amazing life series

Welcome to another post in the My Amazing Life blog series. I am so glad you are here. I loved this story from my friend Chara Armon, Ph.D. I think you will, too! This blog series is all about sharing both the ordinary and extraordinary moments in our lives – the places of transition and the leaning into our faith that yes, we can accomplish our dreams!

Does your career path have its own ‘red thread’?

Do you ever wonder whether your career path has been the ‘right’ one?  Do you question whether your career trajectory has been too convoluted? I reflect on that often lately as I assess how my work will develop in its next stage. I’m finding it worthwhile to notice the aspects that have been constant even as I have altered my direction at times. I’ll model here my own musings and I recommend that you consider writing a brief account of your own career’s evolution, noticing as you do so what values or goals have been steadily present to you over time. It’s helpful for seeing where you’re going next, but also for honoring your past decisions and feeling whole.

Ever since high school, I have struggled with trying to decide between a career path as a scholar and teacher, and a path more devoted to service. Even during graduate school in a wonderful Ph.D. program that I loved, I questioned whether the scholarly direction really could satisfy all my commitments and values. I loved researching and writing about medieval history, yet found that my ‘activist’ side didn’t have much room to flourish in my work as an historian of religion and culture.

While finishing graduate school, I had two children whom I stayed home to raise, wrote my dissertation at night, and then taught part time for a few semesters and had a third child. After eleven years at home with my children, I attained an appealing academic job as a postdoctoral teaching fellow. In this teaching job, I was able to be honest with myself about the fact that historical scholarship no longer felt like my path.

As a mother and an alert observer of our culture, I had become too concerned about present-day problems, especially environmental problems, to continue devoting myself to understanding the deep past. I transitioned my research and teaching into the new field of religion and ecology, where I felt far more at home intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. By developing courses that focused on exploring the human relationship to the natural world in the Western story, and a course that studied sustainable agriculture from the perspectives of the humanities and peace and justice, I reinvented myself as a scholar and academic, including beginning to publish in the field.

However, I have continually asked myself whether teaching 75 or so college students a year is the best way for me to serve. My over-arching concern has become contributing to the repair of the human relationship to the natural world. I frequently wonder, am I doing enough? Am I serving my talents and values in the highest way I can? And why do I feel restless, even though I love teaching?

To my own astonishment, in the past two years I have been steadily attracted to studying the work of women teachers and coaches who are taking their work outside of traditional classrooms and into entrepreneurial, online, and international venues. Exploring this type of service-oriented, spiritually focused entrepreneurialism has seemed….well, so unscholarly, while also seeming compellingly exciting and full of possibility.

After thoroughly benefiting from KC Baker’s Women’s Thought Leadership Society and Marie Forleo’s B-School, I find myself not only still loving academic teaching, but completely fascinated by the possibilities available through online teaching via a heart-centered business. Do I sometimes feel my interests and passions are a bit quixotic, or too diverse for me to firmly grasp? Yes. But I’m starting to believe that I’m mistaken when I feel that way. Hearing the descriptor “multi passionate” has been reassuring because it’s taught me that I’m not alone in feeling sincere passion for, and commitment to, more than one area of endeavor and service, and that a diversity of skills and interests is not a sign of career chaos, but an indicator of richness in one’s talents and ability to contribute.

As I reflect on the ways in which I’m multi-passionate, being committed additionally to parenting, spirituality, organic gardening, permaculture, studying holistic health approaches and energy work, volunteering, environmental activism, cooking and householding, and other pursuits, it has been helpful to observe the constants in my career and life trajectory to date. Whether studying medieval history or religion and ecology, whether raising my children or blogging and teaching online, I have been fascinated by the relationship between what people believe and how they live. I have been committed to understanding the connecting points between what our minds know and how we choose to behave for good or ill. And whether parenting, teaching, or tending my garden, I have been consistently committed to nurturing growth and wellness in my children, my students, the natural world, and myself.

It’s true that I don’t have a solid, sure-thing career yet, and I’m already 41. But I have served and learned through years of passionate teaching and more years of loving parenting. With my new business, I am pursuing my sense of calling even more deeply, teaching both in the classroom and beyond. At 41, I’m seeing my passions cohere and gel, and my dreams flourish.

What does this all mean? I can illustrate this best by quoting from William Stafford’s poem, “The Red Thread:”

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.

I’m finding it reassuring to discover that I’ve been holding the same thread—a thread formed of components of spirituality, wellness, teaching, and nurturing–exploring different parts of it while still holding steady. I encourage you to take some time to think about your path. What’s your red thread? Where is it leading you, and how can you celebrate your own consistency even as you open to the next opportunity or frontier of service?

Who is Chara Armon?

Chara Armon, Ph.D. teaches about the connections between humanity and the natural world. She stands for defending Earth’s and human health simultaneously and transitioning our lives into a healthy, sustainable balance. Her aim is to ignite attention to the need and opportunity to heal human and Earth health as the same endeavor, for mutual flourishing. You can find her at http://mutualflourishing.org, on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1z4yx4e and Twitter at @ArmonChara, and, this fall, hosting her online telesummit, Healing Earth, Healing Self, which she invites you to listen to for free by signing up at www.healingearthself.com

 

If you have an Amazing Life story to share, please feel free to email me!