A Career

Have you ever felt like you’d never move past the “job” phase? That you could never call what you do, or what you want to do, a career?

On Friday, I had my 90 day review for my job, and it was good. I came out of it feeling valued and proud of myself and with a desire to keep pushing and working hard. And I realized–I have a career.

After the struggle I faced post-graduation and last year, I never thought I would be able to say that. I always called what I did a “job,” and now I can transition that language. I am a writer, a blogger, an editor. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. My husband used to tell me “if you want to write, we can find a way to make it work.” I finally found a way.

I’m not anxious at this place. I don’t feel like if I don’t answer emails on my days off, the world will end or I’ll get yelled at. I don’t walk into work dreading the interactions I may have that day. I don’t dread the people or the work itself. That doesn’t mean I’m not tired after working all day, because I am. That’s part of working. But I’m proud that I’m tired by the end of the day. I feel like I’ve earned that exhaustion. And I really needed that feeling.

This job, actually beginning my career, has showed me the things I needed to see. I can see why my husband was always exhausted coming home from work. I can see why no one wants to go out after work, even if you are in an office all day. I can also see why it can be tiring to come home and make a meal, even if it’s just you and the animals. Having never experienced those things before, I didn’t know what they were like, so my reactions and my attitude were off. Now that I know, I feel better prepared.

So, today, I am thankful for my career. I am thankful I had the opportunity to truly begin it. I am thankful I found my calling. I am thankful I have a good work environment. I am thankful God granted me this opportunity. And I am thankful He used this opportunity to show me how to be better and to provide me the proverbial tools I need.

I want to encourage you to be thankful for your job. No matter what it is to you right now–whether it’s “just a job” or a career–God is using it in your life. If you don’t think He is, I challenge you to think about what your job has taught you. How has it changed you? What have you learned? Because every experience teaches us something.

It’s Just Part of My Job

Due to some departmental changes at my job, I volunteered to take on some additional responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is overseeing the selection of employee of the month and employee of the quarter. Today was my first time actually doing that.

Once the selection was completed, I had the privilege of informing the selected individuals of the “next steps” in the process, as they get an reward for their hard work and dedication. Having never done this before, I was a little nervous. Am I even credible to do this? How are they going to react? How should I react?

I informed the person who received employee of the month of their recognition, and as soon as I said the words, they said “Wait, really?” in an excited, almost disbelieving voice. As I was telling them, one of their coworkers, who had been a part of the selection meeting, walked by and gave them a thumbs up and a smile. As I finished letting this person know what was going to happen next (photo, etc) they seemed so happy and keen to have this honor. It really made my afternoon, and I walked away from the interaction smiling.

I know that choosing and celebrating an employee of the month and employee of the quarter is important for work moral. Not only does it celebrate hard work, but it also reaffirms those selected that they are recognized. It also gives others a goal to work toward. This showed me that employees are truly thankful for these types of procedures. It reminded me that even the smallest of interactions can have a positive impact on someone’s day.

Everyone wants to be noticed for their hard work. So say “hi” to someone. Smile. Tell someone you appreciate them. It doesn’t go unnoticed.


Work, Leadership, and Grace

Since leaving my previous job, I have had much more time and opportunity to write. I feel so much better about what I’m doing. Although my income may only come from my adjunct teaching positions, I definitely feel like I am working; I feel busy. For the first time in months, I am happy with my work.

I’ve had the chance to write things I enjoy writing, to pour myself into what I write, and to truly believe in what I’m working on. I’ve begun a short story series—Part 1 and Part 2 of which can be found here–which has given me the chance to experiment with my writing. I’ve actually started working on my memoir, which is something I never thought I’d do.

About two months ago, I submitted an article for the Virginia Maryland Washington D.C. Dog Magazine. The article was on how Belle helps me navigate and cope with my anxiety and depressive symptoms and episodes. This month, that article was officially published in the magazine.

Some of my writing assignments have been articles for the web portion of a local women’s professional and lifestyle magazine. The past week I have been working on two articles that highlight women in powerful positions in their profession—the Superintendent for the National Fire Academy, who is also the first female to hold her position, and the President/CEO of a county hospital in a neighboring area. Interviewing these two women has given me particular insight into leadership.

In my previous experience of having a direct supervisor (outside of academia that is), the supervisor acted more as a manager than a leader. I felt I was intensely and unfairly criticized. I was inadvertently told I could not be trusted to do my job. Because of the treatment I endured, I stopped trusting my own abilities, and it became a cycle.

In interviewing these women, I was taken back to my negative experience. Not because they mirrored that experience, but because they were so different. While each woman had her own way of responding to the interview questions, the themes were similar: community, “do not forget where you come from,” mentorship, and leading—not managing—your workforce. I couldn’t help but reflect. Here, I thought, are supervisors who know how to be leaders.

