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Posts Tagged ‘passion’

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”– Confucius

All through primary school, it feels as though teachers, parents, counselors, and relatives encourage children to believe that they can be whatever they can want to be. They organize dress up days where they learn about, explore, role play different careers: today be a nurse, tomorrow a firefighter. There is rarely a limitation on those dreams- kids can dream without being the smartest, the fastest, or whatever gender. Students open their arms and their minds to all the possibilities without concern for if they are qualified or how much the career makes. So what happens? How does this change when we get older? Why do we stop dreaming?

Blame it on high school testing, possibly, and what college one gets into, and what programs within that college at that. Everything seems dependent on ability as well as experiences.  The author of Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell, says “We cannot be separated from where we are from.” Are we limited or blessed based on parental influences, type of community, or even the school we get into? Or can we bypass all these societal limitations and just follow our hearts to happiness?

One of the keys to happiness is just that: following our hearts, filling our lives with the things that we love, that make our days feel more like play than work. This was true when we were children, but why cannot this be true for us now as adults? I am thinking now of my goddaughter, in her first years of college, and wondering what is limiting her, what messages are being sent to her that she doesn’t deserve to have her dream life or “be” the person she has always wanted to be. As a child, I was told I could be anything…as long as it made good money and didn’t embarrass the family. To an extent, I still agree with this, but what dreams I followed were limited because the deeper message was this- that which you love to do (write!) won’t earn you the money you need, so do something else.

As I earned my undergraduate degree, I threw aside the scowls and went for a degree in English literature (with an emphasis on creative writing) and a minor in cultural anthropology. I love both immensely, so studying felt like exploring the world (and myself) and I know I became a better human at graduation than when I was an entering freshmen. And to add to this, I became more passionate about writing, reading, and human culture. I swore I wouldn’t be a teacher because my true passion was just writing. After a time I caved, I gave in to an ill mother’s request to do what the rest of the family did and I earned my masters of education degree. Overall the experience of teaching has been a blessing. Students, in general, are uplifting, a gift, funny, insightful, and inspire me with their hard work. I never had the chance to have children although I wanted them so badly: teaching is my way of having kids, in a sense. For that brief time I teach your child, I treat and love them as though they were my own. But there are times this career hasn’t been so wonderful.

At ten years of teaching, I knew I needed more, not only professionally but personally, too. I needed my passions to be reignited, my passions for writing, snowboarding, mountain biking, just being active and outdoors. I didn’t write much anymore since there was little time after coaching and grading and sleeping. Teaching creative writing classes helped, but the flame still sputtered and needed more air. Volunteering for ski patrol at the local hill helped ease my pain to snowboard all the time, but the desert isn’t the best place for a ski hill of great magnitude. Eventually, I moved schools and my life to Utah. Much to my dismay, I ended up at a school that as I say semi-jokingly “ate my soul.” I was miserable and tried to make it through three years of professional torture, all the while thinking about writing, obsessing over “someday.” Again, I was still tumbled in a world that didn’t really allow me to follow my passions, especially my passion for teaching. This flame was almost completely doused by weird expectations and commands that were devoid of educational purpose.

Someday finally came. I left the school (though not on good terms) and found a job as a part time teacher at a school that spoke my language (as the kids were all snow athletes), and started my own job as a part-time freelance writer. I teach April to November so my “summers” are actually “winters” off, which means my other great passion of snowboarding is really possible. Like, every day possible. I set my own schedule for writing so if I don’t feel like working, I don’t, or I might flip day hours for night hours if I want to mountain bike all day during the day.

Here is where my point is: my life as I wanted it to be finally came true, 25 years after I started dreaming about it. It would have happened sooner if I had just followed my heart. Though I have been reminded that all our experiences end up creating who we are at this exact moment, I know I would have enjoyed starting off with my dream life. All that said, I’m blessed to have it now. Though I do not make much money, I do enjoy and love the students I have, the ability to write for money, and the freedom to enjoy the life I have always wanted snowboarding, mountain biking, climbing, or napping almost whenever I desire. Living a life where I can follow and embrace my passions is what makes me happy.

