Making a Place

Today’s my last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life.

I’ve heard it said many times that if you want something to happen in your life, something new or exciting, you have to make a place for it. I think that “place” (I hope my friend Joey will overlook those quotation marks if they’re used incorrectly) could refer to both physical and psychological space. It could even mean time and energy.

That said, today is a most exciting day. It’s the last day of full-time employment with the state of South Carolina. It’s been a grand ride. I’ve met literally thousands of people who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways. I’ve had the opportunity time after time after time to feel the magic in a classroom, that moment when a student “gets it,” when he connects the dots and sees how the concepts actually apply to his life. Then there were the moments of laughter and pure unadulterated fun. Yes, that’s allowed in a classroom, at least in mine.

I’m not going to walk down Memory Lane this afternoon. I’ll save that stroll for another day. Today I just want to emphasize that it’s time for a new chapter to begin, and the only way for me to get there is to make some room. Hence, I’m freeing up some time to pursue other interests and explore different opportunities.

Yes, I’ll miss my work buds. I’ll miss my little office too. What I won’t miss is leaving home every single workday at 7:00 a.m. to drive to Sumter or Bishopville for an early morning class. Nor will I miss those night classes. Like Oprah said in her farewell show, “Been there, done that.” My husband and I have plans for Monday morning. We’re going to have breakfast at the local Huddle House, and I plan to sit by the front window so that I can have a good view of all the working stiffs racing by on their way to schools, banks, hospitals, and offices. 

Then I’m coming home to read, write, walk, and put some of my dreams into action. I might even take a real estate course. Yes, I know it’s not a good time to do that. I don’t care about getting rich; I just like looking at houses, and I think I might be pretty good at matching people with just the right home. I might help my sister-in-law Karen in her new business, and she won’t even have to pay me! I’m going to spend more time with my children and grandchildren. Atlanta, Conway, and Rincon (alphabetical order), here I come!

 We’re also going to do some traveling, and Otis has begun a travel fund for us. Alaska is first on our list. Maybe this fall we’ll go on a road trip to New England just to see the leaves. Why not? I’m making a space for it. Some of my friends and I love NYC, and I’ve started a little fund for that too. On my next trip, I’m going to see/hear the Brooklyn Gospel Choir. I’d also like to see where Abraham Maslow grew up. And I never tire of visiting Ellis Island, the MoMA, or the Museum of Natural History.

Between all the goings-on, I’m making a space for writing. I’m having a couple of pieces published in the next few months, and I have a half a dozen books on the back burner. I can’t get to any of those projects, however, unless I make a space for them. That’s why today is my last day.

Okay, let’s back up. It’s my last day of full-time employment, not the last day of employment period. When classes start again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be teaching a couple for CCTC and one for HGTC (online).  I’m excited about that and have already been collecting material. For instance, I just learned that obesity is the second cause of premature preventable death in America. Smoking is number one.  Can’t wait to share that with my Human Growth and Development classes.

In the meantime, my husband just stomped upstairs where I’m working and told me that I needed to make some space to walk around up here. All the office “stuff” is scattered about and is driving him crazy.

Gambaru Pablo!

What I want to say to Paul and all the other recent graduates is something I learned from reading about Ann Curry’s parents last week (guideposts.org). Gambaru! It’s one of my new vocabulary words, one that Curry’s mother used to tell her when she was on the verge of giving up or quitting something. It’s Japanese for “Never ever give up, even and especially when there’s no chance of winning.”

One of the gifts my children gave me for Mother’s day is a photograph book from Shutterfly. I love it! It’s a compilation of pictures of the three of them along some “Momisms” that I’ve preached (oops, taught) them over the years. When I was leafing through it again yesterday, I noticed that Paul is the only one of the three who mentioned “Never give up.” I’m sure my lovely daughters heard, “Keep on keeping on” in a variety of ways, just like their brother, but it just didn’t make their top ten.

Never give up is on my mind this morning because Paul is finishing graduate school this summer and has begun a serious job search.  He knows all of the social networking “stuff” and has tweaked his resume (can’t get the punctuation marks to come up) to a tee. It’s a tough market out there, but I’m confident that with his looks, intelligence, perseverance, competence, charm, human relations skills, and attitude, he’ll find just the right position. Yes, I’m a little biased, but that’s a mother’s prerogative.

