rewards and fulfillment: a little wisdom from Indiana

27 March 2012

I ended up in Indiana this weekend. It wasn’t exactly a family emergency, but a time-sensitive family gathering that needed to happen sooner than later. Planning these sorts of trips is never easy, but I’m glad for the time I got with my family.

However, this post isn’t really about the subject matter of that time sensitive trip or why I needed to be in Indiana.

While I was home, my mom shared with me a little bit about her recent trip to go help those hit by tornados that devastated parts of Indiana recently. She was telling me about how what happened was terrible, but how the work was really rewarding. It got her thinking–this woman who’s well into her career and is even a grandmother now–about switching to a more fulfilling career. (This coming from the woman who still jokes that I switched my major in college too much–I switched it twice, despite the number she has in her head.)

Naturally, this got me thinking. Now, I generally do enjoy my new job quite a bit. But is it rewarding or fulfilling in even the tiniest meaningful way? No. Is this something I want to be doing for the next 10 years? Probably not, at least probably not with this company. I am in no means going to leave this place yet… But there are definite stresses here that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. And like I said, it’s not really rewarding in a way that seems to matter.

It all brings up that frustratingly annoying question of “what are you going to do with your life?” I don’t mind academic administration, but it probably wouldn’t have been my first thought of a huge career path for me. Not how I’d define myself. And the conversation did sort of reinforce my stepmom’s point that your 20s (and let’s be honest, it goes into your 30s, sometimes longer) are for figuring things out. She said, in your 20s you’re supposed to bounce from thing to thing, figuring out what works for you and learning from mistakes. That in your 30s things will setting down. Only, as I get nearer to 30, the only thing I’ve figured out is that I still haven’t figured it out and I’m kind of okay with that… maybe.

While my current job might not be rewarding or fulfilling in a way one might expect, it does allow me to still do the things I do find rewarding and fulfilling. This job is just a way for me to pay the bills and have some spending cash. I know a good handful of people who have this type of job–just to pay the bills–in fact, a lot of my musician friends probably fall into this category. It doesn’t zap all my creative energy and is flexible enough to let me run around with band nerds or take a writing class… But is it really enough? Do I want one of my passions to turn into a career, adding unneeded stress to something I love? And really, what am I doing with my life?

They’re all good questions, and I don’t have the answers. All I can say is that overall, I’m enjoying my life. Bottom line, I call that a win. I don’t feel stuck or trapped–I’ve got the freedom to change my path, even if I don’t do so until I’m my mom’s age.

  • Some things this post made me think about, not in any specific order:

    * If you finally settle down in your 30s or 40s or whenever, does that mean you’ve found *it*?
    * Does settling down on one thing mean you aren’t looking for other things that might also be *it*?
    * Is there a point at which it is desirable to stop changing
    * Is there a point at which it is desirable to start changing?
    * Are those points intrinsic or do you put them on yourself?

    You will always continue to try things as long as you a) have the energy for it, and b) the risk of losing what you have is not greater than the opportunity. The trick is deciding what that risk really is. A lot of times the risk is self-imposed. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “people might think I’m being foolish”.

    I enjoyed this. thanks for the food for thought!

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