Therefore, to have happiness, follow your heart, and dream big dreams. As the saying goes, “if your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.” Go forth and live passionately!

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The New Year is approaching rapidly, and with it we return to work to either love or hate our workspace. Having a healthy, positive, and comfortable workspace is key to helping work not feel like, well, work. Having an organized desk and colorful walls are an easy step to make, but why not take a more studied approach? Feng shui, a complicated and almost scientific study, began most likely about 4000 BC. Buildings in China from this time period on were aligned to earthly rotations and astrological formations, and in later times this alignment made its way indoors and into physical study as well. In the art of Kung Fu, for example, part of the practice incorporates the idea of bagua, the eight trigrams. In essence, the study can be broken down into the idea that all things impact other things, that interconnectedness reveals power…or weakness.

Though some call it hocus pocus, still many more study feng shui in not only modern China, but in contemporary Western cultures as well. At care2.com, the greenliving segment offers suggestions for “do’s and don’t’s” of office feng shui. First, where you sit is supremely important. Having your chair directly across from the door weakens your position, while the corner farthest from the opening will give a “command” position. For me, my desk is built into my wall connected to the door (so not directly across) but I do have a rocking chair and the ability to reposition myself in this area when teaching. Perhaps I will bring a stool and utilize its mobility for this command seating.

In this same vein of thought, one’s back should rest against the corner of the room, NEVER turning one’s back toward the door. This is to turn your back on business, which comes through your open door. For obvious reasons, then, one should also never “look straight out into a corridor or see the stairs, storage rooms, closets, elevators, escalators, or toilets” while seated at your desk. My desk, for example, faces an open window the looks toward a snowy mountain. Very inspiring!

While setting up one’s desk, one should place his or her computer in the north or west area if creativity is needed. However, to generate income, the computer should be placed in the southeast. A benefit of laptops is the maneuverability of work locale. A tabletop fountain in the East provides a calming and relaxed atmosphere. Feng shui dictates that this will activate business and career success, which no one can have too much of.

On to colors. Balancing yin and yang is important and can be done by balancing heavy and light, harsh and soft surfaces, textures, and furnitures. Even the most skeptical person can agree that variation provides uniqueness and keeps the mind active and interested. Blue might be the ideal color for my classroom, for example, because it is thought to “increase productivity and work efficiency” as per inventcreativity.com. At the same site, green calms the mind while the color yellow on a notepad can increase memory, but as a wall color, will increase tensions and fighting.

My weakest area is one of the last quick lessons from this website. Treating your files (whether paper or electronic) with respect and care is important as they represent business from the past, present, and future as well. Last is clutter, notably that of office equipment cords which can cause injury, but lest ye forget the obvious–knick nacks and stacks of unnecessary extras kept around to “use someday”. Someday will not come. If it isn’t vital to particular programs or outcomes, or if it hasn’t been used in a month, toss it, donate it, sell it, but by all accounts, don’t keep it. Let’s see if I can follow my own advice!
One should feel passionate about their work, or at the least not be filled with disdain while driving to the office. Though we do not necessarily have the ability to change those we work with or the line of work we are in, we can at least change our workspace.

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I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.
Joseph Campbell