What I want to say to Paul and all the other recent graduates is something I learned from reading about Ann Curry’s parents last week (guideposts.org). Gambaru! It’s one of my new vocabulary words, one that Curry’s mother used to tell her when she was on the verge of giving up or quitting something.  It’s Japanese for “Never ever give up, even and especially when there’s no chance of winning.”  Raised as a  Buddhist, Curry’s mother Hiroe couldn’t find a temple in America when she needed spiritual sustenance. She couldn’t speak English very well either and was often ridiculed. A tough lady, she had battled tuberculosis earlier in her life and won. This is the kind of mother Ann Curry had.

Her father Bob Curry was a tough cookie too, a strong man who instilled the values of family, love, hard work, and loyalty in his children.  A  Navy man, he met Hiroe when he was stationed in Japan after World War. Life as a mixed-race child in a poor family was hard for Ann and her siblings, and he often told Ann that trials and tribulations would make her stronger. It bugged him when his children whined, and one day he told them that from then on, whoever whined would have to drop and do ten push-ups no matter where they were. His kids quickly learned that whining didn’t accomplish anything.

Her father was a man who practiced what he preached. Once they were on a crowded bus, and all five of the children jumped into the empty seats before he could snag one. When her father said, “That’s not fair,” Curry and her siblings gave him “the look,” and he dropped down in the aisle and did ten push-ups. What a lesson in character!

Curry’s father encouraged her to do something of service with her life, and she decided that journalism would broaden her choices. She and her father went to college at the same time, he with the GI Bill and she with small scholarships and all kinds of work from bookstore clerk to hotel maid.

So to Paul and all the other job seekers, if you ever get discouraged and  feel like throwing in the towel, think Gambaru! Think of a young, frail Japanese woman recovering from tuberculosis living in a new land struggling to learn the language and customs. Imagine her rising above taunts and ridicule and prejudice to practice what she preached: Never give up. Never. The next time you think about whining or complaining about how hard  or unfair your life is, think of Bob Curry doing push-ups in a crowded bus.

I’ve never met Bob and Hiroe Curry, but I’ve seen their daughter on television many times. I saw her on the Today set one May morning two years ago. She’s a winner. She never gives up, she works hard, and she serves other people. She doesn’t whine either. Gambaru!

Working

When I was about 25 or 26, a couple of my co-workers were moaning and groaning about their jobs, how unfair the dean was, how unreasonable the job expectations were, how “needy” the students were, and on  and on and on. Finally, I blurted out, “If you hate working here so much, why don’t you quit?” 

One of them glared at me in disgust and disbelief (I was the new kid on the block) and demanded, “Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life????”

 

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I haven’t really thought about it.” And that was the truth. I hadn’t really thought about it that much at all. I was in a DINK (Double Income No Kids) marriage. We were saving money for a down payment on a house and planned someday to have children, but my career goals were hazy.

 

One of those gals stayed the course and retired from teaching after 30 years; I’m not sure what happened to the one who was doing most of the whining. I’m still in the classroom, and what I’ve learned from reading, observation, and personal experience is that the right vocation can be the difference between happiness and misery, fulfillment and disappointment, and employment and unemployment.

 

In no particular order, here are a few ways that a career choice can affect a person:

