day six : working girl

Originally published Tuesday, 07 October 2014.

one of the most significant parts of my twenties to date has been my career. i don't have a husband or a family or a lot of other things you're supposed to find in your twenties, but i have been blessed with a lot of great opportunities to build my professional life and i'm grateful. each monday this month i plan to do a post related to some aspect of career and i'm really excited about these particular posts (even though this one is really late because i spent too much time yesterday playing in the fall weather). you can read more about my professional journey the past seven or so years here - it hasn't been an easy or direct road, but one that has taught me so much. when i started college, i was certain i was going to become an elementary school teacher, which had been the plan since i was an elementary school student myself. long story shot, i hated the major. i switched to international business. i learned french. i studied in switzerland. i loved my finance and accounting classes. it was the plan to work in fashion or for some large international corporation, preferably overseas. then i fell in love with young life property staff and thus began my career in the non-profit world. starting any career during an economic recession is tough and i've seen a layoff, a pretty long period of unemployment and a lot of deficit budgets. it's certainly been interesting to say the least.

i'm planning a post about working in non-profit specifically, just because i find so many people desire to work for one at some point in their lives, but to date it's been an extraordinary fit for me and i'm grateful i've had the opportunity to work on behalf of causes and organizations about which i'm passionate. i've really found my niche in development (fundraising, marketing, etc.) and learned a great deal about myself and my professional skills.

that said, i have no idea what i want to be when i grow up. my job now is such a blessing. i have a boss i love, a great network, and i'm good at what i do, but quite honestly, it doesn't bring me joy. the pace is harried. my workload is too large to do things as well as i'd like and there's never time to be creative. i work in uptown charlotte, which is fun, but in a gray cube in a windowless basement. lately, i feel like the Lord has been teaching me so much about work in general and i feel like he's preparing me for a big change. i have no idea yet what that's going to look like, but i know He's slowly but surely changed some of my desires and has been preparing me for whatever is next. here's a quick rundown of what i've been learning lately:

1. we are designed to work: i've recently been reading a book written by the chairman of gallup that is utterly fascinating. a few years back, gallup conducted a worldwide poll across numerous cultures, socioeconomic positions, age groups, etc. they researched human needs with the intent of understanding what was important to all of us and how our needs/values would differ throughout the world. what they found fascinated me - the most prevalent desire among every single population polled was the desire for a good job. naturally, the definition of a good job differed greatly across countries and cultures, but the fact remains - a desire to be productive and self-sufficient (whether working outside of the home or in it raising a family) is inherent. we were not made for idleness.

2. work should bring us joy: naturally, i realize that every day at the office isn't going to be a party. there are always going to be hard days and busy days and days where i want to play hooky. but in general, life is too short to not enjoy what i do. i'm particularly taken with the first and second chapters of Ecclesiastes where it says several times that people can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil (2:24). if the Lord created us with an inherent desire to work, i believe it's His desire that we find joy in it. we weren't created to be slaves to our work but servants of the Lord. there's a huge difference there.

3. we should take ownership and pride in whatever job we've been given for the present moment: after a long period of unemployment, i'm reminded that whatever job i have - whether i love it or hate it - is a gift. i should do whatever is asked of me to the best of my ability until i'm able to move on. there is always something to learn and it's often an important step toward whatever is next.

4. work-life balance is necessary: - what do people get for all their toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? all their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. this too is meaningless. - Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 i find that i (and a million other people) get extremely caught up in my responsibilities at work. not that being a reliable employee isn't necessary. but saying no is important. leaving on time is important. being present in my personal life; friends, family, community, those are important. they're definitely not meaningless. i need to do a better job of remembering what's truly important.

5. the Lord places desires and dreams in our hearts for a reason: - i think too many of us (me included), spend our lives doing something we find we do well or know well and stay in a career or industry out of comfort and fear of the unknown. i don't want to be complacent. ignoring dreams and desires that continue to tug at me every day while i stare at my computer screen isn't okay. my dreams and desires might seem unrealistic or irrational, but i don't believe that they just exist to make me unhappy in my current position. i believe joy in our work is achieved when we pursue the Lord's purpose for our lives and do it boldly. we might not know what that looks like yet (i don't), but i think it's important that we continue to seek answers and opportunities. our work should truly bring us fulfillment and excitement and make us feel alive.  if we're working in our sweet spot, we're doing what we were created to do and that should make us the fullest version of ourselves. that's not to say there won't still be a lot of work, but i think we'll find joy in it nonetheless.

a decent amount of my first version of this post was lost tonight and i'm struggling to re-articulate these things that have been so present on my heart and in my mind lately. what i know is this: i keep meeting people, reading about people, hearing about people who are quitting high paying jobs to pursue ministry, closing law practices to venture into new industries that excite them, letting go of what they "should" do to pursue what they're called to do. i don't know what that looks like for me yet, but i know i want to be like them when i grow up. i have big dreams and i want to take big risks, too. i am inspired by those individuals and i know the Lord is using their stories to shape my own. this is the first time in my career that i haven't had a plan for what's next or prayed that the Lord meet my own expectations, but it's also the first time that i've truly been able to trust that His plan for what's next is better than mine anyway.

you can read the full 31 days : twentysome years series, written daily through the month of october, on my blog

image via the glitter guide