In keeping with the “map is not the territory” theme of 2014, this last year I entered into a different land – the land of reconfiguring my livelihood and lifestyle to reflect my values and re-established priorities. I suppose that’s what losing almost everything and everyone you hold dear can do to you, right? Yay for revelations in the form of outrageous self-sabotaging behavior. It really does help put things in perspective.
right livelihood/right life.
My newfound (let’s not say mantra…) around this portion of my Top 5 is really “your LIFE is your WORK.” Not the other way around? What? You see, I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic. Why? Work always made sense to me. There was a start and end, I got rewarded both financially and emotionally from it, and I could measure my progress by it. That all started to unravel, however, as the year began.
In January, we started the year the way I had been intending to for a long time: on an island far, far away. Tim cashed in a large chunk of frequent flier miles he’d been collecting after all that work travel – hundreds of thousands of miles – and we headed for the Big Island. I found a yurt on one side of the island for us to stay in for half of the trip and a small organic farm on the other side for the other half. It was a snorkeling, luau, volcano-filled extravaganza for 9 days. Talk about heavenly.
The woman who hosted us in Kona had this amazing little farm, and we talked at length about how she’d left the city (Denver, if I recall) to pursue her dream to be an organic farmer. After the jealousy wore off, I left feeling inspired. I didn’t want an organic farm in Hawaii, but there were things I wanted that I knew would infuse joy and purpose into my life.
Then I returned to work and went back to the grind. Days turned into weeks. Then months. I wasn’t happy.
During spring break I had a minor meltdown. It led me to deciding that I needed to work where my heart was: small, intimate educational settings devoted to real learning. I was tired of the mill of the large comprehensive high school. I was having exactly the same feeling I had before I started at a small charter school years ago. No matter how many contacts I had per day, I would only connect with 10% of the population. Or even less. It felt like it wasn’t enough.
I started applying for jobs that were more aligned with my own educational philosophy. I also wanted to have work where I could be more connected with my own children. Like the cobbler’s shoes always being worn, I sometimes feel like the educator’s kids can get the least attention. Well, that was what happened in my particular case. In all my years as an educator, I had never gone any of my kids’ field trips and only been to a handful of daytime events. I wanted that to change, too. I knew that I couldn’t be at every event, but having a more flexible schedule was an important thing.
I kept a pretty extensive list of “ideals” and I was fortunate to get my first interview sometime in late spring. Guess what? I totally bombed it. Like “oh my god who are you and what did you do with the confident person that usually inhabits this body?” It was so bad one of my boss’s bosses came over personally to console me…and to give me some honest feedback. It wasn’t pretty.
But it was necessary. And it woke me up. To be honest, I didn’t really want that job, I wasn’t really the right “fit”, and as a result I hadn’t really prepared for the interview. I had just wanted out of what I was in, and had tried to force it. As I started reflecting on the whole process, none of it had felt truly right. But I had applied, people thought I was qualified. I liked the idea of it, but never got past envisioning myself in this position.
(This should have been a giant red flag but I was too busy being “ambitious”.)
When the opportunity to interview for another position came up, I really paid attention to my emotions around the whole potential experience. I had to – I couldn’t live through another horrible ordeal. But this time it felt way different. And, as a result (shocker!)…I did my homework this time. I used the feedback I’d gotten from the interview, met with people who were professionals and could help me prepare for this potential position. I even bought a new suit that said, “I’m the boss.” Ya know what? It worked.
Of course, there is no fairy tale ending. We all know that the work really starts when you’re hired, and that’s where I am at now. It’s really challenging. But these are the things I know: it’s flexible, it’s challenging, and I like the people. Oh, and I have time for those people I live with. I’ve even gone on a field trip already. Now, that’s Life.