Good News! I’ve Always Been A Career Mess!

February 22, 2008

After I tried to find colleagues on Facebook and LinkedIn last week, I started thinking about places I worked long ago. I went in the way back machine nearly twenty years, to a job I had as a therapist and case manager at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Fort Worth, closed down for many years now.

The first person I thought of was a friend I haven’t seen or talked to in years. We maintained our friendship well past the brief lifetime (was it 21 months or 21 years?) I spent at the RTC. His name is Victor. Victor is passionate and lively and a deep thinker. He’s also pretty driven, which can be a little intimidating at times, but it’s one of the reasons I really liked him from the beginning. But the main reason I “clicked” with Victor was because, in spite of being passionate about many things and wanting to have meaningful work, he had a hard time figuring out a path. A kindred spirit! We had many conversations about how to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up, even though I was already on a general career path as a therapist.

Victor considered social agency work for a while and thought about a social work degree, but that seemed like a fallback position while he toyed with other ideas. When he got married to a wonderful young lady with similar values and life goals, studying in a similar field, I figured he found his career track.

Then he decided to become a minister! Yes, it’s definitely related, and yes, the ministry needs passionate and deeply thinking people who want to serve others. But it was still a surprise. He got involved in setting up a new church in his denomination. Now that made more sense—applying talents to changing and improving the world and not just settling in to a job.

We dropped out of contact within a year or so of children coming into our families, I think. I went on a Google safari and finally found him, or at least a related listing with a person who could find him. He left the ministry a few years back after serving fully and intensely, then relocated and transitioned to being an insurance agent. Now he’s looking at setting up a non-profit agency to start a private school in his new hometown for kids who aren’t being served. He’s still the same core person, still using his gifts and his passions to define his life, but going through different stages of what that looks like.

Then I called my long-time friend Paige, who also worked with me at the RTC. We actually met in college and then were in the same graduate program. We had practicum assignments (that’s internship without pay) together for a couple of years. When I heard about the job at the RTC just after graduate school, I called her and found out she had just been hired there. When I left the RTC after 21 years (or months?) of dedicated service to work in a private clinic, she had just started there, too! We were invited months before at the same time by the same psychologist, but the timing was amazing.

Paige and I have had many conversations about where we are headed in our careers. Would we pursue doctorates? In what field? Would we work in agencies or in private practice? We both went part-time as therapists and tried other careers, and we both eventually left the mental health field for long periods of time. Now she’s staying home with her children and helping one son get the educational services he needs, using her training in a way she could never have anticipated. It’s the right fit for now, for this time in her life based on the needs of her family.

Reconnecting is wonderful. It’s especially good to remember that I’ve been thinking about “what I want to be when I grow up” since before I was grown up. And it’s really cool to realize I will never figure it out, enter that career, and be done. It’s the wrong question!

The right question for me is—

What do you want to do for this season that honors your calling, uses your gifts, engages your passions, and integrates with the values that guide your life?

See. That’s so much easier to answer!

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey


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