Dangerous Professions

April 2007 059

The Rose Knows Its Job

A week before I left Chevron, I had been transferred to a new unit. At lunchtime, the young engineers went out to eat together one hot day in McKittrick. We were sitting around the table talking about our jobs, which are a combination of engineering and project management. There is a kind of continuum between engineering and project management–some people love the engineering aspect, some love the management aspect, some fall inbetween. I mentioned that I almost can’t stand engineering, that I will do it, but I don’t fully enjoy the process, just the satisfaction of the result. One of the engineers sitting across from me was taken aback and turned-off by my admission, and said “That’s dangerous!”

I tried explaining to him that I would never do anything dangerous out of my disdain for the engineering process, that I would do the necessary engineering, albeit grudgingly.

But his comment really bothered me, and it make me think: Is it right to do something if your whole heart is not involved, because you won’t do it to the best of your abilities? For example, one of my jobs was to build and repair pumps and tanks. However, I just could not get into the details…it was not the kind of topic I wanted to go home at night and research until I was too tired. It was barely interesting enough, and there was no way I wanted to know more than the bare minimum in order to complete the job. However, I’m sure there are plenty of people that get really excited by tanks and pumps and would soak in such information like sponges. I met some of them at Chevron.

One could theorize that I would not do as good (or as safe) of a job building a tank as someone who was really excited about building tanks could do.

Applied to massage therapy: I got minimally certified in Swedish massage and Reiki. Many massage practioners will continue going to school, earning additional certification in deep tissue, accupressure, reflexology, prenatal, Thai, hot stone massage, sports massage, etc. etc. etc…

Theoretically, a massage therapist with all that knowledge could better treat a client because their massage toolbox would be many times larger.

However, I was a very successful project manager/engineer at Chevron, by company standards, and I’m also a successful massage therapist…but is it good enough to do a job without being immersed in it?

I watched the movie Hot Fuzz last night. In it, there was a standout cop who had known he wanted to be a policeman since age 6, but had a failed relationship with his girlfriend and had no balance of other activities in his life. His job was his life. The movie tried to show how his lack of balance had hurt him, but in the end, he was a great hero for being really, really good at his job (and he never got his girl back).

I’ve always felt some guilt that I never had that epiphany in childhood where it was clear what I should do with my life. Some people say they just played with Lincoln logs every day and knew they would build houses when they grew up. I was interested in so many things, and changed my mind so many times. I wanted to be a flight attendant, teacher, missionary, and never settled on just one year after year.

I wouldn’t wish this on myself, but you hear stories all the time of something traumatic happening to a person, and from that moment on, they HAVE to spend the rest of their lives righting that wrong. For example, a loved one dies of cancer, and they become an advocat for cancer patient rights, or their son/daughter is killed by a drunk driver and they start a M.A.D.D. movement. These callings are important, but feel more like coping mechanisms than true career choices. The pain inside these people compells them to devote all their energy into one field.

So I guess I’m still in this transitional period of my life where I’m trying to decide where best to spend my time. Should I delve deeper into massage therapy? Should I abandon massage and go full-force into government work? Should I go back to school and study other things that have always interested me (law and psychology, for example)? Should I hold steady with what I’m doing and bet on the fact that I will be pregnant in a year or two and let those priorities direct my life? Should I be spending more time at the gym? Less time on the internet? More time reading books? More time traveling? Learn a new language? Make more money? Eat less? Listen to more music? Make more art?

I always tell people when they feel like they are stuck spinning their wheels, that they should simply refocus on their goals, and the priorities will fall into place. So maybe I’ll resolve to set some goals today and see where that gets me, but I have a feeling it won’t be that easy.

Ah, the blessing and challenge of freedom.

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17 years ago

Hey Chrissy! Sounds like you are still in the middle of a career crisis. I am one of thos people who has known forever what I wanted to be. Now that I’m in this profession, however, I find that I really enjoy the realationship part of it, but I tend to neglect or procrastinate on other parts of the essential work. I love coaching and I can focus my whole energy into that when I’m doing it, but to coach you pretty much have to teach, which I enjoy. It’s the planning and grading that kills me.

Sorry about the babbling. I guess I’m just saying that I can relate on some level.

I will catch up with you soon!