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 and the pandemic have anything in common?  They seem as far flung as any three two things can be, but people have passionate opinions about all three. I  figuratively took a walk through each, to gain  some perspective. 

I love to be in the water. I prefer the ocean or even a lake to a chlorinated swimming pool, but in winter, I’ll take what I can get. Sometimes I swim with friends, but more often I’m on my own. I jump in, submerge my body in the cool water, and breath a deep sigh of relaxation.  Sometimes I swim strokes for exercise, but more often I float and enjoy the experience. In the water, the worries of the day float away. I have a few moments of peace, or if I’m with friends, some time to socialize.

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 sea creatures lurking below. Some people simply don’t like to get wet though they bathe (I hope). The point is, I know not everyone feels the same way about the water that I do.

On the other hand, I’m not a gun person. I don’t hunt, I don’t believe firearms are a good idea for self protection, and I translate the 2nd amendment to allow for assembling a militia only. I do not believe the founding fathers ever intended for individual Americans to possess military style assault rifles. Still, I have friends who strongly believe in guns and the right to gun ownership. For them, holding a gun in their arms, sighting their target, and pulling the trigger gives them a sense of well being that I have never understood, but maybe it is similar to the feeling of floating along with the tide in the ocean?  

After the shooting in Newtown and the subsequent gun control debate, I was baffled by the opposition to proposed restrictions on military style assault rifles and large count ammunition clips. It may seem a silly, but in order to put myself in the shoes of pro-gun Americans, I used swimming as my metaphor. I think it is important to walk a mile in the another pair of shoes to see the whole picture. Of course, Statistics comparing drowning versus gunshot deaths are not even in the same league. On average 6,000 people die from drowning in the US annually compared to 30,000 people who die from gunshot wounds, but as a non-gun person this was the best I could do to try to relate to what the pro-gun people where rallying against. 

Imagine if the government decided that in an attempt to save 6,000 lives every year from accidental drowning, an individual’s right to swim was to be restricted? Swimming would only be allowed in public pools or designated swimming areas monitored by trained life guards. Swimming areas would only be open during certain hours. Ridiculous, right? Why should I have to give up swimming when I want to and how I want to just because some careless people drown? It’s not my fault. I learned to swim as a child. I know my limits. I am not going to drown. Why should I have to suffer the consequences of new rules?

As a society advances, it becomes more complex requiring more rules, and less freedom. Technical advancements and societal complexities break down mores that bind a simpler society. Mere understanding of right and wrong can no longer be relied on to direct human actions. Sacrifice must be endured for the greater good; even if it seems unfair, it is the price each of us needs to pay for everyone to be able 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 safely and proficiently in order to save the lives of other who may not?

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 at midnight unsupervised, 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 giving up some individual freedom because I’m not so sure about that guy over there.”

Sometimes looking up from the pool of water and admiring the vastness of the ocean can help broaden understanding. Big issues affect more than just ourselves or the people in our house, on our street, and in our town. Opening yourself up to the many sides of issues that affect everyone makes it is harder to stick to your individual guns. Be well informed, and gain perspective because no one can know if the 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 mask, socially distancing and lock downs. One side accepts the need to make sacrifices for the greater good to save lives. The other side does not. As of today, nearly 300,000 Americans have died of the virus. Largely, the infection is being spread in the United States by people refusing to take the simple steps of wearing a mask and staying socially distanced from friends and family. A majority of these deaths could have been prevented if more people were willing to follow the guidelines. That is not opinion. That is fact based on other countries who were able to keep their infections and deaths down by successfully imposing restrictions.

I still stand by my conclusion written back in 2013: Be informed. Gain a broad perspective. Respect others. And Please #wearamask