In today’s world most of us engage not just one job throughout our adult lives but several, from early jobs as a youth gaining some experience or training to later career work that might be better attuned to our interests and sense of purpose.
As a self-discovery exploration I invite you to make a list of your workaday jobs. Note your age when you started and (if) finished each job, and write a brief job description. Then consider for each job:
What LIFE LESSON(s) did I take away from this activity?
To pilot this Tool, allow me to briefly engage with this myself to see where it may lead:
- Horse drawings (around 6-7 YO): I loved to draw horses (always wanted my own horse and never had one, though I did get to help with horses at local stables in Pennsylvania with my sisters and friends). After feeling I had mastered a basic horse drawing design, one day I went around the neighborhood door-to-door, offering my artwork for a dime per drawing. Neighbors were supportive and I felt a sense of accomplishment. LIFE LESSON: It is okay to share with others your creative products.
- Ice picking at the community Peach Festival in Lewiston, NY (15 YO): First paid job, and I didn’t stay with it long enough to be paid. Terrible work without any safety gear. I still have scars on my hands from inexpertly hacking away at a block of ice for some stall owner who did not care. LIFE LESSON: Use proper discrimination before accepting a responsibility; be sure you will be capable and safe.
- Crab and salmon cannery, Yakutat Alaska (19 YO summer) LIFE LESSON: Life is a Great Adventure!
- Grape vineyard and peach orchard, solo farm hand (20 and 21 YO, summer work to help pay for college spending): This was my first real job, a job of choice. I knew I needed to work but did not want a “normal” job such as waitressing or secretarial labor. This was outdoors and I worked mainly alone in the fields or driving a tractor. The farmer gave me many responsibilities, which I loved! (…Until the day he became inappropriate with me; I left shortly after that, not to return.) LIFE LESSON: Follow the beat of your own Heart; Enjoy responsibility and work hard to excel. I learned how I dearly love to work hard and produce positive results.
- Ushering and parking booth attendant at a new performing arts center (22 – 24 YO) : I enjoyed every aspect of this and was promoted to Head Usher. LIFE LESSON: Exciting opportunities abound (I almost accepted a job in NYC becoming a nanny for a world class symphony conductor’s family; loved the variety of shows and the elan of performance.)
- Tutoring English at my undergraduate college (21-22 YO): Fell in love with teaching. LIFE LESSON: I can be of positive service through sharing knowledge by helping facilitate learning in others.
- Research Associate and Teaching Assistant, and Faculty adjunct at community colleges, while in graduate school (14 yrs in grad school). LIFE LESSONS: Many.
- University teaching (pre-tenured and then tenured faculty, and Chair two terms), 25 years. LIFE LESSONS: The importance of following my own inner guidance and developing detachment from academic politics or personality clashes; enjoyment of working with wonderful students; also the value of maintaining my spiritual focus and creative activities separately from the academic setting.images are from pixabay.com
- Spiritual services roles (44 yrs, many different roles and opportunities). LIFE LESSONS: How to be a spiritual co-worker with others in voluntary roles; and how to stand back to help facilitate spiritual seeking and growth in others.
- Writing for publication (many years): LIFE LESSONS: Persistence, commitment, dedication, willingness to work and rework; editing; then eventually morphing the project to team-based efforts and ultimately being able to release and share the work with as broad a readership as the book may reach. (Joy and the desire to produce more in service to Life!)
So, what might your history of Life Lessons from Working reveal? I see in mine a widening arc of responsibilities and a growing love of creative expression and Service. I love the feeling of independence that comes with varying responsibilities along with the expansion of knowledge and the capacity to grow from working with others as well as alone. I can hardly separate work from life as a whole, as the lessons have abounded holistically.
As I now prepare for a fast approaching retirement from my main academic position, this exercise has helped me to understand that this process will never dissipate but will only continue to expand!
So, what is YOUR story? I invite you to engage your own reflections about your Life Lessons from Work!