Job or Career?

Driving to work today, I was thinking about my “to do “ lists, I have three. A list for each of my two jobs and one for myself. The “to do” lists for work change as tasks are completed, but the one for myself seems to grow endlessly (as the time I have for myself shrinks). My life is built around taking care of other people.

Several years ago, a friend suggested I stop moving from job to job and find a career. At the time, I heard his advice as prompting to become more ambitious, but today I realized there really is a difference between working a job and choosing a career.

Working a job is always about other people’s stuff: other people’s ideas, other people’s dreams, other people’s methods. In each of my two jobs, I show up at work and follow other people’s instructions fulfilling plans laid out by others for others. I get paid to do anything my employers ask of me. That is the job.

A career would still be work, of course, but it would be work that I chose. Whether trained for certain skills, or self-taught, people who have careers identify with their work. They are invested in it, not just for the money, but because they made the choice to be in a certain field. The big benefit in owning that choice is that it changes your perspective from one of working for someone else to working for yourself (even if it is within the context of someone else’s company). Building a career includes following a path to achieve the dream you select for yourself, but first you have to identify what you want.

When I was young, I wanted to be the weather man. But in the 70s, the meteorologists were all weather MEN, no women. I didn’t believe reporting the weather was something I’d ever be allowed to do. Also, I had always gravitated towards doing things for others. Even in sports I played defense-more comfortable addressing what came at me rather than chasing after the goal. My position on the defensive/support side continued into adulthood as I ended up in administrative assistant and customer service positions instead of trailblazer roles (like becoming the first female meteorologist on TV).

Curiously, the most memorable moments in my high school sports career occurred when I found myself way out of position across half field scoring a goal. What a thrill! Looking back now, I can see my mistake. I should have chased that thrill. I should have played more attack. I should have reoriented myself to go after my personal goals rather than always focusing on the dreams of others. But do we become so ingrained in our ways that it becomes impossible to change? Am I an old dog unable to learn new tricks?

Maybe I just need a reminder of how it feels to score a goal. In one of my current jobs, I function as a personal assistant to a pair of life coaches. Interestingly, the choice each made to become a life coach came about as part of post divorce middle aged life changes. They definitely practice what they preach, and the first thing a good life coach always suggests is to write down goals. The follow up involves figuring out how to achieve those goals. As a team, all of the employees on their team get together annually to set company goals. We then check in periodically to update the progress being made towards achieving those goals. Through their teaching and inspiration, I realize this old dog may still be able to learn a few new tricks. It’s not too late to switch from defense to offense or from a job to a career.

Give Jewelry

When I was 14, my  first boyfriend gave me a pink plastic ring. I still have it. Women love jewelry. A ring, a necklace, a bracelet, or earrings, it doesn’t have to be big and sparkly (thought that is nice), and it doesn’t have to be expensive, but when you want us to know you mean it, give jewelry.

Once I received a knife as a gift. That fancy German carving knife may have doubled as a crystal ball because it told my  future, though I couldn’t decipher the message at the time. He selected the knife because it liked it. He wanted it. Very little in our relationship, (as I came to realize later) was about me, and if I had admitted that to myself at the time, I wouldn’t have been so surprised when he stabbed me in the heart a few month later. 

A word of caution: Jewelry is not meant for peacemaking. If you messed up, don’t link that mistake to a permanent object. She may say she forgives and forgets, but with a sparkler always there to remind her of the bad stuff, you may one day need to duck as it flies at your head. Flowers say I’m sorry just as well, and when they die, they end up in the trash along with the negative memory.

Jewelry is for celebration and for deep heartfelt emotions (think engagement ring/wedding band). Jewelry is personal and intimate. We wear it against our skin, and each piece offers the opportunity to tell a story. Then, both the story and the sparkle can be passed on. Our jewelry will be part of the legacy left behind after we have gone.

When you want us to know you mean it, and you want the memory, the emotion, and the sentiment to last, give jewelry.

Walk a Mile with a Six Shooter and a Towel

*Originally written in 2013. Updated for COVID19

Do swimming and firearms have anything in common?  They seem as far flung as any two things can be, but the commonality is the passion people have around each. 

For me, it’s swimming. I love to be in the ocean, or a lake, but I’ll even accept a chlorinated swimming pool in winter. Sometimes I swim with friends, but more often I’m on my own, submerging my body in the cool water, and breathing in relaxation. I swim strokes for exercise, but more often I just float and enjoy the experience. In the water, the worries of the day seem far away. 

Of course, I know plenty of people who don’t swim. Many don’t like the water because it is too cold. Others fear dangerous tides or lurking sea creatures. Some people simply don’t like to get wet. The point is, it is okay to not feel a kinship with the water.  

I’m not a gun person. I don’t hunt. I don’t believe firearms are a good plan for self protection. I translate the 2nd amendment only as a law to allow assembling a militia because I do not believe the founding fathers ever intended individual Americans to possess military style assault rifles. But there are plenty of Americans who believe in guns and their right to own them. Holding a gun, sighting the target, and pulling the trigger must give them a sense of well being similar to my enjoyment of being in the ocean.  

On average 6,000 people drown in the US annually compared to 30,000 people who die from gunshot wounds.

Obviously, statistics comparing drowning versus gunshot deaths are not even in the same league, but I believe it is important to walk a mile in the other pair of shoes to see the big picture. So, here we go:

Let’s imagine in an attempt to save the lives of the 6,000 annual drowning victims, the government has decided to impose swimming restrictions on everyone. Swimming would only be allowed in public pools or designated swimming areas monitored by trained life guards during certain hours, and before being allowed in the water, a swimming test was required. Ridiculous, right? Why should I have to give up swimming wherever and whenever I want just because some careless people drown? I learned to swim as a child, and I know my limits. I’m not going to drown. 

As a society advances, it becomes more complex, and requires more rules and less freedom. Technical advancements break down mores that bind a simpler society. The mere understanding of right and wrong can no longer be relied on to direct human actions. The result is that sacrifices must be endured for the greater good; even if it seems unfair, that is the price each of us needs to pay for everyone to live together in (relative) peace.

Understanding this broader view, I reconsidered the question:

Would I be willing to limit my exposure to an activity that I enjoy in order to save the lives of other who may not do it safely?

Only being allowed to swim at certain times of the day and in designated areas monitored by a lifeguard  feels restrictive and unfair, but I would accept this small sacrifice for a greater good. New laws won’t stop rule breakers who choose to skinny dip unsupervised at midnight, and laws won’t stop illegal weapon exchanges, but that doesn’t mean these laws shouldn’t exist.

Laws are a civilized society’s way of saying, “I can handle (this responsibility), but I’m willing to give up some individual freedom because I’m not so sure about that guy over there.”

Look up from the pool of water and admire the vastness of the ocean because the really big issues affect more than just the people in our house, or the neighbors on our street. The REALLY BIG issues, like gun violence, affect everyone. Please stay well informed and consider what is best for society beyond personal wants and needs.

No one ever knows if he will need a towel based on a single drop of water.

Since I originally wrote this the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and a debate has raged over wearing masks, socially distancing and local lock downs. Some Americans accepted the need to make sacrifices for the greater good in order to save lives, but a shockingly large portion of the American population fought against all safety measures. As of today, nearly 600,000 Americans have died of the virus. The infection is being spread in the United States largely by people refusing to take the simple steps to protect themselves and others. Wearing a mask and staying socially distanced from friends and family is a sacrifice, but it seems like a pretty small one in exchange for saving lives.

I stand by my original conclusion from this blog post written in 2013: Stay informed. Gain a broad perspective. Respect others. And please #wearamask