Confucius taught that to love one’s job means to never work a day of one’s life. This adage has inspired many, but motivated few. How many people can honestly say they love their jobs passionately, enough so that they would continue doing what they are doing regardless of pay? Though all Westernized humans must name a price in order to survive, at what point does the average person move from “pleasure” into becoming a slave?
Good pay is pleasurable. It is pleasurable to transition from eating Top Ramon because you have to, to having the option to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. It is pleasurable to go from an untrustworthy car to a shiny new ride. It is pleasurable to finally financially breathe easy, versus the fear of overdrawing or something being repo’d. Yet this pleasure has a price. Money to pay the bills and live for material needs and gains rarely comes from the job well-loved. Often, the grumbles from those in such a predicament reflects feelings of boredom or uselessness or feeling dehumanized. Is the “stuff” or the house or the car worth the pains of said occupation?
It has been my goal, since a child, to find a career I was passionate about, one that positively impacted the environment or my community, one that paid enough to live decently and made me content. For the last ten years, that has been teaching.
Teaching wasn’t the career I dreamed of. I had hoped to be out fighting big corporations in order to save the environment, or something of that nature. I’d hoped of editing for publication firms in New York or London or Paris. There was even a glimmer, for a while, of writing for a living.
I was talked out of the last by my mother, citing that no one ever is successful as a writer. To this day I don’t know if she was making a generalization or was implying my writing skills weren’t up to par. So, when graduating college to find editing jobs scarce and in the armpit of LA, I opted to become a teacher. At first I balked at the notion, being talked into the licensure program by the same woman who talked me out of writing. I was too impatient, too selfish, too immature. Yet I persevered, for one odd reason or another, and fell into a job at one of the nicest high schools in Las Vegas.
After 8 years, I realized I needed a change.
It wasn’t that teaching was less than thrilling–despite almost quitting early into my career, when I stuck it out (thanks to the guidance of a very wise teacher friend) I came to see teaching for what it is. For 9 months (8 months if you count in vacations) I immediately impact the lives of 120-200 children. Though these are the “dreaded” teenagers, I firmly believe that spending enough time with a group of them, showing humility and patience, anyone will find them captivating, funny, and even intelligent (sometimes…). I learned more about myself as a human standing in front of these hormonal landmines than ever interacting with adults.
But it wasn’t until students started graduating…and coming back to visit that I finally saw my impact. Every year the numbers grow of students who visit me, thank me, invite me into their now adult lives, just for a moment. On Facebook now I’m connected with these graduates, and hear from them occasionally with tidbits about their lives: one is finally published, another feels confident in her poetry class in college, another just appreciated being able to express himself in class. You’ll never understand what impacting a community feels like until you get the thank yous!
So, teaching is, 90% of the time, the ultimate career for me. Most times, I wake up in the morning not dreading the day ahead but already bursting (okay, stumbling) into my plan for the day. I get excited to see student projects or to hear their accomplishments. I love seeing kids glow when they earn an A on an essay in my class. It goes without saying I’m not a pushover teacher. I’m tough, sometimes mean, occasionally imperfect, but always passionate. I make them work for their grades, and tell them they “earn” their grades, I don’t “give” them grades.
And so I do make them earn them.
After 8 years, though, that passion was becoming draining. I needed something else, something in my personal life to up the passion. It took a couple years but at the completion of my 10th teaching year is when it happened.
For me, that passion in personal life is snowboarding. So what better plan than to move to the city with the snow I covet (Park City) and work at the gorgeous high school I covet (Park City High School). Almost without a hitch I applied, interviewed, interviewed again, and…got it! The feeling of accomplishment that coupled this hiring was amazing–for the rest of last school year I was the best, most energetic, most kind teacher on the planet! I felt I could accomplish anything, teach anyone! PCHS selected me…ME!…over the 300 candidates who applied. This alone made me stand proud. And then the clamor from my students in Las Vegas, not wanting me to leave? I felt uplifted!
Then reality hit. I moved to Utah officially in August, and started coaching soccer the next day. Then started teaching, two subjects that I’d never taught before, and a third with heavy work load. And coaching debate. And going to all the specified trainings. And…imploding.
Here it is just barely November and I’m already shutting down. As I consider how I felt about teaching when I was hired, I wonder where that rush, that feeling of passionate accomplishment went. I think it might have all been crushed under the weight of a stack of papers I still need to grade.  Using the Internet, I’m hoping to find my dream job writing…and getting paid a great deal to tell the world what I think of it.
But that isn’t the path for me, at least not just yet. Though writing as a career is certainly my dream job, for now I’ll focus on the new job I’ve earned, the position I have to work for, just like how I make my student work for their grades. I know that sense of accomplishment doesn’t come cheap, but it certainly tastes better than being enslaved to a job I hate.

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