Monday, May 23, 2016

Careful What You Wish For

Today I found myself running away from my intention. Well, actually I was speeding off down the highway with my intention in hot pursuit. It all started a few weeks ago in my yoga class.  I often set an intention at the beginning of my practice. And when I teach, I invite my students to do the same. An intention can be something you are seeking for yourself or someone else in your life.

As I have learned in my previous experience, intentions can be very powerful. Usually when I set my intention it is fairly high-level, such as to find my true calling or to experience love or compassion. But a few weeks ago, I set a more specific intention. I asked the universe for a job with benefits and a reasonable salary. And I added on that it would be nice if I also enjoyed the work.  

I have started looking for jobs down here in Ohio, but so far nothing has really come through. I am starting to feel the pressure to get something that is more secure than freelance writing and working at Anthropologie. Recently, I started using a new resume format that focuses more attention on my skills and less on the titles of my previous positions since most of the jobs I am applying for are not at the Director level.

My yoga class was on a Tuesday morning. On Thursday, I got a call from one of the first places I sent my new skill-based resume to. It was for a writing job in the fundraising department of a hospital system. Basically, I would be writing grants to individuals and foundations for new programs that the hospital wants to get funded.

They invited me for a phone interview that Friday with the HR Recruiter. A few hours after I spoke with her, I got a call inviting me to a phone interview with the hiring Manager on Monday. That went well, so they called me later that day to ask me to come in on Thursday and meet with the hiring Manager in person, along with her Director.

The interview went pretty well. I liked the Director. We had a lot in common. She was about my age, and when I told her my story about leaving my corporate job and taking time to teach yoga and write, I could see there was a wistful look on her face. I think in that moment she was curious about how that story might play out in her own life.

The Manager was really nice too. She was recently promoted and the job I was applying for used to be her job. She said that she was really flexible and easy going and would not micro-manage her people. It all sounded pretty good until I asked to see the space where I would be working. I haven't worked in a cube since 2004, so I wanted to get a sense of the space and the energy.

That is when she explained that they have shared cubes. Three people each. We walked down a narrow hallway with sad grey walls to a little pod of cubes. There were four pods that shared the hallway. The pod we stopped at already had one person in each of the end spots, so I would be sitting in the center corner of the cube.

I know that a lot of companies are moving toward a more scaled down office space, but these little cube pods seemed ridiculous for writers. I guess there are some people who can write anywhere, but I have always been someone who needs quiet for my writing. I can't even listen to music in the background.

Trying not to seem shocked by the depressing working conditions, I asked her how she handled the noise issue when she worked there. She said they try different things like headphones and white noise machines. She said some days it is better than others in terms of the noise coming from other employees who share their space, but are not writers.

The interview ended around 4:30 so it was also a good opportunity for me to evaluate the rush hour traffic. The hospital complex is about 30 minutes away from our apartment in clear traffic, but that translated to about 45 minutes in rush hour. By the time I got home, I was pretty exhausted.

Like clockwork, the next day I got a call asking if I could come in on Monday morning to meet with their Vice President. He worked in another building where the rest of the fundraising department was housed. The writers and a few other people had to move into the sad grey building because they ran out of space in the big building.

When I got to his office, it was just as depressing as the other grey building. He was nice enough. We talked about the hospital's fundraising goals and it was all really transactional to him. He threw around some numbers but there was no heart to it, until he started talking about the donors. Some of them lost a family member to a certain disease and they wanted to create a program or a new space to try and make it better for other people.

He told me about one family who gave $45 million to have a cancer wing named after them. The wife comes to the hospital a few times a week to walk around and talk to the patients there. I told him that it sounds like the donors are the soul of these programs, and he agreed.

After our conversation, I couldn't help but feel like I am on the wrong side of this equation. I am not someone who can donate millions of dollars to the hospital, but I do think I would much prefer to be the person walking around talking to the patients, as opposed to the person sitting on the cube shelf and writing about it.

On Friday, the HR Recruiter called to tell me that they were planning to make me an offer. They were just waiting for my background check to come through. I am sure most people would have appreciated the heads up and gone into their weekend feeling relaxed, knowing that the job offer was on its way. But I felt just the opposite. Now I had to stress and worry all weekend about whether or not I was going to take the job. It would have been better if she had just waited until Monday.

Usually when someone offers me a job I am excited because I am trying to get out of whatever situation I have gotten myself into - a bad boss, an overwhelming workload, too much travel, a nasty client, or in some cases, all of the above. But this time I am perfectly happy with where I am at and what I am doing. This job is an interruption to my life, and the sooner she offers it to me, the sooner my year of happiness and self-exploration potentially comes to an end.

Which brings me to this afternoon. I was driving to Ohio and I was in the middle of a construction zone when the phone rang. I recognized the number and I knew exactly what was coming next. So I did what any not-so-sane person would do. I ignored the call and let her go to voicemail. Then I drove the rest of the way to the apartment going back and forth in my mind.

If I take the job, it will offer me benefits and a decent salary. And I won't have to worry anymore about spending down my savings while I try to find my true calling. And I won't have to deal with the inconsistency and instability of writing for clients with odd schedules and sometimes unrealistic expectations. And I will have the same schedule as Mark Johnson. A straight-up day job.

But if I take the job, I will also have to get up at 6:30 every day to fight traffic and drive 45 minutes to sit on a cube shelf with two other people. And I won't have the flexibility to go back to my house in Michigan whenever I want. And I may have to deal with egotistical doctors or less than friendly Development Officers telling me what to write about. And I won't be able to breathe fresh air, take a morning yoga class or enjoy my afternoon walks.

Its one thing to take a job and then find out it is not what you had hoped it would be. Believe me, that has happened to me many times! But this feels different. In this case, I would be putting myself in a situation where I already know that I don't like the working conditions. Every time I think about taking the job, it completely stresses me out.

After all I have learned in the last year, I find myself in a position where I have to choose what is more important - my health and happiness or a salary and a benefit package. And I still don't know the answer. Or maybe deep down I do know the answer, but I am afraid that everyone will think I am crazy if I turn down this job.

Tomorrow morning the HR Recruiter is going to call me back and offer me the job. Exactly two weeks after I set that intention in my yoga class.  Like I said, be careful what you wish for.

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