If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I have had many careers, and even iterations on careers within careers. I was a neuroscientist for a while (from grad school in 1981 through around 1994 when I switched to doing public health research) and an academic for a while (1989-1999 at Hampshire College). I did full-time technology work, primarily web development for nonprofit organizations, from 1999 to when I went to seminary in 2005. I returned to web development in 2007 after it was clear that ministry was not going to be a career path. Some of these shifts and changes are because my interests and passions changed. Some of them are because I do have a lot of interests, and I want to explore. That is the creative restlessness I seem to have been born with, or acquired early in life.
I've struggled with vocation on and off since I left seminary. I've struggled with my identity, primarily, and struggled with purpose. Who am I? Am I just what I do, or someone else? What was I put on this planet to do -- what is my greater purpose? I've always felt in my life that I had some bigger purpose than just to bumble (or, perhaps, even skillfully navigate) through life until it's done. I went to seminary because I felt called to center my life on Spirit, but the result wasn't quite what I expected, so I went back to technology work, while working to maintain this center.
My avocations, writing and spiritual practice, have been very important parts of my life, and I wanted make them my living. I made plans, filled out spreadsheets, and warned work colleagues. I've spent months struggling and discerning. But, as it turns out, at least this time around, this is not to be so.
Over the past few weeks, I've had some epiphanies. Some are minor, and some are more significant. The most significant is that I understand more fully what I'm doing here on earth. I've known this for a long time, but sometimes, it takes deeper and deeper levels of knowing to understand fully the implications of a thing, to fully grok its meaning. I know, deeply in my marrow, that the reason I'm here is to do my best to live my life with as much compassion and generosity as I can, in each moment of every day. That's all. There isn't really anything else. There isn't anything more complicated or detailed than that (oh, well, that is far enough complicated!) Just showing compassion and generosity in every moment is enough purpose for one lifetime. Everything else is just for fun.
The more minor epiphanies I've had recently are around understanding the ways in which I need to compromise my own nature in order to make my way in the world. I love to work. Besides my actual work-for-pay, I'm almost always doing something else that someone could label "work". I have 1/2 dozen creative projects going at any one time, and most of them make it to completion. I write prodigiously. I teach on occasion (mostly contemplative practice) and do a lot of volunteer work of varied sorts, depending on what phase I'm in.
Because of the way work and business and such is structured in this country, most of this other "work" is not work that is easy for me to get compensated for. Writing science fiction is, for some, a living, but you have to be willing to write more for what most people want to read, and market, market, market. If you want to make a living at teaching in a spiritual tradition, you either need to be within a specific structure or lineage, or if you aren't, you need to be a good (and willing!) marketer. And because of my particular makeup, none of this is going to happen. I could go into detail about why this is, but just suffice it to say for now that I have come to the deep acceptance that I can't get my head (no, actually, my heart) around the ideas that would allow me to make either of these my living.
So I have come around to fully accept that I need to work for a living in something that doesn't totally come from my heart. My creative restlessness means that I think it might be time for me to branch out into new areas of technology, perhaps dusting off my old data analysis skills (there is a whole field called "data science" - kinda cool, actually.) I don't know which direction I'll go in next, except to say that I want to have fun with it.