jennifer
Clare • Joyce
Zee • Michelle
Hill • Frank
Traditi • Robin
Sparks • Cecilia
Saleme • SoccerKidsUSA
Nadeau • Dinah
Chapman • Gail
Foley • Jim
Goebelbecker • Minna
Marrs • Suzanne
Kincaid • Anita
Flegg • Jieranai
T. Maier • Tamah
Nakamura • Bonnie
Vining • Mark
Sincevich • Rosemary-Martino
Rodriguez • Jan
Louthain • Mark
McMahon • Heather
and Murray Rand • Susan
Jennings • Hank
Bochenski • Serena
McDonald • Dolores
Arste • Faith
Smith • Jennifer
Wright • Joe
Kasper • ArLyne
Diamond • Monica
Lee • Dan
Millman • Dana
Hall • Carl
Battiste • Shawn
Snyder • Roberta
Carasso • Colleen
Read • Cory
Johnson • Kevin
O'Neil • Craig
Barton • Peter
Bowers • Mike
Munter • Glen
Smith • Nancy
Ceridwyn • Deanna
Kim • Anasuya
Krishnaswamy • Hilton
Paoli • Denise Meyer
This Is Not Your Father’s Job
the time my father sat me down to give the birds and bees talk
about jobs and responsibilities, the world has changed. Following
his sage advice 30 years ago, each of my jobs brought a regular
paycheck, retirement benefits, a supervisor and years of loyalty,
usually 12 years of that loyalty in any one organization.
And then the earthquake. Life on earth as I had known it no
longer existed. The searched for a Hitch Hiker’s Guide
to the Work Galaxy began with a crisis. Although each of our
searches uniquely follows our diverse his and herstories, a
common thread weaves through many of our stories. I have outlined
for you some of the crucial steps often taken in our search
of meaning in work.
Stage 1. The Crisis
What we had thought as a soundly founded career transforms
to a fragile world with a seminal event. For me, the death of
my father marked the crisis in work identity. My own mortality
came into unbearably clear focus. My job that caused such anxiety
as to land me in the hospital, remodeled my Sundays into a day
of dreading Monday and extracted such emotional energy that
by evening I sat dysfunctional in front of television action
With death facing me straight in the eye, the future of failing
health and brain dead activities seemed spiritually and morally
degrading of the precious life I had once honored. Salvation
could only come with a significant change in my working environment,
psychological perspective and commitment to living a passionate
and full life.
But what else could I do? Banking on college educational, advanced
training and years of experience in my field, my skills seemed
confided to a finite universe of minimal choice. After years
of inculcation that my efforts were insufficient, multiple job
interview rejections and flagging support from a diminishing
number of colleagues who were being laid off, passion for anything
was lost in a bay fog enveloping hills and canyons.
Stage 2. The Lighthouse
Sitting in the job coach’s office, the passions of the
past leaked through the fog fresh for the taking. My ideal day
actually seemed plausible. The next weeks saw development of
transition plans and the office work atmosphere actually was
not so menacing and seemed less intimidating. My husband supported
moving on to changes that would improve my health, even if it
meant selling the house.
Planning continued and continued and continued. Money was saved.
Lists were made. Outlines of job opportunities with organizations
and self employment filled the formerly dead time in front of
Jackie Chan movies. But fear of lost income, security of a schedule
and the unknown territory of self employment kept the planning
mill grinding away. A bad experience with a former partner in
the self employment area haunted my adventurous spirit sucking
me into inaction. The comfort of planning became a warm glass
of milk soothing each evening. I needed more training, more
skills, and more background information for any step beyond
the current job.
I needed a new earthquake.
Stage 3. Getting Off the Dime
The next shake-up was not as dramatic as my father’s
death. A volunteer position opening was delivered to my home
in the Regional in Nature flier announcing the new outdoor programs
in the San Francisco East Bay. “Docents needed. Open to
those who enjoy the out of doors and wish to share experiences
with children. Ten-week training available. Begins January 20.”
The job resignation appeared on my supervisor’s desk
the next day. Answers to crucial questions became clear.
- Relationships: My husband supported the
move and was relieved to finally have the changes begin.
- Money: Hours of spreadsheets resulted in
- Reduced spending in less crucial areas
- Refinancing the house for a lower interest rate and
- More self improvement maintenance and cleaning work
around the house
- A realistic budget identifying the funding gap between
expenses and income
- Development of contract work to fill the gap.
The docent course started, the old job ended and I was euphoric.
Stage 4. Euphoria, But Not Heaven Yet
For the next two months learning life and earth sciences, anthropology
and teaching methods, accompanied walks in nature, companionship
with like-minded souls. All contributed to a sense of being
alive again. I made dinner for my husband every night and greeted
him with sincere cheer.
Yet even heaven has its tremors. Why was I so surprised that
my expectations of living my passion would not include the realities
of human nature? Why in the world would I have not thought that
people in idyllic settings would not have office politics, require
diplomatic maneuvers, gossip and seething competition? But yes,
and yet the passion for the work, persistence and healthy skills
in dodging the hard balls worked effectively.
Encouraged by the naturalist in charge of the docent program,
I applied for a position as an interpretive student aide and
low and behold was hired. What joy to look back just eight months
previously living in dread of the next day to living each day
with excitement of the hike or campfire. I began to conquer
the fear that I know too little about biology, botany, hydrology
and geology. My colleague Terri who began her student aide work
with me remarked how much I had learned in just two months.
Appreciating her acumen in the sciences, the comment boosted
my confidence while maintaining my realistic view of what I
still needed to learn.
Stage 5. The Best Laid Plans
More tremors shook my world when my colleague broke her ankle
at work. She and I shared the visitor’s center shift for
a beautiful picnic and camping lake. We had great plans for
new hikes, featured animals each month and nature craft programs.
I accepted her shifts and began a weekend marathon of work,
never seeing my husband. I forgot to revisit my goals from the
coaching experience and affirm my values about relationships.
I knew if I worked hard, I would “catch-up” with
the more knowledgeable student aides and naturalists. Again
I marvel at the silly logic. These naturalists had worked in
the field 15 to 25 years, the other student aides had been working
in natural science before their tenure at the parks and had
3 to 4 years of previous experience as student aides and the
culture of the parks.
Stage 6. Readjust
The new schedule has gradually transformed to more relationship
time as I learn the new word “no” to requests.
Just follow your passion…and live
happily ever after can be a seductive trap. A little pain, wake-up
calls, and a touch of fear guide an honest path. As human being
our minds often introduce mischief and tangents. Returning to
the root passions and purposes remind us of the balancing dance
we play with life. As passion is lived, more people will ask
for service, more offers become tempting, more learning seems
essential. It’s our joy and challenge.
What can we learn from Nancy’s story?
Discovering and living’s one’s passion takes a
period of exploration and risk. The rewards are lifelong!
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