I was looking through one of my older journals recently and I found a random piece of paper with these words:
I’m feeling stagnant lately. I don’t have much motivation for anything, but at the same time I’m feeling as though I’m getting trapped into a life I don’t want. What do I want? That’s what I must ask myself. What do I want?
And then there’s the necessities like: pay off student loans! As well as more specific goals like: learn French and Swahili
Sometimes I wonder if a job in the office of SCIAF will really help fulfill any of these. I suppose that might depend on my motivation- like the opportunity to travel. But then I think that perhaps working at some kind of relief agency might be better – to be ‘on the ground’ providing people with immediate relief. But can a job like that really pay the bills? And will my MSc have been a waste? I really just need to remind myself – all of this stuff doesn’t have to be accomplished by the time I’m 25 or even 30! I can do whatever I want – but I’m going to have to get motivated and WORK for it!
I felt two things when reading these words: first, that this could have been written literally yesterday, and second, that I need to listen to my younger self! This was written during the summer of 2008 while I was completing my Masters degree in Edinburgh. Young Danielle was right – I don’t need to have this shit figured out yet! Just breathe.
These past few years have been variously difficult, frustrating, heart breaking, foundational and hopeful. I have been on a search for meaning and place. Trying to figure out what my passions are and where I fit. I am still not there. Not by a long shot. But I think I am finally getting close. When I moved to DC I was sure that I wanted to build a career in international development. I wanted to travel and try to help people who are truly needy; to analyze US policy toward poor countries and try and change it for the better. That didn’t work out. For whatever reason, I was not successful in securing a job in this field. Eventually, frustrated and exhausted, I exited the 9 to 5 and began working full time in the service industry. I did this with the intention of simultaneously starting my own business. It was going to be a virtual assistant business. You know, because I have a knack for organization and a background in admin. This would have had the perks of being able to live/travel where ever with no consequences to my work and also allowed me to make money for myself, rather than someone else. But you know what? I don’t love admin. In fact, I don’t even really like it! I like excel, numbers and spreadsheets. And I do like to organize things if I’m in the right mood (but mostly I just want things to BE organized). But admin? Like, calendars, meeting scheduling, etc.? Boring. as. fuck. So WHY did I think that would be a good idea for me? It wouldn’t have.
So, while taking the opportunity to train behind the bar at work set me back in starting my business, it really did me a favor. It helped me to learn a lot about myself. In fact, I think that I have learned more about myself and what I am looking for in a job (as in, the activities I spend my time doing day to day) than I have in a very long time. So what am I looking for?
- Spending time outdoors and on my feet (not behind a computer!)
- Working with a close-knit team rather than doing primarily solitary work
- Opportunities to teach
- A varied environment that involves a lot of human interaction
Given these parameters, there are a lot of things that I think could fit. I had the idea in Denver to look into being a park ranger. I still think this would be amazing. But, after some research it’s clear that park rangers aren’t a very lucrative path. Not that I’m all about money, I’m definitely not, but my loans are such that $16/hr isn’t going to cut it unless I have something else going on the side. Another thing I have learned in the last year is that I DO want to be making enough money to have savings and disposable income. I want to be able to invite 10 girlfriends over and make brunch and cocktails for them without worry. Or go to one of my best friend’s weddings in Arizona and take 2 weeks off to take a road trip of a life time to the Grand Canyon. Or buy my family tickets to a Red Wings game for Christmas. These experiences matter and I am increasingly hesitant to take a position that is going to put me back into the position of scraping along and constantly worrying about paying my bills. Being even semi-poor sucks!
So, the last few weeks I’ve been really putting some thought into where I want to be going in and, more so, what do I have a passion for? I’m still in the process of answering this question. But today I ran across this blog as part of Katie’s SDS blog tour: Just flounder a little bit. It is part of a series that Sarah is doing – a lesson she has learned each week for the last 29 weeks of her 20’s. This hit home a lot. I may be in a floundering place, but sometimes those places are needed to find what we are truly meant to be doing. Looking back at the things that I said I wanted as a 22 year old – Purpose, self-fulfillment, adventure, travel, love – was it any wonder that I finally got sick of being in an office?! I could have told myself that six years ago, apparently. And the funny thing is that what I want today hasn’t really changed that much. I have been thinking about this recently as I have been reading about the Desire Map and preparing myself to read the book. I articulate what I want slightly differently today – in terms of feelings rather than qualities – but I just journaled this the other day and the words that I used were: Joyful, Inspired, motivated/active, loved, valued, freed, strong, grounded, zen, and ‘make a difference’ (I think ‘purpose’ could be used in that place). The only thing missing is ‘adventure’ – which I think was an oversight because that is definitely something I want in my life.
So – I’m at the point now where I have a few potential options available to me and I have to decide what I should take and what I shouldn’t. Sometimes I think that my problem is that I see potential in all opportunities. So, for the new, smallish neighborhood bar/restaurant that is looking for a server for two nights and a bartender for a brunch shift, I see a growing company that I could get in on the ground floor with and potentially move to management as they expand, allowing me to learn more about small concept restaurants, sourcing, ordering, budgets, etc. from that end. But that’s looking really long term. Do I pass that up and try to find something that is a) closer to my house and b) wanting to hire me into a higher position from the get-go? Or at least wait until it’s closer to the busy season so that if nothing else I’ll at least be making money? If I’m offered a part time position at a catering/farmers market do I take that as well as the job at the new restaurant and try to keep only a couple shifts at FFB while also trying to volunteer at a school garden and maybe Rock Creek Park? That’s juggling a lot of things! Do I just stick with FFB and do the farmers market stuff and then when it gets to busy season look for a different restaurant gig? There are so many options and so much potential that at this point it’s hard for me to narrow things down.
Justin was today really trying to get me to focus on what my end goal is and to get rid of all the extra. The problem is that I don’t know what my end goal is! I don’t think I know enough about many of the things that I am interested in to make an informed decision. He really challenged me when I said that I was interested in food, cooking and farms and how they relate to restaurants, etc. He pointed out that I don’t go around checking out all the farmers markets and I don’t cook super often; I’m not obsessed with trying new recipes and stuff. This is all true, I guess. But I would counter that I don’t cook much anymore because of my job; I’m not home during cooking time! And really, I like to cook dinner foods, but I’m not really home for dinner. I used to cook a lot! And whenever I do cook I enjoy it immensely. It grounds me and makes me feel home. But I really enjoy cooking for other people. Ari came over the other day and I got so excited to cook a big meal for us. I guess for me food, and everything that goes with it, is about community. So yes, I don’t geek out on farmers markets because I’m more interested in what they are about, how the farms operate, etc. than the actual things that are sold (also I’m just not the geek-out type of person I don’t think). And I’m not cooking everyday because I can barely eat the food I do cook before it goes bad – I don’t have anyone to cook for.
I also have problems with motivation; sometimes it’s difficult to motivate myself to do even the things I enjoy, especially if/when they involve getting up earlier in the morning or getting myself out of the house when I have no other reason to do so. I’m not proud of that, in fact I’m working on it, but that’s reality. In this way I’m very kapha! And when I had a more regular schedule I did do these things! When I first moved to DC I went to Eastern Market every weekend. Even this autumn when I had Sunday mornings off I would go to yoga and then to the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. When I worked 9-5 I cooked dinner every night. I’m also very kapha in that I thrive on routine and schedules. So as much as I do like the flexibility of my work schedule, it makes it hard for me to get into a groove and commit myself to doing these things.
Things are getting a little jumbled now and not super productive. I think I just needed to get all that down on ‘paper’.