Friday, February 10, 2012

I *heart* my job (and How I got here from there)

In case I haven't made it obvious enough already, let me just say it outright so there are no questions to be asked...

 I really REALLY love my job!
I really Really REALLY love my student artists!

If you can believe it, where I am right now is my third (maybe even my fourth?) career at this point. The buck stops here for me though and I believe this is it for me.

Originally, I earned a bachelors in the social sciences with a focus on anthropology and sociology because I had major aspirations to be something of the next Jane Goodall. During my college years, I worked full-time and in the midst of it all ended up being promoted to  management level at a very popular Swedish furniture company that also included being THE quality assurance control contact for the whole store. (What a job/responsibility for a college student!!) (Something else I did there? Learned how to build just about any piece of their furniture line in record time and also know all manner of things of each of their product lines that any one person shouldn't possibly have a need to know in the first place.)

Upon college graduation, I had the option to stay with the aforementioned company and continue moving up the ranks but I was totally not even close to happy with such a prospect. Yes - it was a very fun place to work as one would expect - but it was so far from what I had been going to school to do. So, where did I end up working? Well, I joined the acute care staff at world renowned mental hospital (yes, I did just say mental hospital) and I worked doing crisis intervention and stabilization and therapy groups for ages three to geriatric folks who had everything from suicidal to suicidal to delusional tendencies (this includes - but is not limited to schizophrenia, multiple personalities/dissociative identity, all manner of addictions, etc).  I did this for almost two and a half years and while you might argue that this wasn't exactly anthropology and sociology, well... technically it was social sciences but it was also working with really interesting people and I liked that.

I switched from acute and direct clinical care to case management because I was emotionally burnt out (for the most part) and also interested in upward mobility and all of this led me to work with another internationally renowned company doing insurance and admissions case management work for (mostly) autistic children with severe self-injurious behaviors. I was 25 when I got this job and was (possibly) the youngest person in my department with my own office and also the responsibility to do things like represent my department at multiple weekly meetings with medical directors and such things. (The first time my dad came to visit me at this job he was both awed and jealous by the valet service that parked his car, security desk that guarded my building, and everything else that he saw until he was allowed to finally see my office with a door (but no window - see? I wasn't so big time!)

While I did the above, I was being mentored by an amazing landscape painter and also doing freelance photography that included Jewish Orthodox weddings (yes, I specialized in this!), portraits, and food photography. Why? Because way back when (in college) I actually started out as a studio art photography major until my family pushed me away from it and into the liberal studies track I ended up on at graduation.  I believe (not to sound cheesy but it's true) I've always had a heart of a visual artist so I firmly believe I was fulfilling/indulging that despite where I was walking in my daytime career path. My boss knew this about me though and during an annual review she looked straight at me and said, "What are you going to do with your life? SERIOUSLY! WHAT are you going to do with your life? I KNOW you are not happy doing this kind of work." I turned in my resignation within a month of that conversation and started on the crazy road that has brought me here to be in the classroom I am in today.

You might have noticed some things about the story above...
  1. I am not a classically trained teacher by any means yet I have taught not only in the private school I am currently in but also in the public school and am going on half a decade of what is now my teaching career.
  2. I am not a classically trained visual artist either, yet I am actively working as one not only in a way where I have been invited to public gallery showings but also to do commissioned artwork in both the traditional studio art capacity (in the way of paintings, sculptures, etc.). I also have a thriving photography business of more than a decade and I also do consults of visual branding, etc. etc. etc. Basically, I do visual art as much and however I can.
  3. It took what might seem like a long LONG time to get to the point where I am. However, it was really kind of fast when I think back on it and every thing that might have seemed like a misstep has actually been something more of a stepping stone to get to where I am and I am convinced that it has made me the able-bodied and full of heart (and ART!) teacher I am today.
I am bringing all of this up because I keep coming across folks who are either doing work they hate and/or long for work that they feel like is far beyond their reach because the passing of time or the requirement of additional schooling or training seems to be blocking the way they would rather go. I am standing here and doing what I am doing and I am a living breathing testament that those things don't exist as much as it might seem they do. Seriously. I feel like I get to truly "live the life" that is nothing short of a dream I once had and I know deep down that it never could have happened had I not just believed in the existence of possibilities that I didn't even see entirely. What I did was invest myself fully in faith

For me? Faith is something very clearly defined (and I've outlined it in my statement of faith above if you are interested). For you, faith might be something different and I don't blame you for going that way. I was definitely every other way than here (and believing what I do) at a number of different crossroads in my life before now. As I detailed above, I've been a lot of places, seen an incredible amount of amazing things, and also found what some might consider reasonable success. Still?  I swear on my own life that I have never felt more whole and fulfilled than I do today and I can't help but feel like the only other place I want to be other than here at any given time is on my knees with my head bowed in prayer filled with reverence and gratitude to the Lord almighty who I believe straightened every path and quickened every step of mine right to my heart's desire.

Tomorrow I turn 33 (That's right, it's my birthday!) and though my whole story isn't even close to being told in all of the above (hard to believe but it's true) I wanted you all to know this much at least. I also want to implore you to go confidently in the direction of your dreams and to stake that to an unshakable and deeply rooted faith that not only promises that it can and will happen but delivers on those promises as well. I consider myself to still be pretty young and to have plenty of life ahead of me to live just yet but (as I said before!) I only told a small part of my story and the part I left off (that I plan on sharing at some point here on the blog as well) is something that is nothing less than life or death in nature and has taught me that me that life really is too short to spend it doing anything other than what we truly love and feel called to do.

Have a great weekend, blog friends! Thanks for keeping up with me this week - I have noticed that my blog hits have really been skyrocketing and yesterday it was almost 200 alone! Since this is my birthday weekend this weekend, I'm tasking YOU to eat a slice of cake (of whatever flavor you choose!) on my behalf. Life is too short to not eat enough cake either. See ya next week!!


  1. Andrea, This was such an interesting story. Very inspiring. I too have held many different jobs, found my dream job (flight attendant) ant the company went out of business. I am in school again, still searching for another dream job! I love watching your (and David's) little girl grow up on facebook (keep posting pic's!). David is a lucky guy to have found you...and yes I know you're lucky too, because he's a great guy. I actually had gotten to meet him as an adult in Okinawa on one of my trips! I love art too, but with the job situation the way it is here in Florida, not sure I can pursue that! Hope I get to meet you at a family reunion or wedding someday!

  2. Hi Andrea,great blog post. Info's are very useful and saves me huge amount of time which I spend on something else instead of searching posts like this. Thank you!

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