Sunday, May 15, 2011

Going Up the River

First, some news: I quit my job! I had begun this process (and I do mean process, I think every person at my company had to be consulted first) thinking I may try to go part-time instead of just leaving. It seemed safer, left me with less uncertainty, maintained some form of income, gave me a reason not to sublet my lovely apartment here in Boston. But, dear friends, where's the adventure in certainty!? I've prioritized certainty for my whole life. SO I quit! (Did I mention that I quit!?) My last day of work is June 24th, a little later than anticipated, but it helps the agency so I willingly agreed.

My direct supervisor relayed back to me some of the many conversations she had on my behalf to facilitate this transition. The response of our Executive Director, in particular, stands out: "Oh! Mara's going up the river!" Perhaps you've heard the parable that makes sense of this statement, though it was new to me:

One day, someone noticed a newborn baby crying and floating down a river, followed quickly by a second and a third. A group of civic-minded kind-hearted folk, realizing this serious tragedy, began wading into the water to receive the children and take them in as their own. Frantically, they watched upriver, careful to let no child pass through their safety net. Soon, one woman left the water, and began walking upstream. "Wait!" the waders shouted after her, "We need to stay and save the babies!" She turned back to them and replied, "I know, I'm going upstream to stop the bastard who keeps throwing them in!"

As can be said for all of us (barring, of course, the one you may currently hold), I have left every job I've ever had. I have long been on the quest for the field, position and environment where I can apply myself, growing and utilizing my own skills while working towards some positive and rewarding end. Unsurprisingly, my criteria and even definitions of each piece of this have changed and broadened dramatically over the years. I did, after all, start this career journey in politics! Much of my experience has taught me more about what I don't want than what I do, which I have learned to appreciate despite its frustrating lack of resolution. I still have more questions than answers, but each step along the way has provided me invaluable knowledge about the working world, the way the world works and my place in both.

The most important lesson I am taking from this job is the realization that I am not well-suited to acting as a safety net. The work of the wader is both noble and necessary; after all, who will save the babies while others address the cause? But it is also never-ending, allowing for very little room to motivate big picture change or create long-term success and requiring an unyielding sense of optimism and patience. Service providers at this level across every field have forever earned my appreciation, admiration and respect. I am intensely grateful for this experience and the innumerable things it has taught me, chief among them the invaluable knowledge that this work is not for me.

So, I continued my history of quitting. This time, taking with me the knowledge that I want to be involved at a higher level of enacting change. I seek to address issues at their root, to apply myself toward identifying and treating the causes and not just the symptoms. I'm going upstream, moving up not only the proverbial river of working towards positively impacting the world around me but also the river of realizing my own goals, ambitions and career path.

Friday, May 6, 2011

An Honest Beginning

For years, if you were to call me and reach my voicemail, you would hear a recording that began, "Hello Everybody, you've reached Mara!" and ended, several sentences later, with "Thanks, and have a great day!" For those of you who never had the pleasure of hearing that message, imagine my most upbeat and enthusiastic tone - the consummate hostess, pleased to welcome you to our communications. It struck me as a perfectly obvious greeting. I had no doubt I would receive a high volume of callers, each of whom would share my excitement to ultimately connect and communicate, who understood and upheld my expectations for an enjoyable conversation with meaning and value.

Alas, professional contacts, efficiency and a touch of my own self-consciousness resulted in the message's current simpler and shorter form: "You've reached Mara. Leave a message and I'll call you back." Of course, time has changed more than my voicemail greeting. Having introduced a healthy bit of uncertainty about others, myself and my role in the world, I am less insufferably optimistic, more comfortable with silence, more self-reflective.

The point, you may ask? I am at a loss for how to welcome you to my new blog. I have no presumption about who will read it, with what emotion or even the value of what I will write. The simple certainty of my former voicemail won't serve me here; I can no longer write, "Welcome, Everybody, to my fabulous adventures and the insightful, witty and fascinating things I will be saying about them!" I am glad to have become more humble, reflective and even uncertain, and given you this long introductory rant instead. But a true welcome is still elusive. I suppose, in its stead, I will say this:

This week, I began the process of quitting my job with nothing on the horizon but adventure. I am in a place of huge transitions - I am not certain what I'm seeking or where it will lead me, but I intend to chronicle it here and I am honored to have you read, respond and join me as you see fit.

On the title of my blog: a completely silly song happened into my life today as I was beginning the process of starting this blog. The song is called "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd" by Roger Miller. Loathe though I am to end a sentence with a preposition, ("This is the sort of English up with which I will not put") I find myself very drawn to the song's main refrain: "You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd but you can be happy if you've a mind to." Perhaps I'm drawn to the independence behind the idea that you make yourself happy. Perhaps I'm drawn to it because balancing the future-driven leader I've always been with this new quest for comfort and growth in uncertainty feels a little like trying to roller skate in a buffalo herd. Perhaps I'm just silly. Or perhaps I'm really just toasting to this new journey that has caused me to accept challenges I would once have answered with "I can't."