Friday, October 21, 2016

Measuring myself

"I read somewhere how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions."
~ Christopher McCandless (aka Alexaxder SuperTramp); Into the Wild

I rarely cry with movies. Though many stories have characters I can connect with, it's rare that the emotions of a moment, such as death or tragedy or loss, for the character bring me to tears. So it was a rare moment at the end of Into the Wild where the tears easily flowed. The touching of a personal truth.

For a long time I've struggled with finding my road through life. While others around me happily settled onto a particular path, I've never found something that I can truly settle into. On the one hand, having the comfort of predictability and stability seems ideal, especially during moments where I feel overwhelmed. To not live paycheck to paycheck, to be able to afford regular vacations and to know exactly what the work day will entail. On the other hand, though, is the knowledge that such stability often leads to me being bored at best, if not severely depressed. Its in those moments of stability that I've craved finding meaning and adventure. And so I find myself dropping the stability and looking for opportunities to live more on the edge.

In the past, this testing limits has come in different forms. From moving to Seattle with only a small cushion of money and no job lined up, to pursuing graduate school, to pursuing risker outdoor sports (rock-climbing, cliff jumping, skiing out of bounds and hiking trips through rougher terrain) dating Grey (we initially didn't get along) and decisions made will in the treatment trenches, those moments/decisions to do something outside my comfort zone have brought insights and benefits that I wouldn't have known otherwise.

With job hunting, I've found myself facing the dilemma almost daily. I come across opportunities that would offer stability and good pay, but I usually find my stomach turning with the thought of solely being confined behind a desk, clocking hours solely so someone else can become a little richer.
On the other end is the excitement that comes with science education research, pursuing grants and utilizing my skills in a way that truly would have an impact. The problem there, though, is knowing that there's a lot of risk with grant writing as one's position is constantly focused on finding grant opportunities continually applying as funding rates are at an all time low.

In a weird way, I'm measuring myself. This transition in career has become a strange journey of applying all the lessons I've learned and determining what road ahead is the one to pursue that will allow me to live with myself. To have no regrets both in making the best decisions for my family's security but also finding enough meaning in my world so that I'm also being true to this need for adventure.

Maybe that's why those tears came so readily last night. Why today has been more of an emotional one. That though Chris McCandless's story ends with him dying alone in the middle of the wilderness due to starvation and poor planning, he did so living a life filled with meaning and purpose.


  1. It's so hard- especially when you have a family! I have always been the type of person that wants stability in a job but my sister is the complete opposite. I took chances elsewhere in my life (lots of moves, traveling, various sports, etc.) but definitely find myself both unable to do so because of the kids and not wanting to do them as much anyway.

  2. There have been a few times I've leapt into the unknown, job-wise and it's frightening, but if you can afford not to settle for "okay," finding meaning is worth the wait. Funny ... even now, I think some days that I wish I were learning more. I find myself wondering if this is really all. But I also know that a lot of what I do gives me meaning and purpose, and I hold on to those things, which are maybe a little less adventurous than I'd want to be without a family and a home. You're in my heart as you search for the right fit.

    (Thanks, BTW, for coming back and making me feel welcome in my own home again.) <3

  3. It sounds like the shift in career is a double-edged sword -- exciting new opportunities to branch out, but also reminders of the push-and-pull of new jobs -- will it be exciting enough and pay enough? Will it challenge and offer stability? So hard. I can see why the movie hit you in such a way. Sometimes you're in a particular position and just the right quote or book or movie will send you into an introspective spin. It sounds like you're using yours for good though...I have hope that your right opportunity is out there. Job hunting is no fun.

  4. Hey Cristy, I went through some a profession/career inventory/job search and the related growing pains this past year. Ping me via email if you want to arrange time for a quick chat by phone -- happy to help you vent or brainstorm a little further if that might help. xo

  5. I think we are long lost sisters or something! I so understand this place that you are in. I have a good job with a decent salary, good benefits, and a great schedule. I have stability. But if I'm completely honest with you, with as much as I love my job and believe in what I'm doing (and I do love it most days), I'm also bored to death and don't feel challenged at all. At the same time I hesitate to pursue opportunities that I perceive as less stable because I fear the unknown.

    Maybe you and I should combine our areas of expertise and open a consulting firm or something like that. We could change the world. Or at least education. :)

  6. I've recently made huge changes in my life - from challenge to stability, from career opportunities to being at home by 4:30. For me, 5 months in, I can say the transition has been totally worth it. I feel I've gained so much whereas I'd initially feared I'd feel I had fallen behind. This is what has worked for me.

    One thing that struck me when reading this is the reality of chaos that infertility forced upon people like us. I feel I generally thrive with challenge and organizing amidst chaotic circumstances... but this post made me consider how much infertility played a part in that.

    I often feel now that things are too good, too stable... that chaos and tragedy are just around the corner b/c stability seems so foreign to me. But maybe this really is normal? Stability, predictability... is this security and resulting happiness sustainable?

    Lots to think about....

  7. This SO spoke to me! In fact, I was just thinking about it last night, as I was contemplating selling everything and traveling for a year with my girl. On the one hand, it means giving up the stability we have now. But on the other... it means something new, an adventure, and an opportunity that won't be as easy to embrace once she starts kindergarten. I've never been so bored in my life as I was when I had a corporate job that trapped me behind a desk, and I definitely struggle with "normal." But then... I also find a lot of comfort in the stability I've built for my daughter that I never had for myself.

    All that to say... I feel you, sister.


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