In September 2003, I moved back home. Literally. This was an unexpected turn and not at all desired at the time. But by now, I have come to terms with the situation and actually see it as a positive. Being back at home has allowed me to examine some of my decision-making processes, especially where my "career" is involved. It has also allowed me to address some very real material concerns. The issue of career had become convoluted with other concerns like self-definition and lifestyle.
I realized as far back as 1997 that the tail was wagging the dog. I was pursuing a career path merely because I had already embarked upon it; with little consideration to whether it was fulfilling or enjoyable to me. This went on until 2002 when I finally decided to jump out of the hamster wheel and see the whole, wide world. Since then there have been some bumps. I had a position at a non-profit that turned out to be a hellish experience. It lasted only a year, but ended badly. Having no previous experience with such, I had a lot of difficulty figuring out how to handle the situation. It took an objective observer to point out to me that the mess had been largely engineered by someone whom I trusted.
Well, that threw me into a different sort of tailspin. But it did catalyze me to consider that I was handling what I started calling my "quarter-life crisis," all wrong. Rather than finding career security and then being able to address my personal goals, I needed to honor myself first and let a career that complemented those values manifest itself. That may sound idealistic or completely flaky, depending on the day, but that's my plan and- as is my way- I'm sticking to it.
Being back at home has been a great help because it's encouraged me to distinguish between a job and a career. What one is willing to do for the sake of career, is not the same as what one is willing to do for a job. A career is a journey, a job is a financial arrangement. Since I am not concerned with where I will lay my head, I have looked at myself and work with a new perspective. That has been very enlightening for me.
Though I was under no dire pressure to do so, I took the first job that was offered to me when I got back home. I definitely need income, but I could have held out for a better position. I had time and latitude. That I did not was all wrapped up in how I see (saw) myself. Not just as an individual entity, but in relation to other people in my life, society, and so on. I could not bear the idea of not having an answer when people asked, as they will inevitably, what do you do? I could not bear the idea of taking up space and resources in my family home. I could not shake the fear that by not 'succeeding,' I had failed. I loathed myself for not 'knowing' what I wanted to do next; even though I realized that there was no way I could 'know' without exploration.
And the failure wasn't failure. I knew objectively that I was doing pretty well. It was the lack of control and ownership over my accomplishments, my choices, and myself that was bothering me so. In A Voice From the South, Anna Julia Cooper poses the question of human validity in her essay "What Are We Worth?" Mine was a crisis of self-worth. I could measure that worth externally--by how well my job was going-- or I could measure it internally--by how well my life was going. I had the opportunity to walk away from the external measure back in 1997, but I was not ready to face myself. It seemed easier to go with the superficial, to listen to what others had to say- and so I went for another six years. But I think I always knew that eventually I would have to reckon with myself.
I have had to systematically challenge every fear I have ever harbored to get to this point. My fears of betrayal, scarcity, and failure have all been manifested. My ambivalance about trusting others, my hesitance to hope...Some may call it a crisis of faith, but I see it now as an opportunity to re-learn something that as a child--when things were far more desperate-- I knew instinctively. That God would never bring me this far to leave me and that I am destined to see and do great things. I was a pretty cool kid, right? Yeah, I was. And I still am...