Did I know what I wanted to do when I was 24? That was the question I was challenged with at the end of one young blogger’s post about her employment enigma. This got me thinking to way back – more than half my life ago – when I was also 24. I pictured myself on my 24th birthday alongside the man who is now my husband on top of Moon Hill near Yangshuo in SW China. I seem to remember it was Easter Sunday and he had brought creme eggs with us for the celebration! At the time, I was teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Hong Kong; it was my second year out from finishing university and I was already on to my fourth job having first taught EFL in Cambridge, then in Portugal and an initial, and very short-lived, first job in Hong Kong. The step from a degree in modern languages into TEFL had been intentional because I wanted to keep travelling and exploring the world and I needed to be able to pay my way if I was to do so. But even that morning on top of Moon Hill I probably realised that teaching English as a foreign language was not to be my job for life.
And if I’ve learned anything through my years of new jobs and training, new starts, and endless dilemmas and concerns that I would never know what I wanted to be when I grew up, it’s this: If we are privileged enough to be able to choose how we earn a living – and most of the world’s population is not – then the most important thing we can do in that is to discover our passion and then find a way of turning it into paid work. Perhaps our young blogger’s most heartfelt desire is not lab work, but something more in the creative line that has prompted her to start blogging – only she will know.
In making her comment about not feeling she’s able to do anything other than lab work, she really sparked something in me. At a very similar age I had this overwhelming sense that the only thing I could do was speak and teach other languages and I definitely didn’t want to be a teacher or a translator. I went back to college and did an MBA; I worked in overseas telecoms marketing for a few years; and then, via a brief attempt at launching and running my own business, I found my way back into teaching. This time I was teaching business and management in Higher Education, and later moved on into a training role in the Church of England where I was training vicars. Alongside working life, I had two children and found my way back into living out my Christian faith again – and the rest, as they say, is history, and I write today with the job title of Rector (or vicar).
With half a century of whatever my lifespan is to be already now lived, I’m immensely grateful for the varied life experience I’ve enjoyed. As friends just a few years older begin to talk about, and actually begin, retirement after 20, 30 or more years in the same job, I realise just how ‘non-standard’ my working life has been. But in saying that, I have to admit I’m just focussing on the positives, because the frustration of feeling I was not in the right job and did not even feel I would recognise the right job if it hit me in the face, was an uncomfortable one and was, at times, extremely difficult to live with. In recent years I’ve seen focussed friends start to reach the heights of their singular profession, while I feel I will grow older and greyer as a jack of all trades but a master of none. And yet, I’m at peace with that now because I honestly believe that’s how it was always meant to be with me. I think there’s something really significant about personality in all of this that I don’t have the time, the space or the inclination to explore here. I am just one of life’s restless souls – always on the lookout for the next big adventure and the next new and interesting experience in life.
I wonder if the employment enigma blogger is another of those restless souls destined to journey through a range of lifetime experiences. There seem to be a few clues in her writing: she happens to live in my hometown (perhaps it’s something in the water there?); her blog has a tagline that includes the phrase ‘Life: A Work in Progress’ . In describing her new blog she speaks of
the fervor of excitement over starting something new
Just reading those words makes me tingle with the actual ‘fervor of excitement over starting something new’. I look forward to following her blog and seeing where life’s journey takes her.