Musings on Vocational Anxiety

by R.C. Miessler, Head Editor, INALJ Indiana

Musings on Vocational Anxiety

rcmiesslerAs I sit at the computer, the patio door open, sipping bourbon, listening to the polyglot cries of  insects and animals at dusk, and trying to deal with a looming deadline and job application fatigue, I think about the future. I think about my daughter that is soon to be born, my unsatisfying (and not particularly well-paying) job, and my prospects for starting my career as a librarian. I wonder what will happen in the next month, the next year. I hope that my now year-long volunteer position may turn into a real job, even though I know the chances are slim. I think on the decisions I have made to get to this point in my life and what I could have done better and try not to dwell too much on the circumstances. Overall, I’m thinking too much. But it’s hard when anxiety and despair and anger seem to take over as I try to discern my vocation and make sure I’m doing the right thing in my life.

At the same time, though, Tyler Durden’s screed in Fight Club comes to mind: you are not your job. It’s hard for me to come to terms with that sometimes. I kind of want to identify with my job, to find value in what I do every day and feel like I am making a difference in the world. Will getting that librarian job really do that? I want to think so. In many ways, I already am a librarian; I have the training, some experience, but most importantly I want to help people, I want to teach, I want to be a force for change and improvement in the lives of others. It’s not too much to ask, right? Yet it’s a huge burden and responsibility and I think I take that for granted sometimes. In the Fleet Foxes song “Helplessness Blues,” Robin Pecknold sings “And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be / A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.” I think I can settle for that and be happy. The problem is finding that machine and fitting in. And so I crank out the applications, revise and edit cover letters and resumes, network, seek out opportunities to learn new skills and keep on volunteering.I owe it to my unborn daughter who will look up to me (at least until she’s a teenager anyway), my family who has supported me. But most of all, I owe it to myself, to prove to myself that I’m not a failure and that this is the right path, obscured and twisted as it may be.

So it goes. Another job application into the black hole. But maybe there is light on the other side…at least I hope there is.

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