Is it alright if I am totally honest with you? For a very long time, I let the type of job I was able to score determine how successful I thought I was. I studied a lot in school. I mean I was one of those kids. I graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA, giving the Valedictorian speech to my classmates. In college I didn’t have many friends. Most of them were relationships I had developed in Student Government Association. So the only time we “hung out” was in the library. After majoring in Political Science my first semester I realized the workload was too easy, and I wanted more challenge. I had taken an Art class as a pre-requisite that semester and fell in love. I decided then to double-major in Graphic Design and Political Science. Two majors that largely conflict in schedule and in thought process. No one at the college I attended had ever done it. But, wanting to support my endeavors, the school counselors helped me mold my schedule so that I could graduate with both on my degree.
Following college I worked hard to continually stay employed. I had worked all throughout college and yearned for newer and bigger experiences. People said I was really going places. It was assumed I would eventually end up back in D.C. chasing a big career in Political writing. God, however, always has different plans. Not long after working in my hometown at a local law firm, I found myself unable to handle the stress. With more than a full time job, ministry work, volunteer work, a boyfriend and family I tried to keep up with, I realized I just couldn’t do it all. But I was prideful, no, I wouldn’t let anyone see how weak I felt. I’m sorry to say I turned to things that I shouldn’t have to provide some sort of relief. Bible study and Christian community just wasn’t cutting it. I felt judged and insignificant. I was having panic attacks daily and couldn’t sleep- for days at a time. It was then that I fell into depression.
That’s a long back story, I know. Thank you for patiently listening, but it is important to see where I came from to know why I say I let my career define me. I let the idea of success and what it looks like to achieve goals be my measuring stick for how “well” I was doing in life. Can you relate? I have always envied people that treat their jobs as just that- a job. They can go in and come out and then live the rest of their lives as they wish. But I had never been able to do that. My job was my identity. It said nothing about how I made money and everything about what I wanted to be in life. I didn’t so much care how much money I was making as I did what my resume would look like. Then it all fell apart. I was told I wasn’t doing my job adequately and I was being asked to leave ( a huge slap in the face, by the way, when you just spent your last year working 65+ hours a week trying to make your boss look good).
From there it got worse. I was without a job for a while, and honestly felt useless. It was then that God began to show me that I had placed my value in the wrong area. I let the wrong things define me. I think this is an easy thing to do these days. Trying to keep up with society and achieve the proverbial “American Dream”. He began to show me that all the time I had spent working and trying to please others, I had let my relationship with Him slip, and had become so unhappy with who He had created me to be. Since then it has been a growing process. I have begun to treat work like work, giving it my all and aiming to succeed because I want to please God with my work ethic and give my employer what they pay for, but nothing else. I began to let my identity and pleasure come from re-learning who God created me to be. Instead of pursuing higher levels of leadership in the church, I quit my organization duties and learned how to live as a genuine follower of Christ. This meant dropping the perfect facade and showing people my struggles, and how God was using them to draw me closer to Him.
I am still in that position. And I am so much happier. It feels so wonderful to know I don’t have to perform for others. That people respond so much better to someone who is real about their life and struggles they face. You would be surprised at how many opportunities it gives me to get to know someone else’s heart and love them through their mistakes. They may not look like mine, but they are mistakes made by another human seeking satisfaction in life. And I know the only place to truly get it. What a wonderful opportunity to share what God has taught me. I realize not everyone reading this is a member of the Faith. That’s okay. I learned to love life for its beauty and promise, without caring what people thought about me. That’s how I want people to see me. A messed up person just trying to do the right thing, seeking God and knowing I fail, but He does not. And there is so much beauty in that. I hope that if you are in a place where you are letting your work define you, that you can take a step back and decide to let you run your work and leave it where it is. Then take a moment to enjoy the beauty of life.
Because people, and love and beauty is what matters most here, not driving yourself crazy to reach a level of success that doesn’t matter in the next life.