Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Working on Purpose: Success Is Helping Others

**cross-posted from my blog,Semi-Farmed Kind of Life. Please visit the blog to enter the book giveaway.**


I think I truly needed this. A week's worth of respite: soul searching, time spent with family, and a chance to do some honest-to-goodness physical labor with my hands in the dirt. It's been like a balm for my heart, which had seriously been struggling with the concept of employment these last few weeks.

Those of you who aren't local friends and family might not be familiar with my day job. By day I watch CCTV for a major retailer (that shall remain nameless lest I break the Electronic Communications policy), searching for signs of thievery hidden amongst the upright citizens that visit my store. This is but one of many roles I've had in my long and not-so-illustrious career in retail, which have included mostly management, training and marketing roles. At this point, my self-imposed sentence has spanned 15 years and 5 companies, but the whole cops-and-robbers gig has been a relatively recent development in the grand scheme of things. It's not a BAD job, by any means, and I am quite thankful to be gainfully employed in such a shaky economy. The core of this role though, has changed in the recent past and the part I most enjoyed has been drastically down-scaled, if not outright eliminated. If not for a couple minor things, it could potentially be loads of fun for the right person. For me, however, it's dreadfully, painfully dull, and I feel like quite a few of my natural talents are going to waste.

I'm a pretty frugal girl, so wasting things, to use the lingo of a dear friend of mine, "agitates my soul".For a while now, but especially this week, I've been preparing my heart, mind and resume to pursue work that really challenges me, something that lights me up, and lets me interact with people in a positive way more regularly. Something with meaning, where my actions can be a catalyst for facilitating change and I'm not just staring at and seeking out the worst in people.

I've spent my whole life up to this point trying to determine exactly what it is that I could do, or should do, for work. Though I'm not sure why exactly, I grew up believing that work was in large part where people draw their identities from. When you meet new people or watch television shows and they meet people or you try to decide what to study in college, the looming question is "What do you do?", as if where you derive your income from is much more important than what you love or what steers your moral compass. It's as if we are trained right from elementary school to see each other in terms of dollar signs, as solely interchangeable units that contribute to the larger economy. We place value on one another based on this role and the money such a role confers, often to the exclusion of everything else. But I digress...

It's no surprise then that the early part of my working life was spent chasing the ever elusive "status" roles of my industry. Since I could never determine what to study in college and was terrified at the idea of incurring a lifetime of debt for what I couldn't define, I took certain classes primarily because I found them interesting and after seven years of grants and paying my own way, discovered I had finally, albeit haphazardly, completed my Associates in Arts. All the while I worked full time doing what I knew how to do, which at that time was assisting people in trading their money for material things. Directionless, my goal was simply "up", because, to me at that time, money and prestige equaled power and influence, which was how I though success was defined.

I'm no stranger to hard work (nor am I afraid of it), so I simply smiled and networked and took special projects. I invented some programs, facilitated countless others and have learned nearly every aspect of retailing to some degree. I've been hourly and salaried and everything from a minimum wage cashier to managing my own store. But you know what? Along my journey, though I've learned something valuable from every position I've ever held and every individual I've ever worked with, it's been hollow and meaningless. No spot has ever felt right, and, oftentimes, parts of my job totally conflicted with my belief system. I've never felt like what I was doing for a living was a way I was proud to represent myself and, in the bigger picture, I've never felt like it mattered. I was selling my soul for a few measly dollars not doing anything with purpose, and, after years of going this route, I woke up one day and realized I'm not really motivated by money. What I want is to make a difference.

Living is expensive stuff, and I still have to work full time to make it all happen, especially with a family and all these animals depending on me for sustenance. As much as I wish they did, my articles and blog posts aren't putting food on my table, so I'm learning to put it there myself, with the help and advice of those around me who put their values into their jobs too. In the meantime, I'm looking to take my talents over to the non-profit sector, where maybe I can help put my passion for training and writing to positive use, helping others to learn to feed the best in each other and care for this brilliantly beautiful floating piece of rock we call home.

I want all my efforts to be of some use, to facilitate positive change, to make people happier, their jobs easier, their lives better and the world a happier place to be. I don't want to beat my head against a wall or stare mindlessly at flickering cameras for eight hours. I want to follow Gandhi's lead. He said we should "be the change we want to see" in the world. I want to work on purpose and, when my life here is through, leave this world just a tiny bit better than I found it.

I started doing these things I loved because I love them, considering money just a welcome by-product of the work I do. I make things, I create, and I share through my words the things I experience. Hopefully I convey to those who read my writing the beauty I see in a child's smile, in a strawberry blossom or find in the anticipation of welcoming poultry into my home. Maybe I can pass on a tip or two of what I've learned from folks in my community about living and being kind to this Earth someday in a book. Maybe someday you'll see me working at the ones I'd like most to help locally, Crown Point Ecology Center and Countryside Conservancy, or know of another where I could put my talents to good use. Most of all, I'd really like to encourage any of you who can relate to my workplace woes that you aren't alone in looking for work that lights up your heart, even if it doesn't do the same for your wallet. I'm right there with you folks, and probably will be for at least a little while.

If you've read this far into my rambling saga, you deserve a medal for your patience. If you need support in your employment journey, you deserve an ally and a resource. In my research about the environment, I stumbled across a great group called Echoing Green, who recently came out with a powerful but short read called Work on Purpose. I'd like to pass my copy on to someone else, so they can be inspired to imagine (and pursue) meaningful work too. Just give me a little something in the comments about yourself and what you long to do with your life to enter. If you are still too shy to share, toss me an idea for book you'd like to see me write or a story about someone you know who works on purpose instead. To give lots of folks a chance, at the end of May, we'll randomly select a number and mail it out to the lucky person. My hope is that special someone will learn to do what they love and share it so others can benefit too.

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