Friday, December 5, 2008

the neverending career crisis

"I'm just an honest man, provide for me and mine
I give a check to tax-deductable charity organizations.
Two weeks paid vacation won't heal the damage done;
I need another one.
Still, things could be much worse:
natural disasters on the evening news.
Yep, things could be much worse;
We've still got our health, my paycheck in the mail.
I promised to my wife and children I'd never touch another drink as long as I live.
But in the end it sounds so soothing to mix a gin and sink into oblivion.
This will all blow over in time."

-Cold War Kids, We Used to Vacation

I tortured myself during my twenties, constantly looking for that golden purpose in my life. I remember thinking, "I know I'm meant to do something extraordinary, and I'm not doing it." But, agonize as I did at the time, making lists, talking to friends and Dan, reading books, I couldn't figure out what that extraordinary thing was. Up until I was in my early twenties, I had been a dancer, with the extraordinary goal of dancing on the world tours of pop stars, but after studying in Sydney, I realized that I loved dancing, but a professional life wasn't for me. I was tired of doing plies, I was tired of staring at my body in the mirror and always finding something wrong with it, I was tired of competing, competing, competing always to be the best. And I just wanted to go to happy hour instead of always being in class.




But taking myself away from my career as a dancer left a big void. It had been my identity, it had been the answer to all of my career questions for almost my whole life. I no longer had to chose between LA and New York City, and I suddenly faced a world of possibilities. I totally freaked out after a couple of years had gone by and I was working a job that I hated, making barely enough money to survive. This was not the life I was destined for. I was destined for spotlights and sequins, music and make-up. What I had were papercuts and photocopies, file folders and staff meetings in which I could barely keep my eyes open. I started dancing again, but quickly realized it wasn't the answer.

Now that I'm older, I cut myself a little more slack. I did learn that the 9 to 5 office nightmare wasn't for me, so I quit. I started waiting tables and bartending, which made me really happy, even though it still didn't get me any closer to solving my career dilemma (did it?). What it did for sure was ease my suffering and pay my bills for long enough that I was free to relax into my questions and let the answers come to me on their own time. One answer did come, clear and without debate: it was time to travel. On that day I had borne this little bouncing bundle of joy, measuring 19 and half feet long, and weighing, well, weighing a lot. I named her Vantasy.

The Vantasy hasn't solved my career crisis either. Actually, it has done sort of the opposite. When I get back to Portland I'm going to be broke, and the pressure will be on to find a job. And then I'll have to ask myself, "settle on something quick so you can pay your bills, or hold out for the dream job?" Problem is, I'm not sure what the dream job is.

I do have a clear idea of what I do want, though. I want health insurance. I want an irregular schedule, not 9-5 everyday. I prefer working less than 40 hours a week, but I'll do it for a while if I have to. I want a boss who respects me. I want to be able to see the outside, and not be locked in a concrete building all day. I want to be around people. And I want to be able to afford to live off my wages and have enough extra to save for my next adventure or for a house. I almost had all of that at the Lotus; it wasn't that bad of a gig, actually. I think I can do better, though.

Though my career questions have still not been answered, I've come to the point in my life where I've realized that it isn't what I do for a job that matters. My identity isn't based on my doing something extraordinary, it's based on who I am. Being extraordinary doesn't mean I have to be famous or rich, or in a career I've always dreamed of. I know now that it means living a life of integrity. It means living honestly, treating people well, and taking care of those around me. It means never letting fears keep me from doing something I want to do. It means challenging myself and never getting bored, but also taking joy in the routine aspects of my day. It means loving, and letting go of grudges. It means taking big courageous leaps and laughing when I fall.

I know I'm living an extraordinary life, even though I still have questions... Hmmm, maybe having questions is actually a sign of an extraordinary life.

Anyone for a drink?


Rachel Tamed said...

While you wait for the dream job, you and Ralgh can live in my treehouse :)

TravelFables said...

I identify with this post a lot. I was never a pro-dancer (though I’ve danced in community shows, and did the ballroom thing for fun some). For me, yesterday’s muse was not dancing but filmmaking (so I totally get the LA/NYC thing). I left that behind as a career choice option years ago.
Don’t forget though, that you will have some advantages after your Van-tour.
If anything, RVing often teaches one to be high-level at frugality. That’s a huge advantage sometimes. A part time job can do more than a full time job use to, by the sheer magic of watching spending, and not feeling the need to buy tons of stuff. Its helped me on that front, and I know how it feels to have to stop and recharge the play-money.

As for drinks, I hope to be having my Margaritas on some south Florida beach in the Oyster-Can when this Xmas thing is over with.
Keep adventuring, have fun, and know that when being exceptional, spotlights are completely optional.

LiveWorkDream said...

Oh what fabulous photos!

My question to you is; why spend so much time worrying about tomorrow, about things that haven't happened and that you have no control over? Try to live more in the now, and your calling might come to you a lot easier that way. It could be right in front of you, right now.

To me, it sounds like you are more focused on the end of your trip, instead of what's going on right now.

Try to let go of those fears, the "what if's", and see what happens. Unless you stay on the road forever, you won't have much of an opportunity to do so much heavy thinking, so seize the day my friend, for it will never come around again.

John Judy said...

I'll buy you a drink... but you have to wear that cow costume from the last picture and start every sentence with "moo".

Seriously, why not just try quiet mediocrity? It works so well for me.

Shannon said...

me, me, pick me! I'm having a drink!! and I don't have a job and know I'm destined for something great workwise but have absolutely no idea how to envision it.

also, i want to go with you and john on that "moo" date.