  • It can determine how much money you make and consequently your lifestyle. A lifestyle comprises a person’ whole way of life, from the food eaten and the clothes worn to the trips taken and interests pursued. Will you vacation with distant relatives and travel in the family car, or will you vacation at a resort and travel by air? Speaking of the family car, will it be luxury automobile, a gas guzzling SUV, a more practical model, or a clunker?
  • It can determine the neighborhood you live in and the type of dwelling you inhabit. Will you live in a McMansion, an apartment in an upscale neighborhood, or a nice modest home in the suburbs? There are lots of in-between options; naturally I can’t list them all. DH would love a little cabin in the woods, while I’d like nothing better than a bungalow by the sea. Can we afford three homes? HaHa.
  • For those of you who are in the child bearing years, your neighborhood can determine where your children go to school and consequently the education they receive. Throw their friends and teachers into the mix, and you can see that those interactions could impact their future.
  • A job can influence your physical and mental health. Work related stress can play havoc with a person’s overall feeling of health and well-being, especially if insomnia creeps into the picture. Some jobs are physically more demanding that others, and there are some that are downright dangerous.
  • Since the workplace puts us into such close proximity with others, it can be the ideal setting for the development of friendship. Just think about the 168 hours we’re each granted per week. How many of those hours do you spend with your work mates and how many with your family and friends?
  • A job can affect your self esteem. How a person views himself is tied in with what he does for a living since his job as programmer, electrician, or accountant is one of his primary life roles. I’m still amazed that one of the first questions I get asked is, “What do you do?” Plus, doing well or poorly, being a success or failure can easily evolve into a sense of personal worthiness…or not.
  • It can determine whether or not you’re employed. As an example, the medical field is exploding with job opportunities, and many people choose careers in nursing because of future potential earnings. And let’s don’t forget computers. Computer technology affects almost every job and every aspect of work.
  • A job can influence what you do with your time, how your day is structured. When you’re off for a few days, it soon becomes evident that work can help create the regularity of life, its basic rhythms and cyclical patterns of the day, week, month, and even year. More times that I can count, I’ve heard someone say something like, “I can’t remember what day it is,” when on vacation.
  • Work can also determine the quality of your retirement years. Will they be bleak or beautiful? Although I couldn’t see it at 25, it wasn’t long beforfe I saw the ultra importance of a good benefits package, including healthcare and retirement.
  • I keep thinking that I’m forgetting something, and I just realized what it was, the most important reason of all:  A job can give you the opportunity to use some of your God-given gifts and live a more fulfilling life. More on this one later.

I can’t remember who said that most people die with their music still in them (Oliver Wendell Holmes maybe??), but I hope you’re not going to be one of them  Think long and hard about your career choice and save yourself a lot of grief.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Work We Go

Hayden’s posts about work choices and following one’s dreams have got me thinking about the impact that one’s career choice has on his or her life. For most people, the day dawns when they realize that there are indeed no free lunches.  Sooner or later, we enter the workforce, and according to individual circumstances, we stay there for years…perhaps decades.

We spend more of our 168 hours a week at work than we do in any other activity, except perhaps sleeping, and I know some people whose slumber is impaired because of something work related. It could be stress that causes insomnia, or it could be the necessity of actually being on the job both early and late to earn a buck. At the moment I’m thinking of an individual who awoke with a bout of insomnia at 4:00 a.m. on a recent Saturday and finally decided to go into work and try to resolve the problem that was robbing him of much needed sleep. I know another individual who, until he recently made a huge change in his life, said that every night in his “old life” felt like a Sunday night before a big exam on Monday. Yes, work was that crushing.

I don’t mean to paint a negative picture. I’m just trying to point out that how one makes a living eventually turns into how one makes a life. I also feel that there are tens of thousands of people (maybe more…I’m not too good with numbers) who like Thoreau indicated, are leading lives of quiet desperation. Why do so many people make such poor career choices? Do they even think of the importance of a good P/E (Person/Environment) fit, or are they mainly thinking of how much money they’ll make? Some people go into vocations because of family pressure or influence, while others go to work at XYZ Widgets because it’s the biggest employer in town.

Time is too short to get started on this too much today so I’ll just leave you with a couple of thoughts, the primary one being THINK ABOUT IT. And while you’re thinking, please know that there are dozens of interest inventories, personality tests, and aptitude tests out there to help you in your quest. Many of them are online. Plus, there’s a wealth of information in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Not that he knew it all, but Sigmund Freud reportedly said that love and work were the cornerstones to a full, healthy life. Don’t you think it’d be a good idea to put some serious thought into both of those so that you could make the best possible choices??

