I love a good biography. I am fascinated by stories from the lives of famous people, especially those who peaked early in life and had to gracefully transition back to “regular life” or reinvent themselves in some way. I’m thinking of Dolly Madison and the years following her time in the White House or Shirley Temple Black and her transition from child actor to U.S. Ambassador.
As I turn the first page of a new chapter in my own biography, I’m hyper-aware of how many things will change for me if my next job is in the secular world. Some of what I’m experiencing seems akin to what child actors go through as they age. For example, I’ve done my share of pouting about the fact that my next job might not be something I’m “called” to, but simply something that pays the bills. (What? You mean I’ll have to be creative and feel fulfilled on my own time?) And since my last two employers came in search of me, I’m a bit put-out that I have to both search for my next job and explain to them why they should hire me. (What do you mean they don’t know who I am or what I can do?)
A good portion of the preparation for ministry process is spent making one feel “called” – set apart – very much a mountaintop experience, where those who are called travel together and pitch our tents and each one of us gets a beautiful, birds-eye view of the place God has prepared for us. Meanwhile, the secular world has its mountain, too, but my fellow job seekers and I are scrambling up the side, instead of sharing our journey. Worse still, there are too many climbers and not enough footholds. We’re vying for jobs where everything we do must be measurable and the future we’re shown is “more” and “better” and “bigger,” but the top of the mountain is never reached, because more is never enough.
To be fair, what I’m now referring to as my “re-entry” (into what, I’m not yet sure) hasn’t been all bad. Bringing a van filled with office crap back to our 1,000-square-foot home, I was forced to drastically downsize what I’ve collected over the last 15 years. It was freeing to say goodbye to so many books that were just decorating shelves and collecting dust – and somewhat profitable, too, since most of them went to Half Price Books or were sold on Amazon. Much like the rule for clothes – if you haven’t worn it in two years, get rid of it – I walked away from all sorts of files and resources that I’d hoarded, but not touched since the late 90s. And anything that didn’t make me smile or gave me pause, simply got left behind – fodder for the office’s free table, where gifts from former boyfriends get a fresh start.
Yeah, maybe that’s a better analogy – rather than coming-of-age or re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, perhaps I should approach this more like coming out of a relationship and re-entering the dating scene (God, does anyone even say “scene” anymore?). The initial pain sucks, but I always kind of enjoyed what followed: finding a new look, a few not-too-serious dates, and lots of time spent with an Alanis Morissette cd, volume cranked, while I’m driving toward whatever’s next.