Sunday, February 14, 2016

Life Path Dilemma

Imagine that one day you wake up and discover that you are in the wrong job. It is an epiphany. Suddenly you realize why every Monday morning feels so bleak, why every Sunday afternoon your mood progressively blackens and you end up staying up way too late trying to squeeze a little more time out of the weekend. The arguments that run through your mind -- that you work with wonderful people, that the work you do is a useful contribution, that several improvements in the organization have been accomplished in part by your hard work, that you made a commitment to this job and can't back out now -- seem hollow in the face of your emotions. Anger. Despair. Resentment. 

You counsel yourself to put your head down and keep working. You repress the angry helpless feelings, and focus in on the specific projects at hand. You nudge, mentor, meet, plan, and present, crossing off tasks until you are able to push another project through to completion. And meanwhile new tasks and projects prolipherate like weeds. Yesterday's finished project is barely noticed; now the urgent refrain is about projects W, X, and Y. Why aren't they finished yet?

Working, working, working, and you are another year older, and then another year, and then a decade goes by. What a naive thought to think it could be otherwise. Life ain't a bed of roses. It's about working and pulling your weight. They don't pay you the big bucks to sit around. Who ever said work was fun?

But wait! The question is not about working in this job or not working at all. It's not either/or. There are many ways to contribute to the world, and multiple paths to a good life. Although it is typical, once you become part of an organization, to embrace the beliefs of that organizational culture, it does not mean that organizational culture must become your destiny. 

You have one life, one finite stretch of time on this earth to invent yourself, to flourish, and to find a path on the twisted roads of time. The best you that you can be is the person who will give the most to your community and to the world. Whipping the tired, unwilling workhorse through another tiresome day of never ending tasks is not likely to be the way to your best contribution. 

Perhaps you are doing good work and perhaps you have made some useful contributions, but if your passion isn't in it, if it doesn't make your heart sing, then it isn't the right place for you right now. 

By you, I mean me. Dear colleagues, who are surprised and wondering at the suddenness of of it all, please know that for me it wasn't sudden at all. The knowledge was growing in my heart for a long time that I had wandered into the wrong tangled forest. It has taken me a long time to recognize that I needed to act upon my epiphany and make a change. 

I do not regret my years in this job. I have learned so much, and worked with some great people. But now it is time for me to invent another path, and to work and live with joy and passion.

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