Friday, May 1, 2009

desk-job angst - is it always this way?

I'm putting my husband through seminary right now. That's what I'm doing.

I'm okay with that.

Sometimes I forget that that is what I'm doing, though, and then in the middle of my work day of filing papers and running reports and planning projects, I sit back and wonder WHY I am doing the work that I'm doing? Why am I not doing something that I LOVE to do, something that I have a personal passion for, something that I am gifted for?

That's when I have to go back and remind myself there there is a reason for this. It's a stage. It won't always be this way. There's no need to get crazy about it all. And beside that, aren't I just lucky to HAVE a job, and to have a job in one of the wealthiest countries in the world?

Still. It's hard to be in this waiting period. I have been doing office work of some sort for four years now, and it's ok. It's pretty stable, if you work with good people the environment is ok, and while the pay is nothing to get excited about, it's way better than most other entry-level jobs. And in this office in particular, I work with great people and I have a great boss. I'm better off than most of my other friends that are in a waiting period like I am.

My problem is that I have no sense of purpose, ownership, or excitement in my work. I feel like I'm doing it for someone else, not because I care. I really struggle to be motivated. I REALLY wish that I was doing something that I would think about in the evenings, planning, praying. Something I was invested in. Something that really enables me to be active in the lives of people, building relationships, encouraging, helping, healing.

So - I do those things on the side. I lead a group of Jr. High girls. I sponsor a refugee family. And of course, there's my fantastic community group from church. I am thankful for all of that, because I feel like it's my chance to really do something that matters in the grand scheme of things.

But... I just haven't been able to find a "helping" kind of paying job that I dream of that doesn't require an advanced degree.... most often a counseling degree.

So - our goal is to have Isaac finish up his degree and then I'll get mine. That sucks, because I really don't care about school at all, it's just a means to an end at this point. I want to be able to do what I think I am gifted to do. I read "Don't Waste Your Life" by Packer a couple of years ago and all it did was exacerbate all of this. Quotes like this were simultaneously challenging and discouraging: "There is a reason, a purpose, a why that we exist that we do not create. It is given to us by our Creator. Our calling is to find it out and to do it. "

I felt like... I WANT TO! But what do you do in the waiting period? I think I also just have this nagging fear that this is just... adulthood. Maybe people set out to reach their careers and goals, and then they get there and it's still just the monotony of daily life. And... that freaks me out.

So - what do you say, dear readers and friends? How do you get through the waiting period? How do you find something that you love to do? How do you avoid finally making it to your goal and finding yourself uninterested in it?

The second half of the lyrics to Ben Rector's song "The Kill" seem appropriate right now (he is, by the way, fantastic.

Still sitting at the desk job
and you're still staring at the crosswalk
now you're working for the weekend vibe
it's just the money, it'll change one day
as you're stuck in traffic on the highway
and now you've said it for the thousandth time

We can't stand knowing we're dying tick-tock time
and we feel the kill
and my God we'd love to know why we're dead inside
cause we just can't get our fill

In response to all this I was thinking about Bali, a beautiful touristy island in Indonesia, where a number of westerners have made their home. I hate the big beach hotels that are walled off from the local culture, but I LOVE when I see people that have just settled into the little towns and villages and run small businesses or just are artists or musicians or writers... and live as a part of the Indonesian culture. Dude. I know I'm idealising it at the moment, but I really do LOVE the laid-back, people-oriented culture of the islands. This 9-5 rat race for The Man is really getting to me.


Erin said...

I can so relate - I feel like I'm constantly waiting for my life to begin; I had put finishing with study as 'the point' when I would reach adult hood, because I could get out of the retail grind and work in an industry I love. But that is now only a year away and I'm freaking out because I don't see how much will change between then and now.

And while I've been studing (I'm not a great student, find it hard to do and dislike the time it takes) I've been struggling with feeling like I'm wasting a time of my life when I could be doing lots in the church and for friends when I don't have the distraction of a family of my own.

So I don't think I have any answers either :), but I too dream of a community life, living in a culture where people matter so much more than any job or paycheck. I long for a place where community is the building block for life and you don't have to worry so much about wasting your life because it is full of love and joy and honest work.

Jaimie said...

I am with you 100%. I want to write. And underneath, I don't know if I'm good enough to write, and I secretly feel that my office job is all I'm destined for. I am incredibly grateful for it but I don't want to do it my whole life (or today, even. One of those days where I don't want to go into work, lol.). I try to write at night but sometimes I just don't have TIME. And that's frustrating. Because I wonder what I'm doing with my life if I'm not even using my talent.

Ugh, office jobs.

Kaycee said...

I'm in a similar situation. Right now I am waiting for my husband's job to take off and for the money to come in so I can work on my degree in earnest.

I'm trying to just enjoy the moment for now, but my job is so mind numbing. Most days I feel completely useless. I sit at a desk for eight hours straight waiting for the phone to ring.

I fantasize all the time about just quitting, packing things up and moving to Springdale (an awesome desert town in Utah) or some cool coastal town in Oregon.

The responsible side of me knows that's not a good idea, but it's tempting. I feel your frustration.

Even if I did that though, I wonder if I would be happy. I definitely feel like I could be serving a higher purpose and I'm not sure if that's the answer.

Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom said...

*Raises hand* Right there with ya... It really does get easier when you have an exit strategy / light at the end of the tunnel though... focus on that! And don't view it so much as a waiting period, as an opportunity to learn stuff. Even if that stuff is just a deeper understanding of contentment. SO LAME in the day-to-day LOL, and easy to say and harder to manifest..

But yeah, I struggle with the difference between settling, and just doing what's necessary in the moment. I guess (to string a bunch of cliches together) we both need to be simultaneously focusing on the big picture while thinking outside of the box... haha!

In any case, the way you have been deliberate in finding methods of fulfillment outside of work are still an inspiration to me! I think you're dead-on with those. We'll hang in there, and we'll get there in time. :)

Jaimie said...

I thought Kaycee said "dessert town" and I was like OH HECK YES.

Kacie said...

Jaimie, you totally cracked me up with your comment.

Bring on the chocolate and cake.... it'll make it all better!

Anonymous said...

if we're still living together by the time Isaac graduates and you aren't quitting, we'll haul your ass out of that office. you can take it to the bank.
:) Steph