You Are What You Do

a-perfect-white-cup-of-steaming-coffeeAs the waitress refilled our coffee cups, I watched the steam swirl. It seemed to take such a random path.


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.


14 thoughts on “You Are What You Do

  1. LOVE this post!! Marissa, I don’t know what you will end up doing as a career, but I do know that to me, you will always be a writer. And one I admire! So, whether or not that factors into your next step…never stop writing! You have a gift 🙂

  2. Hey Marissa! I loved your post! I too have done the same thing. I used to be a teacher, now I’m a mom and somehow I let others opinions define me. It’s Jesus who tells us our worth! You are a beautiful woman and talented writer!!

  3. Beautiful, Marissa. You remind me of my granddaughter. She too likes to write and is looking at a writing career, but what to do in the meantime. Keep looking to God and He will give you the answers at the least expected time. I know that from my own experience. Stay as beautiful as you are. You will be blessed in His time.

  4. Marissa,after reading your post it reminded me of what I went through at your age also. The early 70’s were just like now,teachers up the watsu but no jobs. So I worked at my second job making the most of it,Of course it didn’t fulfill me like teaching .What I didn’t see until many years later was that it was just a stepping stone to many wonderful things in my life, marriage,children and then yes back to teaching where I have been for over 30 years! When I had to give my first speech in front of many administrators years ago,they were blown out of their seats. They asked me where I learned to be so confident in front of large crowds. It was then that I realized that those so called meaningless jobs we do, are all instrumental in making us strong leaders Do not underestimate anything that you do ,it is all in God’s hands and as I have recited many many times,”They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,they shall mount up with wings as eagles,they shall run and not be weary,they shall walk and not fail, teach me Lord to wait….. When it is right everything falls into place. It took me many years to see that. Now that I am retired and looking back over my life I reflect upon everything that I have done:it all makes sense. It didn’t as I was going through it. Nobody said life was going to be easy but I trully believe if we stay true to our roots and beliefs ,it will all mak sense. I have been mentering a wonderful young teacher for the past 4 years who was in the same situation as you and she finally landed a job in Fair Fax County Va. in an alternative school.She is of course hoping to come back to Rochester,but after 5 years of subbing she wanted her own classroom. Things should start to ease up soon and it looks like schools will be hiring more AIS teachers thanks to the low test scores on the assessments.
    You have a gift that will be opened in due time.I will say a prayer for you that the interview will go well.

    • Thanks so much, Angel! I look forward to the day I can look back and know, in retrospect, that this was all not only for a purpose but know HOW & get to encourage other people in the same way you do me! 🙂

  5. Dearest Marissa,
    You may love to teach, but for some odd reason I think you may have missed your calling as an extremely talented writer! God Bless you, Sweetheart… In all of your endeavors.

    • Thank you so much, Kathleen! I do enjoy writing & wonder myself how God intends to use it in my life… I’m keeping all options open with the hope that He’ll reveal it to me before too long 😉 In the meantime, I SO appreciate your kind words & encouragement! Thank you again!

    • I’m sure of it! It’s tough to feel bound by a title, particularly when you don’t have one! But each day, wherever we go, whatever we do, we have to keep in mind that we ARE living out our purpose, as long as we keep our perspective above the “undefined” details 🙂 Thanks for your input!

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