I went to see a career coach yesterday.
Regular readers (don’t laugh, I know I’ve only posted twice in the last 8 months) are by now familiar with my various plots and schemes to step back into the working world and may even be aware that we specifically left Stepford so that I could have a crack at starting a business in San Francisco. It was successful in some ways (we got clients, we did work that pleased them) but not in others (I found the jobs boring and difficult, wanted to assassinate my business partner – awkward, I am married to him – and I frequently found myself in some sort of high school time warp, staring out the window thinking
If the bell doesn’t go soon I will be forced to garrotte myself with a set square
So we can say, perhaps, that while my bold new venture was not a bad idea in and of itself, it wasn’t going to work for me.
I felt a bit of a loser after this realisation hit. What the bloody hell was I DOING? WHY had things not turned out fabulously? How come I couldn’t just bloody get my act together like normal people? I helpfully found some more unpleasant things to accuse myself of and once I’d made sure that I really felt guilty about my failings I spent some productive time sitting in my bed feeling acutely sorry for myself, vaguely resentful towards anyone who was happy with their lot, and eating copious amounts of chocolate. Finally, Husband suggested I seek professional help which at first I took to mean “check yourself into the funny farm”(oddly appealing!) but it turned out he had in mind a career coach and even offered generously to pay for it. (If you are reading this, Husband, I graciously accept and have charged his fee to the joint account.)
I was skeptical at first. My last interaction with a career counsellor was at school aged 17 and went something like this:
“So, MTFF, what do you think you might like to do when you leave here?”
“I am moving to London and I am going to be a pop star. Probably be in the charts by Christmas”
“Ha ha. Righty-ho. You teenagers all think you’re going to be on Top of the Pops, but let’s be a bit more realistic, shall we?”
“Be serious, girl. What about college? Or maybe a typing course? Very handy!”
“I AM MOVING TO LONDON AND I AM GOING TO BE A POP STAR. Why are we even discussing this?”
“Young lady, your foolish determination is NOT going to help you get on in this world, let me tell you!”
“I’m GOING TO DO IT and YOU can’t STOP ME!”
(MTFF flounces out with the arrogance of youth and a deep desire for a Camel Light. Ah, the ’80s..)
My takeaway: I was absolutely right (ok timing was about 10 years off *cough*), career counselor was a wazzock and knew nothing.
I was not entirely sure that this California Career Coach was going to be any better, but what was different this time is that I have no idea what I want to do next, I possess the anxiety of middle age, and my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone-off somewhere without me.
So perhaps not much to lose? Maybe he’d suggest a typing course and all my problems would be solved.
The career coach was younger than I expected. By this I mean he was younger than me (outrageous!) and quietly confident. He explained that we would be working together on a process of my self-discovery and that finding an inner understanding of what I love and what I have to contribute would form the basis of where I would find meaningful work. I liked the sound of that although I also felt, in my British way, slightly embarrassed by the whole thing. Then he read me this poem.
Cargo by Greg Kimura
You enter life a ship laden with meaning, purpose and gifts
sent to be delivered to a hungry world.
And as much as the world needs your cargo,
you need to give it away.
Everything depends on this.
But world forgets its needs,
and you forget your mission,
and the ancestral maps used to guide you
have become faded scrawls on the parchment of dead Pharaohs.
The cargo weighs you heavy the longer it is held
and spoilage becomes a risk.
The ship sputters from port to port and at each you ask:
“Is this the way?”
But the way cannot be found without knowing the cargo,
and the cargo cannot be known without recognizing there is a way,
and it is simply this:
You have gifts.
The world needs your gifts.
You must deliver them.
The world may not know it is starving,
but the hungry know,
and they will find you
when you discover your cargo
and start to give it away.
I promptly burst into tears. I HATE crying in front of people, appearing vulnerable. However, Coach just sat there sympathetically and pointed to the box of tissues beside the sofa which I can only assume are needed by more people than just me. He asked me what had come up for me while he was reading the poem and – the oddest thing – I thought first of this blog, so neglected for many months. Then I thought of music and words, of stories and poetry, art and dancing, travel and being in the African bush.
For the first time in a while I felt a flicker of authentic hope about myself, about my own path, my own light, rather than the endless practical arrangements that I am constantly making in order to make space for a life that never materialises because I am always arranging for its possibility rather than living it. Coach said that the first few weeks are about exploring and remembering who I am and what my dreams are so that I can follow them once more.
“It seems to me” he said ” That if you managed to manifest your dreams when you were younger then there is no reason you can’t do it again. You just have to identify them. That is going to be the easy and fun part. The rest is just detail and follow through”
I think what he meant was,
“Not-so-young lady, your foolish determination is going to get you exactly where you want to go in this world”
The trick is to discover my cargo. What is yours?