“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream,” is a popular quote from motivational speaker Les Brown, though it’s often misattributed to author C.S. Lewis.
It’s been on my mind lately, coincidentally because I’m about to encounter another birthday in less than twelve hours. I have mixed feelings this year, namely questioning if I’d accomplished what I’d hoped to since last year.
The short answer is no, but I did stumble into some unexpected adventures.
I also started looking for a job again. I still have my tiny eBay business and enjoy it. But I understood from the beginning it would be useful for a short season, and I feel that season is passing.
There’s still a lot that I want to learn and do, and I think at this point the most efficient route would be to trade skills for knowledge and milk money. Amazingly, after a soul-crushing couple of months of actively looking for work, I managed to land a position with a small company. (Win!)
As excited as I am at the prospect of receiving a steady paycheck again, I had a moment of panic as to whether I was making the right decision. Am I giving up? Am I selling out? Are those even bad things?
More Than What’s On Paper
I attended a job fair not long ago and had my resume evaluated. For my work experience, I had listed out pretty much every job I’d done recently, including my tiny business, childcare, some freelance writing gigs (not all of which I was paid for), and work in comics.
I wanted to show that I hadn’t been idle after I’d left my last full time job, but apparently all those little gigs didn’t add up to a linear work history. That begged the question—did I look like a linear human being?
Upon his advice, however, I scrubbed my resume and tweaked it to death. It was boring as all get out, so I stuck a ninja comic on it. I figured if a company rejected it because they couldn’t understand my sense of humor, they were probably not going to provide an environment I could flourish in.
With that resume, I ended up with gaps that I had to explain in cover letters and interviews. But at least I got interviews.
My Name Is Not ‘Rejection’
Speaking of interviews, I’m terrible at them.
Despite having read tons of expert advice, investing in an “interview outfit,” practicing in front of the mirror, and even recording myself with my web camera, I still get nervous and have a hard time making eye contact. I understand that especially the lack of eye contact can be perceived as an inability to focus or trying to hide something.
So, I attended a webinar in which a career coach shared some of his wisdom on preparing for interviews. One of the first slides he shared had in large bold letters: YOU ARE VALUABLE; REJECTION IS NOT YOUR IDENTITY.
He went on to provide some perspective with recent hiring stats and tips for the interview process. But I made a point to write down those bold words, because I hadn’t recognized up until that point that I had made rejection my identity.
For a long time, I had failed to separate my identity from my work. Whenever I had writing passed by publishers and my resume tossed out by prospective employers, I unfairly owned that rejection. So, I stopped.
The eye contact thing is still something I struggle with. But at least now, I will be working with people for whom it’s not a deal breaker.
Hold Things of the World Loosely
This past December, my baby nephew passed away. Yes, it was hard. It still is.
His parents continue to work through the grief and the depression. In addition to continually missing him, they’ve struggled with letting go of the dreams they’d had for him. Dreams about what they wanted to do and places they wanted to visit and even cities they wanted to relocate to.
They wanted to have great adventures with all their kids. But now, they have to learn what it’s like to live with one of them gone.
One of the therapists they are seeing mentioned a concept we learn in church a lot—to hold the things of the world loosely. My nephew is not of the world, but the dreams his parents had were. And while it’s okay to make plans and have dreams, it’s also okay to let those go when it’s clear that nothing we can do will bring those back.
I haven’t experienced the level of loss that my cousin and his wife have. If anything, the plans and dreams that I had to let go of seem very small and insignificant.
In that sense, as long as I stick to my values, it matters little what I do for a paycheck or what other non-linear entry appears in my work history. Jobs and money come and go. While I will do my best with whatever opportunities come my way, I know now to hold them loosely.
Finding a New Dream
I remember in school being told that if you set a goal and work hard towards it, you will eventually achieve it and everything will be awesome.
It’s been a while since those days, and almost all the goals I set back then haven’t worked out. And everything is certainly not awesome.
But some of it is.
During a recent job interview, I was asked the (rather redundant) question of where I saw myself in five years. Probably ten years ago, I had an answer. Now, I don’t speculate.
I don’t even know what will happen in the next five days. I might be in a fatal car crash. I might get a bad report from the doctor. A million dollars might fall out of the sky and into my lap. (Knowing me, though, I’ll probably suspect it is illegal and take it to the police.)
And there’s always the zombie apocalypse worry about.
For third party viewers, that may seem like I don’t have direction or dreams. And right now, the truth is I don’t.
But it doesn’t mean I’m not finding a new one. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t find other things, like peace, joy, and even a little wisdom along the way.
So, here’s to another year and a new chapter. Held loosely but lived fully.