One of the things I took from these interviews was the concept of leading by example and learning through mistakes. These women don’t just tell others what to do or how to do it. They show their employees—through previous experience, commitment, and communication. I wondered if my experience at my previous job—personal situation aside—would have been better if my supervisor had exhibited different behavior.

. . . . . .

I teach about leadership in the Small Group Communication course I instruct, so I’m familiar with leadership from a theory and academic standpoint, but also from positive and negative personal experience. There’s one ultimate leader example, though, that I always think of but is usually frowned upon to discuss in academics: Jesus.

Jesus is the ultimate portrayal of leading by example and learning through mistakes. He tells his disciples and the people what they are to do, but He also shows them. He shows genuine love and compassion for others. He shows the people how to have faith. He also shows plenty of forgiveness to those who have strayed.

I found it interesting that as I was working on this piece we started a new series at church: “Jesus Is ____”. I had a plan for this particular post, but today’s sermon changed that, and, actually, it’s more connected than I thought.

Today, the series kicked off with “Jesus is grace and truth.” One of the tidbits from this sermon is the idea that Jesus showed us how to approach others. We read through the story of the woman accused of adultery in John 8 as an illustration, which brought about the pastor’s final point and the piece that stuck with me the most: the concept of “grace and truth” versus “truth and grace.”

Basically, grace should come first. Once grace is given, truth can follow and be better heard. It’s a balance of both.

. . . . . .

I don’t know about you, but I’m not perfect, either in my career path or in my faith. My story plot lines are far from J.K. Rowling-status. I tend to be a sappy, hopeless romantic in my writing, and my attempt to get out of that style doesn’t always go well. I’m not a perfect instructor by any means; I make mistakes. I “fail” at having faith a lot. I “fail” at believing sometimes. I “fail” at praying. But none of these makes me a failure, either as a writer, an instructor, or a Christian.

The reason is that balance of grace then truth.

If I had been shown a bit of grace in my previous work environment, perhaps things would have been different. But that experience taught me something not only about the professional world, but also about treating people: show grace. It’s okay to give second chances; in fact, we should. Because God gives us second and third and fourth chances all the time. God gave us the ultimate second chance in Jesus.

Jesus, though he gives truth, does so gently, as in the story of the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” The truth here is that, yes, according to the law of the time, she should have been stoned. But Jesus told the gathered crowd “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” The truth is everyone had sinned, so therefore had no right to condemn another. Jesus gave her truth in acknowledging her wrongdoing, but also granted her grace by lack of condemnation (read: death).

Christians are followers of Christ, signifying, simply in words, His leadership of our lives. If we truly are followers, then we must approach others the way He approaches us: with grace then truth.

. . . . . .

Thanks to my past experience, I know what kind of professional I want to be and what type of person I could or could not work for. But I’ve also had the chance to take a look at my values as a person, and I realized I want to change them.

I used to instantly go to condemnation and truth. Like the people in John 8, though, I have no right to condemn others when I myself have strayed from God’s path. Instead, I want to show grace first.

. . . . . .

In what area do you need to show more grace?

I pray God would guide you in showing grace to others and that He would speak to your heart when you are tempted off-balance.


Treating It Like A Job

Something happens in your head, in your heart, in the way you see things when you finally make the conscious decision to move forward with something you feel called to.

I have felt called to writing for quite some time, years in fact, and I have really only recently begun to move forward with that calling in a conscious, viable way. I started looking for articles on writing and found one on Medium that sought to inspire writers to turn from “wannabe” to “pro” with their craft. One article in particular, though, said exactly the thing someone like me needed to hear: you have to treat your writing like a job.

As I have expressed previously, I started working on an assignment for my creative writing class in college, and I had hoped to turn it into an actual novel. When my instructor told me, however, that the only way it would be believable was for it to end in a way I didn’t want it to (read: not have a happy ending), I stopped writing. On top of that, I was down on myself—no one would ever read this crap I told myself, even though my husband insisted I continue working on it. (Lesson: listen to your spouse.)

But a quote from the article on turning pro really struck me: “a professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Well, in the past, I quit. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I quit…quitting? (Does that even make sense?)

All of this has led me to the idea of rebranding this blog. Not because I’m not writing about what I want to write about (because I am!), but because I want to truly solidify what it is I do and what I write about. I started this blog as a place to just…write, but it has helped me to grow and realize what it is I want to do. If I want to be taken seriously, I have to begin to take myself seriously. So, over the course of the next month, I will be changing things up a bit. The biggest changes will most likely be a new domain name and a new layout on the blog itself.

The topics will not change. The overall goal of my blog will not change. I’m just going to actually work on developing that goal into a type of mission or vision. I will also keep writing during these updates.

I feel excited about this. The thought of treating my writing like a job brings me joy and an excitement I didn’t know I still had. I feel I am finally putting my calling to use, like I am finally honoring God with the gift He has blessed me with.

I hope you all will join me on this mission I’ve created for myself. And if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!