The question, “what is my purpose?” is something that runs through everyone’s mind at least once in their lifetime. Thanks, but no thanks, to my anxiety, this question runs through my mind every day. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!
Rewind almost 6 years ago to when I was a young, eager, college student who had just graduated with a double major in Business Management and Psychology, ready to make some serious dough and change the world while doing it. Turns out, in my mind, you couldn’t make it rain and change lives at the same time, at least right away. Right out of college, I landed a position at a treatment center as a Youth Counselor in a PMIC (Psychological Mental Institution for Children) unit. Boys and girls aged 13-18 who lived there full time, all there for various reasons, mostly due to trauma. This was also a unit that performed restraints and seclusions. I don’t think I was quite sure what I was getting myself into when I accepted the position, but answering the question, “would you be comfortable having to run after or put your hands on a child in danger to themselves or others?” during the interview, should have given me some insight.
My shifts ran 4 days a week, second shift, watching after the kids when they were done with school. This included supervising their recreation time, taking them to therapy sessions, serving them dinner and making sure they did their homework. Sounds fulfilling right? Sounds like I would be filled with purpose. You would be right, I was. Even in a first restraint with an angry child, or the first seclusion with someone trying to harm themselves. The first race behind a kid who tries to run away or the first hair pull, scratch, choke, scar, bruise or bump from a child who can’t regulate their emotions. That experience changed my life. After a year of having a cup that was overflowing with purpose, the emotional toll was too much, the pay was too little and I decided to move on from that position. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could use my psychological skill set in a management position.
If you’ve ever met my mother, you know that I came out of the womb ready to manage the shit out of whatever came my way.
I hopped on an Operations Management position with clothing retailer, Banana Republic. This started my love affair with operations. The purpose there? Not sure I had one at the time, other than being able to work along side my best friend (and fellow SLC writer, Danielle). My champagne taste, along with a toxic ex (thank u, next), caused me to leave that position to work ops management at a large retail company making almost double what I made at Banana. Money talks but I wasn’t hearing a purpose. I would come home exhausted, depressed, angry, disgusted and any other Inside Out character you could find that wasn’t Joy. I spent a few life sucking years in that role until I finally got into upper management with a smaller retailer. Less people to manage, same pay, gotta be less stress right? Less stress but still no purpose. At least that’s what I thought until my therapist served me some hard tea. Yes, you heard correctly, I dropped the T bomb. THERAPIST. She’s been one of my BFF’S for 9 years now and I have no shame in saying she has gotten me through the worst times in my life and has truly shaped me as a person. Naturally, after 9 years, she has no problem telling me what I need to hear.
I had been really struggling with my “purposeless life” recently so here I am sitting across from her thinking, we’re going to have to go get some shovels to dig deep into finding the purpose of a retail manager. I expected a complex answer, but the one she gave me was simple.
If someone like you was not their manager: someone approachable, someone who cares, someone who listens and wants to see them flourish and grow, think about who else it could be? They could end up with a horror story of a supervisor and lets face it, we have all been there and it makes your life a living hell. If you’re full time, you spend more time at work than you do at home. My therapist followed up with, “you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who come to see me just because they hate their job or they hate their boss.”
My point, after I have already divulged my entire personal career journey on my first blog post, is that your purpose is there, in any work that you do. That person at the Starbucks window hustling coffees? You just made my stressful day better by serving my favorite latte. That mail carrier trudging through 2 feet of snow to deliver my Christmas card from Grandpa way down in Arizona? I only get to see him maybe once a year and you give us the ability to communicate in a different way. The janitors at the university my wife works at? You make sure that she is at peace during her work day by being surrounded by a clean work space.
Your purpose may not look like someone else’s and it may not sustain you forever. There is no shame in a purpose smaller than what you think should be there and there is no shame when your purpose changes. I know I have a long way to go in order to satisfy that hunger I have to fill my cup, but I’ve learned I just need to grab a jet ski, throw that bitch on the water and enjoy the ride.
Appreciate where you are in your journey to finding your ultimate purpose.