Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Career and Relationships.. and where

Please note: I would really like to hear people's thoughts on this, so if ever you were inclined to comment on a blog post, this would be a great time to do that! Or drop me an email. Cheers ;)

This season of my life has been a time of transition and trying to figure out what's next. I've come up with lots of metaphors these months to describe where I am. See two posts ago for the quote about the jigsaw pieces thrown in the air. Another image is of being on a roller coaster, at the top of one of those steep inclines that you slowly slowly inch up, teetering on the top, about to be released to go down - but I've never been on this roller coaster before so I don't know what to expect, and so I just sit at the top of the climb, waiting. Another image is of having come to a fork in the road, thinking one path is probably the right one, but there's a barrier up against that route saying there's construction and I should take a detour. But the detour just looks wrong, for any one of a variety of reasons. And another route might work, but well, it's not headed the way I think I should be going. So it seems like I should just stand at the fork and wait for the construction to end, or else look for something that makes the detour look safer, or for a hint that the other route is actually the right one.

It's this last image I want to explore here: let's say the three routes being presented at the fork in the road are: career, location and relationships. (I know this is a simplification, but simplifications have their use.) So I'm at this point of transition where I can choose the next step based on a career direction, and that's the road that's wide open and, at first glance, seemed the right route. But as I look at my map, I am suspecting that actually, the career road is not the right one; it's the relationships road. But that's the one with the barrier; according to the map - and my gut - that road is the right one to take, but it's just simply not an option at this point - because of construction, or because of the barrier blocking my way in. So I could take the detour, which is making a choice based on location. That will probably eventually get me somewhere, but it just looks wrong, perhaps it's a bit dangerous or a bit too rough or maybe the problem is just that there's no guarantee it will pan out as a legitimate detour.

This metaphor is, I think, all about a search for identity. I know my identity is most firmly rooted in my faith, but faith is a spiritual concept which needs a more humanly concrete face. Religion is the most common face given to faith, and that's often a very good thing. But if faith is about everything in life, unless my "religion" (i.e. churchgoing or working at a religious establishment) is my life, then identity will have to be about something more. Is then my identity about where I'm from? I have always had trouble with the fact that I don't identify with a place. Is my identity about my career? I am a sociologist, I am a community development worker, I am a writer? This is probably the way I have most typically thought of myself, and it's the way I've been encouraged to think by my cultural surroundings.

But, what about the third category: is my identity about people? Is it about who I care about and who is important in my life and the people to whom I am important? I think this is probably one of the most common sources of identity in the world, i.e. family. But a young professional like myself whose family and loved friends are spread around the world is not really expected to think that way. But, coming back to the root of who I am, my faith, I think that since my faith is about a relationship, maybe relationships should be at the top of the list. That I should choose that road at the fork, because if my identity is rooted in relationships, I assume it should just follow that I make important decisions on that basis.

...But what to do when the barrier is blocking it? Wait for the construction to be complete? Take the detour? Go somewhere else? But, even more elementally, what does it mean to choose to make people my priority? I have been thinking a lot about that, because again, according to the way of thinking I've grown up around, basically that means the nuclear family: making decisions as a family, with a spouse. But surely there are other models of relationally-focused lives? Catholics are really good at this, because convents and monasteries are an amazing example of putting relationship into practice. There are communities throughout the U.S. that I've been learning about that are working to be intentional about coming together as a group of people and being more than just friends - being truly committed to each other. All of these seem very radical to me, but maybe that is the point: to embrace a value system that is important to my faith but not prioritised in my culture, maybe I have to do something radical.


tony said...

I think at the core of your message it was about identity. But it seems like you're at a fork in the road and I think you've described the roads fairly well. I think what I'll add to it is this. You should let God define you and what you do, whether its relationships or career and not the work define you. As a sociologist I'm sure you're well aware of the vagueness of any category, and to define something is to box it, ignornig the grey areas constantly and the full complexity of something. But my prayer for you is that God defines your identity and aids your judgement. Its the hardest thing when you just don't know what to do, and want to make decisions consistent with who you are. I think true peace comes from knowing who you are in Christ, not in some vague terms, but in real tangible terms. And if you can stand in that reality, Christ's for you, then I don't think you worry about wherever you go, work or relationships. You're still Katie Krafy who loves people, and does excellent work. You're both and God will honor both these things, road blocks or open roads aside.

Anonymous said...

I relate with you on the aspects of detours and roadblocks. Sometimes the paths that seem most obviously clear cut to me only seem that way because I blazed them. Then when I actually try those paths out, they turn into dead ends. A very good test of humility.

Thanks for asking for input. And you're added on board to the blogroll. :)

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