So let’s wrap the story up, shall we?
Recently I was reading a re-posted blog entry entitled “27 Simple Sages Reveal How They Simplify and Organize Their Lives.” Sounds pretty intriguing, no? However, I found myself uncomfortable with the advice one of the Sages, J. Stanton, prescribed:
“Lasting happiness comes from learning skills that you enjoy practicing, and using them to accomplish difficult tasks [ok, I'm with him so far]. You will only have the time and energy to develop, use, and maintain two or three such skills in your lifetime.
One of these skills should earn you a living, somehow. If you have children, raising them counts as another. Anything outside these two or three core skills you enjoy most, and are best at, should be demoted to the rank of “occasional entertaining diversion”…”
Mr. Stanton was not the only one of the 27 to espouse this general line of thinking. Really? I’m only supposed to develop two or three core skills? And I do have children, so I only have one or two things left? I guess I’ve been wasting a lot of time…
You see when we last left off I had just changed careers and learned that we would be moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The only game in town there for me professionally was in the legal department of a huge real estate investment company. I learned a lot, and was forced to develop skills I didn’t even know I had. Stock plan administration, broker-dealer compliance, database maintenance, securities reporting… I certainly wasn’t “passionate” about these skills in the same way I am about organizing, but I gave them everything I had with the thought that I might need to use them in other ways and in other places in the future. I was curious to see where they might take me. In the process, I developed a few systems for things that hadn’t been put into place yet, and I learned how to survive in what was at times a difficult and stressful work environment. I could not call any of these skills an “occasional entertaining diversion” – I would call them making the most of what I was given. I am grateful for the experiences.
Shortly after the birth of our first child, a daughter, we learned that we would again be moving – this time to Southern California. I had the luxury of taking a few months off to be with our little girl, and ended up meeting my next employer at a mom’s club get-together. Talk about going from one end of the spectrum to the other – she was an attorney who had recently hung out her shingle and worked from home. She needed a little help, and I was ready to give it. Her practice focused on estate planning, an area I really loved while in paralegal school. Again, I found myself in the process of reinvention and learning new proficiencies. I had the pleasure of watching her practice grow from three of us working in her living room to 5-6 of us in an office building. It was great work, but after the birth of our second child we made a conscious decision for my husband to try to find a position that would get us back to Middle Tennessee.
We’ve been back almost eight years now, and I’ve done a great deal of discernment to figure out this next chapter. I've kept busy helping my husband out with his consulting business, but in the past year or two I’ve often been approached for various committees and projects with a phrase that goes something like, “We need your organizational skills for _________ (fill in the blank).” Looking back, I notice that whatever ventures I’ve spent my time on have involved some level of “pulling things together”, some degree of getting the assignments moving forward and completed. I really love that, and others seem to see something in my makeup that encourages them to ask me for that kind of help. I want (and need) a vocation that brings all of these skills I’ve stumbled into together. I still love to teach, my performance background gives me confidence, and my various office environment experiences give me expertise in the legal and business world. Other experiences (in estate planning, for example) drive my desire to help people. The idea of going into professional organization, and focusing on home offices and businesses, is really not a huge leap. As I have started working with clients, I find myself drawing from ALL of these adventures, remembering useful things I thought I had long forgotten.
So I'm sorry, J. Stanton. I’ve spent a lot of time working on at least four different career skills, raising children, AND developing other interests. I wonder what da Vinci would have said to your philosophy…or Ben Franklin? Or countless other industrious folks who are living full, creative, messy, wonderful lives? My life may not be simple, but I do think it’s fairly organized – and it’s certainly never boring.
If you would like to read the post mentioned above (and there’s definitely some good stuff in it), you can find it at http://valueofsimple.com/simple-sages/.
Here’s to a busy, meaningful and productive New Year.
Sara Skillen - I'm a Certified Professional Organizer®, coach, wife and mom, and serial list-maker. I'm excited to be in the process of becoming a Certified ADHD Organizer Coach. I love to help people from all walks of life get organized and productive - and I'd love to help you, too:
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