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My tangential, self-absorbed post about Happiness Project brunch, no. 3

This one was a doozy for me. I'd been anticipating this chapter since the first spark of an idea to host a brunch group around Rubin's book. The chapter is about work, a topic that's pestered me for a while now.

I feel some sort of (likely unnecessary) obligation to provide two caveats before I launch into this:


  1. I'm grateful to be employed full-time, to have a legitimate career and steady salary and benefits and health care and the whole bit. I recognize that critiquing my situation may come off as solipsistic when our country's economy is still sluggish and a lot of people are hurting. At the end of the day, my experience is still my experience, though. 
  2. I love my field. I love higher education. I love the intellectual rigor. I love my radical niche in higher ed, being able to tackle social justice issues and partner with nonprofits to organize our communities. I love all of that. I've been at it for over a decade now and it's been good to me. 
  3. I used to be a program coordinator, in the trenches of the work, as it were. I've since moved on to administration. I'm still in my niche, but I'm removed from the immediacy of it all. 


In our brunch conversation, someone shared a saying they'd heard growing up: "Don't get good at something you don't want to do. People will give you more of it." Or something along those lines. It makes perfect sense for me to be where I am in the institution. I'm still doing work that is meaningful and progressive - and creative, to a degree. But four years into this specific role, something is shifting. It's not minor. It's tectonic. I haven't been able to name it quite yet, but something is in motion. I'm not sure how to stabilize and carry on as usual, or if I even could / should.

Partially this can be attributed to the all-to-common early 30's professional having a quarter life crisis. There's more to it, though. Rubin writes: "Career experts argue you're better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that's where you'll be eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage." Here's the stupid thing about all of this, it does come easy to me. I do love it. I've built a resume and a network and a reputation that gives me plenty of competitive advantage, she says humbly. There's no terribly outstanding reason for me to leave my position or my field. I just feel like there's something...

In very general terms, it's creativity. It seems so petty and bourgeois to blog about my inner artiste, but I'm quite serious about it. Furthermore - meta commentary - why do I immediately discount it as petty and bourgeois? I have legitimate talent when it comes to writing and photography...and I live to travel...and I'm a tech savvy community organizer who knows how to rally people from really different walks of life. Can you see where I'm going with this?

I need to spend some time with this moving forward: "I wanted to develop in my natural direction. W.H. Auden articulated this tension beautifully: "Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow, and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity."

Accidental limitations. Necessary limitations of our nature. I can see the bi-sected legal pad now. It's like the proverbial pro/con list, but on steroids. This is, not coincidentally, entirely related to scarcity thinking versus abundant thinking. This is why I say it's tectonic. It's not a minor shift in perspective or habit, I'm actively uprooting entire paradigms. I'm engaged right now in an exciting and challenging conversation around these very issues. I feel like I'm building the plane while flying it, in terms of corporate training videos. For the creative souls out there, a more romantic metaphor: I'm making the path by walking.

Inspirational-ish graffiti, as seen on the Instagram account of @urban_forager.



Happiness Project brunch, no. 3

Happiness Project brunch, no. 2