It seems like every conversation I have these days inevitably includes some variation of “So, what’s next for you?”
When I say I don’t know, the follow up is obvious: “Well, what do you want to do?”
That’s the interesting question, and I’m still figuring it out. It’s a bit like a wrestling match in my brain these days, with “start my own business” taking on “find a small non-profit that needs me”, only to have “get a cool job at a big company” tag in from time to time. Call me crazy, but I love it; I am excited by the possibilities and I have absolute faith that if I marinate on it long enough, the path will be revealed.
Why do I believe this? Because I trust my brain to work it out, and I have amazing people dropping little brain grenades on me from time to time, shaking things up in a way that I realized I’ve missed over the last few years.
Saturday’s missive came from a dear colleague, one of the first I met when I arrived here in Arkansas. She recounted hearing a speaker recently, someone involved in The Happiness Project, who had this to say about careers and job hunting. I’m paraphrasing her paraphrasing, but it was basically:
Don’t ask “What is the next job I should get?”. Ask “Whom do I envy?” And then figure out how you can get yourself to a place where you can get what the envy-ee (er sorry, that was the best I could do) has.
Yeah, there was a little mini-explosion in my cranium after that one. First, because envy is a bad word, usually. I mean, come on, it’s one of the 7 deadly sins! For example, I envy a friend who has met an interesting man and is enjoying highly romantic happenings lately. I should simply be happy for her, which I am, but there’s always that bit of negative emotion. That’s not good.
Second, it’s all well and good to say “put yourself in that place”, but if you don’t have the money to get there, it’s pretty much a moot point. After all, I envy the folks who live in houses with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, for example, but the odds of my getting one of those anytime soon? Absent a sugar daddy intervention, it ain’t happening.
But setting those considerations aside, let’s ponder this idea.
10 years ago, I would have told you I envied people in positions of power at arts organizations. That’s why I went to grad school; I wanted to learn the language and find a way to be heard, to sit at the table and have people listen to my ideas. I wanted to put myself in the places where those with the power to affect change hang out.
I still want that, and I’ve made good steps in that direction. But here’s the thing – when my 37-year old self thinks about those I envy, it’s not leaders of arts organizations anymore. I envy the people who are finding their place in the world: finding the love of their life, moving into their first house, moving to a new exciting city with their boyfriend, building their family, or watching their kids become young adults. They are traveling, they are writing, they are painting; they are living life.
How we change as time goes on! I see it in my peers, those who have climbed the ladder over the last 10 years, as I have. We used to spend every hour talking about our field. Now, we want to talk about other things, the things that happen after work.
I don’t think this is bad or good; I think it’s what just happens as we grow up. And it’s a cautionary tale for those who are tracking the leadership of the future in the arts and non-profit sectors.
As for what this means to my job search…who knows? I think it means I have to weigh more than if my next job is good for my career. I have to make sure it’s also good for the other parts of me, the ones that bloom when it’s time to go home.