04.10.12 Career & Finances

A Work In Progress

A Work In Progress

BY Jen Tobin

When I am in relationships, I have no problem at all with the word, “commitment”.  When it comes to work… not so much.

I’ve had almost 47 jobs throughout my life.  I know because I once made a list.   A portion of it is as follows:

Grocery clerk, telemarketer, nanny, ghost-writer, transcriber, personal assistant, improv comedian,  promotional girl, cosmetics salesperson, massage therapist, camp counselor, aerobics instructor, back-up dancer, something I can’t remember… in a bank… and bookseller.  I always, always have a job (sometimes as many as three at once) but rarely have I completely loved what I do.  And I’ve rarely stayed more than a year.

It seems ironic, but my problem, I believe, stems from two things: 1) There are too many things I’m interested in and 2) I have an “if it’s not perfect, why bother?” philosophy that doesn’t work that well for me or the people who employ me.  I’m also a bit of a procrastinator, which doesn’t mesh too well with my perfectionism.  I usually wait until tomorrow to do something since I believe that then, I’ll be able to make it more perfect.  It’s not a good recipe for success.

Normally, I work somewhere nine or ten months and then start thinking about what’s next.  And rarely have I gotten to a place where I’m just killer at what I do.  I think the exception for me has been in the childcare and massage fields.  I adore children and don’t see them as work and massage is just easy and fun for me now.  During my first few years of it, it was hard and not fun.  But I had paid $13,000 to go to massage school and felt I owed it to myself to keep on keeping on.  Funnily enough, it got easy as I got really good at it and voila!  I sort of tricked myself into sticking with something until I could perfect it.  My impatience kept getting in the way, but I ignored it and kept going.  (That’s rare for me.  See memo above on nine to ten month job retention statistic.)

I’m not sure many of the things I’ve really spent my time on, though, have been my “life’s purpose”.  You know… that thing that you were undeniably put here on this planet to do?   I think the phrase “do what you love” is thrown around quite a bit, and as much as I hate clichés, I think there’s something to it.  We spend too much of our lives at work to hate it.

“But what about the bills?” you say.  “Who’s going to buy groceries for the kids?”  I hear you.  I’m in that boat, too.  But at 37, I’ve decided I’m short on time, both in the long and short term.  I work 40 hours teaching massage (teaching is one of those things I’ve always been interested in, I just don’t necessarily see it as my ‘life’s purpose’) and I have a family.   And in this economy, there’s definitely a piece of me that’s just grateful for a paycheck.  But when I was 10, I wanted to be a writer.  I wrote a book called The Strange House.  I still have it.  It’s about ten pages long, including some terrible crayoned illustrations and is bound with construction paper over cardboard.  But it was one of my proudest accomplishments.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect.  I just loved doing it.

And then I got older and that illness got me.  I once heard a speaker say that the greatest human disease is “the need to be right”.  I’d also add it’s the need to be perfect.  I’ve written a crapload of things and kept them hidden in my computer because I felt they weren’t good enough to see the light.  I’d go back and edit and then edit again and just keep waiting until it felt flawless.  Funny thing is, they never got to flawless.

I never feel more like myself than when I’m writing.  Even if I’m not in the mood, I can sit down, let me fingers start typing and something in me shifts.  I feel whole and alive and like I’m doing something.  And so, I’ll be doing more of that from now on.

I allowed my desire to be perfect override my desire to write and do what I love.  There are several things that seem to come easily to me: nurturing children and doing massage seem to be two of them, so I took the path of least resistance and stayed there.  But then, there was this hole left.  This sadness that only a keyboard could dissolve… so I started writing again and putting it out there.  It’s hard sometimes, feeling like a piece could be better, but it honestly feels better than having them stay in the dark of my motherboard.  If something I can write can elicit a chuckle out of someone or create a sense of camaraderie, than I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, brilliant doctor and author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom wrote that young girls know what they want to be, what their life’s purpose is between the ages of 7-10.  Think back to that…what did you want to be?  When you think about that thing, does is still make you happy to think of doing that?  Can you imagine doing it everyday?  Did you wind up doing what you wanted to do at that age?  Leave a comment and let me know! I’m intrigued…Until then, I’m going to keep hitting coffee shops and doing what I love; playing with words, perfect or not.

Photo credit:  Alexandra Rubisz at alibellphotography.com

Jen Tobin is a writer and instructor of massage therapy living in Los Angeles.  She has a daughter and a husband and a few dogs from Taiwan.  You can follow her blog at www.savingitall.wordpress.com.


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