The Future is NOT One Thing

Did the pandemic cause us to think differently about work? Did the constant reminder of our mortality in the sound of sirens and breaking news alerts, stop us in our career tracks? Has a ‘great reflection’ occurred to prompt the ‘great resignation’? 

“I think of all the people playing roles, getting further and further away from themselves, from what moves them, what stirs them all up inside.”  Lily King, ‘Writers and Lovers: A Novel’                                          

Have we stepped back, recalculated and narrowed the gap between who we are at work and who we are? 

How do we even do that?

I think the first step is to recognize that we have a choice – at every career ‘hinge-point’ – we can choose. 

And it’s not one decision. Choosing a major in college doesn’t determine your life path. An internship isn’t a lifetime commitment. The first job is just that. 

‘Try to do the work that brings out the best in you. I say this to my university students: You are at university to understand your gifts and what you love to do. If you are lucky, they will be the same thing. If not, let’s talk and see if we can increase the overlap. If you relish your work, you will not have a disappointing career. When failure comes, and they come to everyone, you will have loved the work itself.” Sherry Turkle, ‘The Empathy Diaries’ 

‘If you relish your work, you will not have a disappointing career.” It’s the curiosity thing. The question that you leave at the end of the day, that compels you to get up the following morning. It’s the energy of colleagues who encourage and challenge. It’s being in a place where you can succeed. It’s discovering your gifts as you actively engage with all aspects of your workplace. It’s about sharing those gifts as you put your experience to work.

“That’s what I hope students in MFA programs now can understand – the future is not one thing. So many possibilities can arise as a result of intelligence, education, curiosity, and hard work. No one ever told me that, and I’m sorry it took this long for me to figure it out… My MFA showed me the importance of community. We are social creatures. Even the introverted readers, the silent writers, want a place where they feel welcomed and understood. I had wanted that once, and now I can give it to others. That’s how I’ve wound up putting my degree to work. That’s how I discovered that my truest destiny was I thing I never saw coming.” Ann Patchett, ‘These Precious Days: Essays’

That other thing we learned in the pandemic- we are much better humans as part of a community – face to face. 

As we emerge from our bubbles and begin to connect, we will rediscover how who we are at work can meld with who we are. It really does take a village and in building ours anew, we may discover our destiny is the thing we never saw coming.

“Becoming open again to the generosity of others offers a fresh way to see the world. Small kindnesses from friends and strangers suddenly feel outsize in their humanity.”  Sarah Wildman, ‘Self-Sufficiency Is Overrated’

The future is not one thing. (And, we are not alone.)

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