A question I have been no stranger to lately. My own path has taken such random turns I have seen as both haphazard and unnecessary.
In the early rays of sun that eased through the window, I absorbed the warmth of this familiar scene. As far back as my memory extends, these mornings have existed. Getting up before the sun for my birthday breakfast with Dad at the Original Pancake House. Somehow, in those earlier years, I seemed to be more sure of what–and who–I wanted to be. Or maybe it was that I wasn’t as consumed by it or imposed by the fear of having already failed.
I stirred my coffee as I spilled my heart, one twice as fast as the other.
“So, teaching has pretty much fallen through for me… I wonder if it ever really was a viable option. Even if I were to fight for a position, move wherever it required, take on whatever it required, there are no guarantees that I would be able to keep it. I could be cut before the year ends! And is it even what I want to do? Teaching isn’t what I went into it for anymore. They’re losing sight of the kids for the sake of standardized tests and a mess of ridiculous requirements that mean nothing. Should I stay in it to fight for students’ sake? Or just throw away my investment in education and try something entirely new? The idea is more appealing to me than another year of subbing but I feel this sense of guilt. Of giving up. Why can’t I even get a definitive answer from myself?? I don’t even know what I want; let alone how to get it!”
I pushed my hair from my face, set my spoon down and sank back into my seat.
“I feel like I don’t even know how to define myself anymore. I’m a teacher… but I don’t teach. Isn’t that the definition of failure?”
Even I didn’t know if my question was rhetorical but God bless my father, who raised a house full of girls, he knew when to answer.
“Marissa,” he set down his cup. “You’re stuck in thinking that your career defines you. No, listen,” he quieted my instantaneous reaction to defend myself, or deny what he knew to be true.
“Your career, whatever it may be, is what you do nine to five during the week. It’s how you earn your income. It is not how you earn your worth.
I am a Christian who happens to be in the energy business. Not the other way around.”
He was right.
It’s not about what you do for a living. It’s how you do your living. Everyday.
It sounds so simple. So Hallmark. But it’s true. I have been living under the frustration of having no career to identify myself. Wearing a stigma. I was defining myself according to my level of success in meeting the goals I made for myself when I was a kid.
There are people who might trample others and manipulate their careers to gain money, power, status; and that is what defines them. Hearts consumed with greed don’t have room for much else. Neither do hearts full of self-pity.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” -Colossians 3:12-14
The coffee had cooled, leaving no remnants of steam.
Just a placid surface above a full cup. A cup filled.
Make that two.