Thursday, May 31, 2012

What to do, what to do?

There comes a point in your life where you realize you're sort of...floundering. No, not acting like the fish, because that would be...weird (but maybe being able to swim really far in the ocean would be fun...but that's very much beside the point). It's more like you realize that even though just about every part of your life is really good and on track, and you're really happy day in and day out, there is still something missing.

That part that's missing is what keeps you from feeling like your life is moving forward, is what is giving you the feeling that you're just staying in the moment. Not that it's a bad moment to stay in, but one that you know won't provide long-term satisfaction. Even though I still stand by the fact that I think the parts of my life outside of work are what will provide me my happiest moments, and provide me the life I love, I still feel I need to be in a position where in those 8+ hours a day I feel like I'm accomplishing something meaningful.

I've spent a lot of time throwing out a lot of ideas, testing the waters and looking into those possibilities. But so far nothing had felt....right. Nothing really screamed, "this is what you should be doing!" I probably look a little flighty with the fact that I get grand ideas and then I don't follow through with them. In general, it's not a testament to my character because I'm not a flighty person (or at least I don't think so), but I think the reason I hadn't fully followed through with most of these ideas was because they just weren't...right. I would talk about ideas a lot because it was part of the "testing the waters" phase, but then I'd eventually realize that that's just not where I want my life to go at this point. I know life will bring new and unexpected, yet welcome, changes over the years, but right now, I'm just thinking about what I see for myself in the next five years (yup. good ol' 5 year plan). I probably should stop talking about those grand plans so much, because when people start to ask me a lot of questions about whatever plan I had, I start to get frustrated and worry that they're judging me for not continuing with it or thinking I'm "not living up to my potential" or some crap like that, even though I know whatever it was just wasn't fitting me.

Everything I've done so far has always felt very temporary. Partly because those positions were temporary, and partly because I just knew they weren't what I wanted to do forever anyways. It's hard to stay motivated with something if you know you don't want to do it much longer, and I really hate that. It's not that I don't love the opportunities I've been given, especially because of the fantastic people I now have in my life, but I hate not feeling motivated, I hate not feeling like I'm accomplishing anything, I hate feeling like I'm just getting by to get by. I really want to find something where I feel more stable, feel more like this is where I want to be, need to be.

Lately, I've had this nagging feeling of "I just want to help people." I'm the kind of person that loves doing things for people. Whether it's baking, helping with tasks, or just being there for them. When I was in college, I was pretty involved with the non-profit world. I was constantly volunteering with the Alliance of AIDS Services - Carolina, and was leading the Student Global AIDS Campaign on campus. I earned a minor in Non-Profit Studies, and almost enjoyed those classes more than my Communication ones sometimes. Unfortunately when I graduated, my career path kept going in multiple different ways because I couldn't quite get a grasp on what I was interested in, plus the job market has been very tricky. While at this age, I think it's fine to try different things, I do know I needed to be more focused on figuring out that part of my life and get some solid footing.

When my friend Curtis did the Vote Against project, it kind of hit me how much I miss that, miss making a difference in my community, miss connecting with people fighting for and supporting something you believe in. What he did, the difference he made with everyone he came across, really struck a chord with me was kind of the last bit of the puzzle that helped guide me back to the nonprofit world.

In an effort to at least get back into volunteering, I participated in the community service day the church I've been attending held. I really enjoyed it and it reminded me why I like volunteering. I also have become a member of the Activate Good community online to get updates on future volunteer opportunities with non-profits in the area. I haven't been able to participate yet (mostly because of scheduling factors), but I follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and through email, for when I know I can, or see an opportunity I'd enjoy getting involved in.

Part of the problem has been that I don't want to volunteer just to volunteer, but actually do something I have an interest in, and feel that my dedication isn't superficial and self-serving where I can just keep saying "well, I volunteer!" I want to do something where I really feel dedicated to making a difference in someone's life. I have emailed both Planned Parenthood and the Alliance to see about what I can do to help, so we will see what opportunities that leads to because those are both organizations that I really believe in what they are doing for the community. Part of the problem is I also don't want to do just event-based volunteering, because while important and I still enjoy doing it and will do it, I want to contribute in other ways as well. Unfortunately a lot of those opportunities are during business hours, so I haven't been able to much yet.

After a lot of thinking, mostly internally, but also asking advice of one of my favorite past professors (love you Mindy!), I have decided I'm going to get the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from NC State through the School of Public and International Affairs. Even if I find some other opportunity in the middle of getting it, non-profit or otherwise, that really screams "this is what you should be doing!" I feel that the knowledge I learn from the certificate program will be beneficial, because either way, I want to at least volunteer. Maybe one day when I'm older and feel I have some expertise, I can be on a board of directors at a non-profit, and this knowledge will be useful. I've constantly thought about going back to school, but nothing I had seen really interested me. I really like learning, but sometimes it's hard to just do it on my own. Having a time set aside where someone teaches me is far easier to make sure I learn rather than me going out and just doing random research on my own. This certificate program I think will be great. I'm interested in learning about the topics either way, but I still hope it'll help me with a career in the non-profit sector.

I am a bit scared though. I've been out of school for four years now, and I'm a little worried I won't remember how to take notes or study or think analytically (plus that cost...ouch. But I think it's worth it). I know I'm not going for a masters, and I'll only be doing it part-time, only one class a semester, but on top of a full-time job, plus, you know, having a life, it'll be a lot added on.

Even though I'm a little scared, I'm also really looking forward to it. I kind of like the idea of having a class to go to, especially on such an interesting topic (I'm starting with the Management on Nonprofit Organizations course). When I did my cake decorating class, my Dreamweaver class, and my pottery class, I just liked having that set time to go and learn something new. While this is obviously waaaaay more intense than those, it's something I think I'll really enjoy having in my life. Also, I kind of love the fact that I still get to keep my old student ID from undergrad.

So here we go! Let's see where this takes me...

1 comment:

  1. At least your price-tag is not a private university price-tag... that one's even more intimidating! Have fun!