I’ve never been particularly career minded.
There, I said it. It’s not that I’m wildly happy about it; it’s just the truth.
There are some people who have known exactly what they wanted to do and exactly who they wanted to be from the moment they stepped into Kindergarten, but that just wasn’t me. In fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t really even consider the fact that I needed to choose a career path until my junior year of college. But the thing is… I didn’t really even consider it. Making that kind of decision seemed hard and scary, and I didn’t want to face hard or scary things, so I just assumed that life would work out in my favor. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
There are lots of things that I could blame this on. I could blame it on the fact that I went to a free spirited elementary school that focused on play based learning rather than academics. I could blame it on the fact that I’m the third child, and everyone knows the baby of the family doesn’t face the same strict standards as their older siblings. I could blame it on the fact that my parents split up when I was young and my mom did everything in her power to make sure that my childhood was simply happy. I could blame it on the fact that nobody ever really pushed me out of my comfort zone. But you know what? I don’t need to blame anyone or anything. This is just who I am.
Just because I’m not especially jazzed about climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t mean I’m not passionate. I’m passionate about plenty. I’m passionate about the Gospel, I’m passionate about being creative, I’m passionate about taking care of people, I’m passionate about relationships, I’m passionate about loving the fatherless, I’m passionate about joy.
Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always guarantee a living wage and a 401k. After I graduated from college, I was honestly confused about who I was and who I wanted to be. My main goals were to be a wife, a mother, and a children’s book illustrator – if I was lucky. Not surprisingly, those things weren’t practical, so I started applying for every corporate position that might take me.
I had never considered writing as a career, but I felt like I was pretty okay at it – and remember – I really had no idea what I wanted to do. When a position as a copy writer opened up that would allow me to move to Charlotte, I jumped on it without a second thought. I worked with this tech start-up for the past year and a half, writing countless articles, making crazy bets with co-workers, and eating my weight in frozen yogurt from the TCBY next door. While it was an incredible experience, I wasn’t fulfilled.
I left my job a month and a half ago. At first, unemployment seemed blissful. I spent a long weekend at the beach with girl friends, I caught up on all of the to-do list items that I had been putting off for months, and I binge-watched plenty of Netflix. Being someone who has admittedly never been career minded, I was surprised when the doubt started to creep in. Around Week 2 of unemployment, the dark little voice of negativity began whispering in my ear.
“You’re never going to have a job that you can be proud of.”
“You aren’t very smart.”
“You never try hard at anything.”
“You couldn’t even get into the college you wanted to.”
“Nobody would want to hire you.”
“You’re such a disappointment.”
“What are you even going to do? You’re directionless!”
“You’re going to hop around from dead-end-job to dead-end-job for the rest of your life.”
There was one week when 5 different strangers asked me where I was in school. I was so confused as to why I kept getting this question when I graduated 3 years ago, but then I realized it was because I wasn’t at work during working hours. A cashier at Trader Joe’s greeted me one Tuesday afternoon, “Got the day off work?” I stuttered, “Uh… yeah…” and my self-esteem plummeted. A woman at the pool quipped, “Reading by the pool on a Monday?! I wish I was you!” I held my tongue but what I wanted to say was, “A job with a paycheck on a Monday?! I wish I was you!” People asked questions behind my back, “Is she just planning on babysitting forever?” All of it made me want to scream.
There are a myriad of things in my life that are important. My job has never been the most important thing to me. When my joblessness started threatening my identity, I was shocked. I didn’t know how to handle it. I panicked. One day I was convinced I had the stomach bug – I was nauseous and I physically could not drag myself out of the bed. In reality, I’m pretty sure I was just having a melt down brought on by worrying about my future.
This isn’t a sob story. This time of discomfort and unemployment has forced me to ask myself some hard questions. It’s forced me to face the hard and scary decisions that I was always afraid of. How do I want to spend my days? What do I enjoy? What am I good at? How can I turn my passions into a job that I love?
The great news is that I have a plan. I’m taking the steps to pursue a career that I’m really, really, excited about. It’s going be hard and it’s going to take a few years and I’m sure I’m going to shed my fair share of frustrated tears. But I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna kick butt. It’s like… for the first time in my life I’m chasing a dream that I want for myself, and one that I’m proud of. I’ll write more about this later, but that’s not my point for today.
Friends, today I want to say to you, you are not your job. You are not defined by the way you spend your days from 8 to 5. Your identity does not depend on your paycheck or the amount of money in your bank account. You are not a better individual when you get a promotion, and you’re no less important when you get laid off. You are not defined by what you do, you are defined by who you are. You are the books you read, you are the people you spend time with, you are your ambitions and your dreams, you are your hobbies, you are your beliefs, you are your convictions, you are your sense of humor, you are your passions, and you are your victories.
At the end of the day, at the end of your life, your professional resume doesn’t matter. If you ask me, the only thing that matters is the way you’ve loved people.