Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is backwards the new forward?

wooded_pathOh I kept the first for another day, yet knowing how way leads on to way I wondered if I should ever come back - Frost “The Road Not Taken”

I first memorized “The Road Not Taken” in Mrs. Polen’s sixth grade class in 1964. Over the years it has served as a steadying voice when life seemed particularly difficult or solitary. Over the years it wasn’t so much a voice suggesting I take less traveled roads as much as it seemed a reminder that my unconventional existence put me on paths that few others chose or stayed with.

For some time now I’ve been searching for my second calling. I have a lot of good years left and I want to earn a decent living but I also want to invest my talents in an area that will make a difference. So I’ve been going down the conventional road floating my resume of work and volunteer history and getting next to no interest. I also prowl the want ads and job sites faithfully with no success.

Then a while back I was driving at night when the thought came to me that the last regular job (I currently freelance which is not regular) I got because I knew somebody. The problem with this idea was that going through a divorce tends to reduce the people you know; you find out very quickly who your friends are and often they aren’t.

Later, though, I remembered not a friend but new business owners I had interviewed for their opening. I had heard around that it was going well and growing. The downside was that it was a lower-level of a type of work I had done previously and left the field. But it keeps coming to mind even though I have all these reasons why it can’t be right. Afterall how can going back and working at the level over which I used to supervise others in a field I couldn’t work in when I was younger be the right choice now?

And then Allan Bacon’s essay about Moving to Paris is posted on The Art of Nonconformity site last week. Bacon found his path to moving forward by stepping back to a lower job he had left that gave him enough income as well as more time and energy. When he stopped trying to find his calling at work he was able to work at finding his calling.

I started out as a wife and mother who wanted to write for a living after the kids left home. But then I ended up without a home and started to wonder why the path suddenly dead-ended. The freelance gig I have helps but isn’t going to become something else. Other writing jobs are either intern or a lifetime of experience in a very narrow subject area.

Slowly the wisdom of Bacon’s assertion has started to creep in. Do the thing that pays that you can do well with low stress to get the income you need to keep working on finding your calling. For me, that has meant backing down the path I’ve been traveling on and choosing to move forward on a different path. I tend to approach things unconventionally because I never learned the standard ways they were done but this was an idea that escaped my notice until someone else pointed it out.

Will this road be more crowded than the one I was on? It is hard to say. However, it is interesting that while Frost’s verse reads that he doubts he’ll be back to try the other road his own life was riddled with false starts and reverses of course. So maybe he would understand Bacon’s going backward to move forward.


chelle said...

Live to work or work to live ... it is a tough one. I hope you decision brings you peace.

AuthorMomWithDogs said...

Deb, this sounds like a good idea to me for several reasons -- but maybe most importantly, gainful, low-stress employment.

The other reason I think this may be a smart move is that our generation is getting the squeeze-out on trying to find jobs. Employers want younger, less expensive employees with lower expectations. To complete, I think we do need to be willing to step back -- and slow down.

Fingers crossed for you.

Deb said...

@Chelle - Thanks for your support.

AKaren - That's how it seems to play out but that isn't the type of ad companies are writing. It's all so strange.