Out on a Limb

15 Oct

Three times in my career I’ve taken the plunge – jumped out of a job without “solid” work lined up. Well, four, if you count the move I’m making now. You have to be careful who you tell when you do this, as most people think you’re insane and will tell you so. (And here I’m putting this on a blog where everyone can post this opinion to me).

It can seem very ungrateful to walk away from a job with benefits and a decent salary. We live in an age when people are desperate for work and this can seem the epitome not only of stupidity but of arrogance. Biting the hand that feeds you. But there is another way to look at all this. 

The first time I ever walked away from a job it was a job offer (vs. an actual job). It was at the tail end of the dot.com boom and the Silicon Valley was looking for bright, young people who could write. A company made me an offer to write about computer chips. The salary was more than I’d ever made; far more than the meager income I made working in a nursing home years ago. I thought I was supposed to take it even though I’d never done technical writing and even though I’m a numbskull when it comes to math, engineering, appliances and computers. It would have helped me pay off the graduate student loans I’m STILL paying on. But two people stopped me in my tracks. I distinctly remember my best friend walking with me on the beach in Carlsbad. “Do you really want to live THERE – San Jose- doing something you’ll probably hate when you just returned to San Diego (from NY) to be near the beach and family/friends. Life is too short.” And then my step-father saying, “Lise, you aren’t married and you don’t have children. Nothing is tying you down from following your dreams. Going after what you really want. Why play it safe?”

So I risked. Until I took a technical writing job in San Diego, even though I was a psychotherapist by education/training. A year later, after working part time during my father’s battle with cancer, the company approached me when me dad passed away. “It’s either full time or no time.” I knew I couldn’t stay. I was miserable. But scared shitless. I had no money in savings and no one that would swoop in and rescue me if I became a bag lady. But I jumped anyway. Took the plunge. Prayed more seriously than ever. Three days later I had an job interview at a psychiatric hospital and continued teaching psychology at Miracosta College.

Over the last ten years, I’ve done the dance of nine-to-five, steady therapy job and then jumped into private practice and teaching. Each time I’m part of a “job”, my opportunities shrink along with my dreams. Each time I jump into free lance mode, I get closer to my true vocation and the expression of my spiritual gifts.  

So yes, it’s not always a good thing to leave a job and sometimes we have to be responsible and bite the bullet. That is part of being a grownup. But my grandmother once told me that it was a sin not to use one’s gifts and talents to the maximum. Although conservative in nature, she was basically saying – trust in your path. And I think living in America where we actually have the opportunity to do that, it is almost our responsibility to make the attempt. To find how we can best serve in the areas we most enjoy, yielding the highest spiritual dividend. And just because we’re good at something doesn’t always mean it is what we’re meant to do or what God wants us to do. Growth comes when we move outside our comfort zone and in the direction where we’re Called. Enamored. Alive. 

So I’m a chicken, particularly when God hits me over the head with where I most need to grow. Risk. Jump. 

But here goes. When climbing a tree and going out on a limb, you don’t fall. Instead, you get to see things from a better vantage point.

4 Responses to “Out on a Limb”

  1. Kevin Brangwynne October 15, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

    Wow!! I admire your guts and your spirit…and I’m still praying for you! Looking forward to seeing / reading about what is on the horizon for you.

    Another beautifully written post by the way…I’d expect nothing less!

  2. bub66ohm October 15, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    This is amazing. What are you/do you want to do? Praying for you! In a good, I’m excited for you kinda way, not a “are you crazy?” kinda way!

  3. lisesletters October 16, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    Kevin and Bub – Thanks so much for your comments. I am lucky that I’ve worked for a couple of hospitals and they have something called “per diem” shifts which allows me to pick up work when departments need me. So I’m not totally without work. I’ve already lined up a number of days work in November and December. In conjunction with that, I’m going to start taking referrals again for private practice and hope to plug back into teaching by winter semester. And I’d love to tutor/coach writing for undergrads and graduate students. That totally floats my boat.

    But of course the bigger dreams are WRITING and SEMINARY. That is where the real energy, focus and hopes are focused.

  4. Todd J. Tolson November 2, 2009 at 5:39 am #

    As usual I’m latet to the party. I don’t read blogs as much as I’d like or update mine very often (though I have a lot on my mind to say at times!). 🙂

    I was in the navy for over twenty-two years and spent a lot of that at sea. One thing I know for sure is that you can’t steer by your wake. If you steer by your compass, however, you can look back over your shoulder from time to time and find that your wake is straight.

    I know it’s cliche but with a every floor comes a ceiling. And, so it is with employment. I gave up the safety net of salary for the risk of opportunity that comes with self-employment. I didn’t go cold turkey and kept some part time things going on the side while chasing the dream.

    God blesses action. Go for it! Here’s to your success – as you and God define it. Praying for you.

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