The Good Life

I’ve been feeling a little burned out this week, charred to a crisp. Yesterday I told DH that I felt like my brain was smoking. The new semester begins Monday, and I have eight (yes eight) classes to teach this semester. Two are for another community/technical college, and four of the total are online courses, but STILL. It’s a lot of work, and the preplanning and preparation are time consuming. While technology adds many dimensions and possibilities to the learning process, it can also get a little overwhelming. Back in the day, we’d show up on the first day of class, give out the course syllabus, go through a programmed spiel, and call it a day. Now we have resource pages available to the students 24/7 that contain discussion boards, unit tests, power point presentations, links to supplemental sources, and so forth.

Although I’m feeling a bit stressed and haggard tonight, I feel upbeat too. Why? Because I love what I do and the people I get to do it with. I work with some of the best people on the planet, and it blows my mind (yes, I know that’s probably an archaic expression to some of the younger set) to think that I didn’t know even one of them six years ago when I moved from the coast to the midlands of SC. There’s Martha and her outrageous sense of humor, Carol and her bossy mother-hen qualities, and Nancy with her perfect manners and sense of style While all of these gals happen to be around my age, I’ve also become chums with many young women…men too. There’s just not time to write about all of them tonight. Besides, my brain is still smoking from earlier efforts.

I’ve met dozens and dozens of people outside of work too, primarily at church. Then there are my blog friends who are magically in my computer every time I log on. At odd times, I find myself thinking of them and wondering what they’re up to. Sometimes when I’m out shopping, I’ll look at the other folks and wonder if they too have iFriends or perhaps what Hayden refers to as an iFamily.

So what’s the major theme of this post? Hmmm. Not sure. It could be simply that despite stress and a killer of work week, life is good…very good. Having friends adds the icing on the cake. I’m also thinking that perhaps all of us need to think of all those strangers out there as potential friends, especially when you consider the richness that even one good one brings into your life.

Speaking of the richness of relationships, my former mother-in-law and I are traveling to Atlanta to spend the rest of the weekend with Paul and Amanda. At one time I never imagined such a trip would be possible, but it seems that she and I have found harmony again, and I’ll be picking her up at 8:00 in my spiffy red Highlander. I’m looking forward to taking her to see one of her grandsons and his bride.

Ah, I know the theme of this post now: love and work. Supposedly someone once asked Sigmund Freud the cornerstones of a happy life, and that was his response. Love and work–people to love and care about (and vice versa) and something productive to

Selling Your Life

I just finished reading a book that’s made a profound difference in how I view work. Entitled Nickel and Dimed, it’s by Barbara Ehrenreich and tells of her year-long foray into the world of minimum wage jobs. Waitress, nursing home aide, hotel maid, cleaning lady with The Maids, and “Wal-Martian” were a few of the jobs she held while subsisting on meager compensation and living in inadequate housing. Ha Ha. To call her accommodations “housing” is pretty funny. How many of you have ever gone “home” from work to find your landlord standing in your room to inform you that there’s been a little sewage problem and that, in fact, it’s in your room?

 

There’s so much I could say about Dr. Ehrenreich’s experiences, but today I want to zero in on a paragraph in which she’s describing her perceptions of her Wal-Mart tenure.  “You could get old pretty fast here. In fact, time does funny things when there are no little surprises to mark it off into memorable chunks, and I sense that I ‘m already several years older than I was when I started….Yes, I know that any day now I’m going to return to the variety and drama of my real Barbara Ehrenreich life. But this fact sustains me only in the way that, say, the prospect of heaven cheers a terminally ill person: it’s nice to know, but it isn’t much help from moment to moment. What you don’t necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you’re actually selling is your life.”

 

Selling your time by the hour is actually selling your life! This fits into nicely to something I’ve been writing about for a few months, the idea that what you do for a living, if you do it long enough, will eventually become a way of making a life. That said, I don’t know why more people don’t spend the time and effort necessary to make their lives rewarding.  

 

What you do, your self concept, your friends, what you think about, what neighborhood or community you live in, your income level, your status, your health, and just about every other aspect concerning adult life is related to occupational choice. I’m not big on statistics, but I’d venture to say that perhaps as much as 90 percent of your happiness or misery can hang on occupational choice.

 

Let’s start by thinking of our work as a calling, a vocation, instead of a job. Then read her book if you dare.