A true calling
The accepted definition of the word "career" is "an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life with opportunities for progress." That's a very dry definition. I think of a true career as a calling. Something about the work calls to you, jibes and melds with everything you're about. It's your walk in life and you are extremely lucky if you have found the right path. Doing so often takes years and, sadly, sometimes doesn't happen at all.
I lay awake one recent night and thought about the various careers I have had over my lifetime. You know what it's like at the witching hour. First you spend some time worrying about your children and/or your grandchildren, if you have them. Then, maybe you haven't been feeling so well lately, so you worry about yourself. Moving right along, you might fear that the entire country is going to hell in a handbasket, and there's not a thing you can do about it.
There's something about the wee hours of the night that renders us defenseless against worry. After a while, it just wears you down, so you make a valiant effort to redirect your thinking to something harmless. To me, that's usually the past. It seems like safe territory because it's already happened and so there's no point in worrying about it. Casting around for a safe haven, I eventually come to pondering my various careers. I have had some memorable ones and I recall them, for the most part, with fondness. Thinking about them proves to be a good escape from the midnight malaise.
I should probably differentiate between careers and jobs. I have had several jobs: Research assistant, insurance claims representative, secretary, and waitress (the last easily being the hardest and most disagreeable). Here are my careers, the jobs I put my heart into: 1. Editor for an educational publishing firm. 2. Caseworker for the Cook County Court System in Chicago (hair-raising). 3. Model and instructor for a young women's career college (we used to call them charm schools.) 4. Regional coordinator and instructor for a national fitness firm (back before the whole fitness craze began — I've never been in such good shape!) 5. Personal assistant for the vice president of a large international bank. 6. Editor and publisher of an equestrian magazine.
Seems like a lot of careers, I know. The problem was that I would just sink my teeth into something and my military husband would get transferred, requiring me to start over someplace else in some other profession. Sort of like changing horses mid-stream.
I also had two more careers, but I'm not sure they qualify, as they were volunteer positions. However, out of all my varied endeavors, these were among my favorites. One was as a docent at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. I worked there for two years and it was as challenging and fulfilling as any paying job I've ever had.
The second is one I am still doing right here in Wilsonville. I have been working as the volunteer coordinator for the library bookstore, Twice-Sold Tales, for around a dozen years. I get to interact with 30 volunteers and together we staff the bookstore, the proceeds of which fund many library programs. It is a very satisfying and worthwhile job. Now, if they would just pay me. (Ha!)
All of these various memories give me plenty to think about in the long, still night. Thinking about them goes back to my feeling that a true career is a calling. Out of all the things I have done over the years, I've only had one true calling, which I like to think is writing. Aside from this column, I also write poetry and children's stories. Writing is something I can do in my head during those sometimes lonely, worrisome nights. Writing is a blessing. It is how I stay in touch with who I am.
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