I’ve talked with people who after many years in a particular kind of work feel unsettled as if they are not doing the kind of work that fulfills their passion. Others I’ve had conversations with have changed the kind of work they do many times. They say that they get restless after the bloom of doing something different begins to fade.
Like those I’ve spoken with who wonder if there is something that they should be doing rather than what they are doing with their lives, I’ve had these thoughts. But for me, these thoughts have been fleeting. During my career journey, I took many of the assessments that purport to help career searchers begin to narrow their focus. Interpretations of my various assessment results showed a consistency in that whatever I chose for a career, I would be a “helper.”
I defined being a helper as someone who would provide support to others in reaching their goals and human potential. The question for me was how this might be realized in a specific career. Coming of age in the 1960s, I didn’t believe that the universe of options was open to me. Going into the medical field was my teenage dream. However, the reality of my financial situation made that dream unrealistic as a goal.
Being a teacher was one way that I could become a helper. However, it was a choice for which I settled rather than one for which I had a strong inclination. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was during these years that I thought I was settling that I found my passion. Teaching helped me realize that young people found it easy to relate to me and sought my counsel beyond the classroom. During these one-to-one sessions with students, I learned that many of them worked to the level that was expected of them rather than to the level of what they were capable of doing. They had more potential than they realized. Helping these students see beyond their current circumscribed existence brought me joy.
My sense of satisfaction in these relationships with students and their positive response to me confirmed for me that I was in the right place. Attaining a degree in counseling, I was prepared to be a helper. I found real congruence between who I imagined myself to be and who I could be in my career as a mental health and career counselor.
Even at this early stage of my journey, my touchstones of FIRE were part of my inner process:
I accepted the situation that I was in (fate).
I believed that I would be led to the right outcome (faith).
I focused on living a life infused with integrity.
I took initiative to get the required credentials to do what I wanted to do.
I was constantly reflecting on circumstances in a manner that I could glean lessons from my experiences.
I always tried to respect those with whom I interacted regardless of age and position.
I applied energy to achieve career goals and to carry out my responsibilities as a spouse and parent.
I freely expressed empathy for others, and I allowed myself empathy when it seemed that I had lost my way.
My hopeful wish for young professionals is that you will find the path that will lead you to your place of passion and fulfillment in your professional and personal life.
What a wise set of questions to pose and touchstones to use, Gwen. Thank you for sharing your own journey that will help so many others find a profession that matches their passion and expertise.