Thursday, December 29, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up?

One of the funniest conversations I’ve had at the pool was with a little boy in one of my coworkers’ Saturday morning preschool classes. I was life guarding and he was teaching. The morning sessions are long and he had to take a quick bathroom break, leaving me to watch his class for a few minutes. Five little ones, 3 and 4 years old. One of the little boys looked up at me and, with no guile or jest, looked up at me and asked me if I knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. Expecting him to say that he wanted to be a fireman or a teacher or even an astronaut, I looked at him and said, “No, I don’t know. What do you want to be when you grow up?” His answer caught me off guard.

“An airplane.”

“An airplane? You mean you want to fly airplanes?”

“No. I want to be an airplane.”

I didn’t know what to say. What would you say to that!?

It might not be the most realistic or possible goal but he’s dreaming big. I wonder if, when he’s settled into a career, he’ll remember his dream – to be an airplane.

I think of all the ways that I answered that questions along the way. I wanted to be a musician for a while. And there was a LONG stage in which I wanted to be a teacher. I would line my dolls up and teach them for hours. We would have all sorts of classes. Later on in life, I thought a lot about working in agricultural aid, combining my love for science, the outdoors and God in practical missions. Never once did I dream about being involved in enrollment, marketing and admissions (my job at the college) or in children’s ministry (my position at Journey Church). Both roles, however, began with a certain excitement. They made sense with my skill set...and in the right context, likely still would. They engaged me deeper into community I was already involved in. They allowed me to build my skills, grow in my knowledge of myself, develop relationships and be challenged. Each however, developed in such a way that my self esteem and confidence were beaten, my belief in my own abilities was shattered and I was left exhausted. How something that started so good could develop into something so damaging not once but twice is hard to say. It’s possible that much of the fault lies in the fact that when I dive into something, I dive in with both feet and all of myself, feeling some innate drive to succeed and prove myself in all things. I am a perfectionist and it drives me – sometimes the biggest strengths can also be the greatest of faults. In discussing this with a friend of mine, she suggested that it’s because I care too much. Everything I pursue, I not only pursue as a task but also a matter of the heart.

Regardless, the end result is the place I find myself in now. I’m working as a life guard and swim instructor. The hourly pay is good but the hours are all over the map and inconsistent at best - the financial implications of that aren't good. The work is less than challenging (one of the patrons told me a while back that he thinks I’m too smart to be a life guard. Not the best commentary on my position). It’s not particularly encouraging or satisfying. The facility that I work at is not one that is healthy. The truth is, I'm bored. This certainly isn’t the job I dreamed of as a child but I try to regularly remind myself that this job has provided me with a sort of “safety net.” I am thankful that God had me in this place so when it was time to leave Journey, I could, knowing that I had an income.

That's the "job" place I find myself in now but the place for my deeper self is one of questioning, doubt and living with a need for change. I'm feeling restless and stuck all at the same time. Now the question “what do I want to be when I grow up?” is one that I ask myself on a regular basis.

I realize there’s two ways that I can go about next steps. The first would be to find a more consistent job that would be a job for “right now.” In a similar situation several years ago, a friend of mine took a job that allowed him to succeed, be built up and encouraged and heal. Now that his confidence has been restored, he has moved into a new job, one that has a world of potential for him and his family but he might not have looked at before. He needed that time to be restored. Colin and I have talked about me potentially needing that place to be restored. The second would be to figure out what’s next and go full speed ahead.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I’ve been cataloging my strengths and interests (with Colin’s help…the truth is, right now he sees much more good in me than I do). The question remains, what do I do with those skills.

On more than one occasion, it has been suggested that I should pursue my photography. To this point, it has simply been a hobby…but maybe…There’s so much I would have to do, in my mind, to make that a reality but maybe…What would it take? Where would I start? Would I be any good? What would separate me from all the other people out there trying to make a go of it? What if?

The truth is that I’m afraid. Like someone coming out of a [few] bad relationships, I’m afraid to put myself out there and step into something new. The motivation to hunt for a new job is slim to none. Truthfully, I would rather curl up on the couch and do nothing and yet that only makes me feel worse. I want to contribute to my family and to society. I want to spend my working hours at something I enjoy and can feel some satisfaction in. I want to feel like I’m in a position that I have something to offer, perhaps something that someone else couldn’t.

I get it too, that my job is not the fullness of who I am. The whole "is not what you do but who you are that defines you." I get it. I also get that there's something about our job that is a part of who we are, for some of us more than others. I'm one of those people that actually enjoys work when it's a good fit.

What do I want to be when I grow up? 

I’m thankful. As I process all of this, Colin is incredibly supportive and patient. He gets that I feel a little bit ‘stuck’ and is willing to give me a gentle nudge from time to time. And he processes and prays with me…what do I want to be when I grow up?

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