One year ago today I walked out the door of my office building and started a great trek into the unknown with dreams of finding more direction and fulfillment in my life; a higher and better use of my talents and skills. I had no idea what that would look like and was apparently willing to risk quite a bit to find it. I still had bills to pay including a mortgage and student loans, and had meager savings to coast on for a while. But if I knew that if I did not do it then, I never would. I had an opportunity that many wish they could seize were it not for obligations like family and debts. Being largely free of such restrictions, I went for it because each day behind the desk was like sand passing through the midpoint of an hourglass. The supply of time I had to make such a move was dwindling.
The past year has been an amazing ride of jobs, travel, introspection, feelings, and decisions; in a word: growth. I am still terribly afraid this experiment will go wrong, that I will not find what I am looking for, or will find myself back at square one and stuck there indefinitely. However, while I cannot say I am that much closer to finding a vocation that feels more authentic, I am in fact closer. Having made the leap and having tried my hand in a few areas – mainly working with fledgling non-profit endeavors – has gotten me closer. The unknown sitting on the horizon is now a blur instead of a blank space. So, progress? Sure.
And as I have pointed out in a few posts, my experiences and experiments have given me some valuable insights. I know I want to spend my time on big challenges whose solutions will positively impact lives. I know I want to work with, lead, and manage teams of people applying their strongest talents. Thanks to the aptitude test I took a few days ago, I know I have an aptitude to stand in front of large groups and convey complex ideas and information. (Me liking an audience? That comes as a surprise to (checks notes) nobody.) One more thing: financial viability. Does that mean millions? No. More like prospering. That would be enough.
I have also learned about how fulfillment does not just come from a vocation, or any one thing for that matter. It comes from a multitude of things, and we get to choose what those are. I mentioned I finally explored guitar lessons and I find a lot of joy and fulfillment in playing and improving. I also find fulfillment writing these blog posts. I am no Hemingway but transposing thoughts from my head to the page, and subsequently adjusting them, puts a smile on my face. I sometimes wonder if, had I found these areas of fulfillment sooner, would I have quit my job? I am not so sure. If our need for a proper sense of meaning or purpose is being met – if that itch is being scratched – I imagine such restlessness would be diminished.
Where to now? Possibly overseas. Just as I finally explored my curiosity about a musical instrument, I may be heading off to volunteer for a while with the poor in Jamaica. How this wrinkle has come about, and why it is something I have long wanted to do, is a confluence of two stories from my past.
During my last year at Marquette I joined an improv group. It was a blast. Shortly after graduation the group’s founder called and asked if I would join the team to perform a few shows during a 4th of July festival in his hometown of Platteville, Wisconsin. I went and, during the course of the weekend, went to Mass as usual. However, instead of a homily, the congregation was treated to a presentation by two missionary nuns who were traveling the country with two girls from the all-girls school they supported there. They were traveling the country doing outreach, fundraising, and awareness building. I was so impressed with their presentation that I took one of the envelopes they were distributing, and I held onto it with a promise to donate to them if I were I ever in a position to do so.
Put a pin in that. I will come back to it. For now, back up to when I was 12 years old.
The Bishop of our diocese invited the then-bishop of the diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica to visit Connecticut. Bishop Clarke accepted and spent a few weeks touring the state and various parishes. My parents invited him to our house for dinner, which he accepted. During the course of the evening Bishop Clarke mentioned how his diocese works with dioceses in the States so students can spend their spring break in Jamaica helping with various initiatives serving the poor: home building, medical services, etc. The idea sounded like the greatest adventure I could ever imagine. I wanted to do it, but I knew we were in no position to buy me (and possibly my dad) a plane ticket to Jamaica. So I pushed the idea to the back of my mind where it has remained for nearly 20 years.
Fast forward to now. The I.T. job I quit last year made it possible to finally use the envelope I received at Mass (for something other than being a bookmark, that is). My donations have been paltry - $25 here, $50 there – but perhaps a donation of time and manual labor might be of some use to them Like the FranklinCovey experiment I tried a few months back, the worst they can do is decline. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I recently received a thank you letter but it has no phone number, web site or email address to contact them. Looks like some sleuthing is in order.
It only took me a year to come this possibility even though it was staring me in the face all along. I wonder what else about this journey is hiding in plain sight.