Does your work– your “day job”– give you purpose? Does it fulfill and satisfy you? If yes, how will you make that continue? If no, what can you change?
Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I get up at 6AM (20 to on Tuesdays and Thursdays, actually).
I get dressed in whatever business casual is on the top of the clean-clothes pile.
I pack a lunch in a lunch bag that has an anatomical drawing of a heart on it.
I walk a half block to get on a city bus- Route 46. At the train station, I get off my bus and wait 15 minutes for Route 74, which carries me across the quiet morning Mississippi into the angry traffic and hurried business of downtown Saint Paul. I walk 8 blocks from the grips of the skyscrapers towards the Capitol building.
Just a block shy of the buildings where laws are made and important matters of justice are decided, I turn into a building no less impressive– the Department of Health. A place where, in my biased opinion, some of the real work of the state government happens along with the other offices of various state agencies. Places where people do not showboat for reelection, do not choose to take action (or not) based on the opinion of their peers.
The culture of my own department is a very generous one– it is a place where people genuinely believe in the health of all people and that we have a civic responsibility to help people live their healthiest lives. Though we all work at it from a different angle– immunizations or water contaminants, healthy homes or increasing physical activity– the outcome is essentially the same. There is a certain oneness and camaraderie in that type of work environment and a true sense of “when one succeeds, we all succeed.”
My work specifically is to make a complex and political topic– climate change– a digestible relatable, and interesting topic. I am a communicator, an educator, a curator of information, a resource, a toolmaker, provider of technical assistance. But I am also a learner, a researcher, a collaborator, a team member. I am in a role in which I wear many hats daily, from graphic design and writing to meeting facilitation and training development.
To say I thrive in an environment that is constantly changing is an understatement. In fact, it was the simple structure of a workday that I struggled with most after leaving school. In school, you go to a few classes each day, with these chunks of time in the middle in which you can work on projects or run errands or exercise or nap. Class from 9-10 and not another until 1? Take an extended lunch in the sunshine! Go for a run. Not so in the “real world.” At least not for those of us who are (happily) working in a cube farm. It is very difficult for me to focus from 8AM to 4:30PM each day on the same task and role day in and day out. My current position does not ask that of me. It asks me to jump around, be flexible, change my plans. It challenges me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I feel almost every day that my job provides me purpose. Which is good, because work is still work and the compensation is that of most government employees– a bit on the low side. I haven’t much thought about how I will continue to find purpose in my work– up to this point I had been so focused on finding and keeping work. I believe I will continue to share with my peers and supervisors the aspects of my job that I love, ideas for improving the parts I don’t, and asking continually to be challenged.
It is a difficult task to learn to be professionally assertive and respectful in regards to your career/position/compensation. I am sure I will make mistakes along the way– inadvertently offend someone, bite off more than I can chew. But I do know that I cannot sit still and that all motion is effectively forward motion in the long run.