I once read one of those cute inspirational quotes that got my attention immediately. Of course my memory is far from accurate about most things. As I loosely recall its meaning it went something like this, "What you do in your spare time should be what you are doing full time". Whoever wrote it probably had it phrased far better than the way I remember it. However, it is not the verbiage that hooked me, but instead its meaning. What some of us do in our full time jobs, we exert much effort on weekends and vacations to escape from them. Our spare time activities are the things we escape to. Big difference. I am not talking about the mindless doodling we do on scratch papers when we are forced to sit through boring staff meetings or the hours we waste away watching reality crap on the boob-tube. I am talking about the things we rearrange our weekend schedules for so we carve out time for that special "me" time that truly brings us joy. The activity that causes us to walk away at its conclusion feeling a little lighter and rejuvenated.
One of my great fortunes in this life has been that my career choice has allowed me a lot of extra time to explore interests outside of work. I finish my day job responsibilities early enough in the afternoon that I have time to do my consulting services on the side and still coach my girls running club twice a week. Most of my running trips with my good girlfriends usually fall on long holiday weekends, so the time away from my three guys at home is minimal. It is a charmed life by my standards and I give thanks for every blessing, big and small. Lately however, I have been considering change. Me? Change? Yep, but don't get ahead of the story. I am only thinking about it at this point. I never expected to stay in only career my entire working life. The hope was that I would evolve as I would age, with my interests and experiences swaying me in the next direction I would take. My bud Steph and I have been mulling over several ideas about what the next phase of our lives will look like, career wise. We have considered franchises, quirky mobile services, and any other practical inventions that busy mother runners like ourselves would use. The problem is not coming up with ideas. We have plenty of ideas. The problem is narrowing down the focus to something we would truly love to do full time. Again, big difference.
Last weekend we stood on the sidelines of Ironman Texas, while our friend Jenny took on the greatest physical challenge of her life. The 140.6 mile course she tackled (and conquered) took months of strenuous training that made my rooty-poot marathon training look like a trip to Disneyland. These regular folks transformed themselves into mega athletes as they trained their bodies to complete the 2.4 mile open water swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run. Nobody attempts an Iron distance on a whim. They do it because something intrinsic tells them they can do it. Their will is stronger than the task itself. Their extreme love for the sport overrides the difficulty it takes to train for so many months to achieve a goal most of us would rather run away from. It was not surprising to see so many of those triathletes cross that finish line covered equally in sweat and tears as their massive goal was achieved. I left that event shaking my head in disbelief that these people were able to stay dedicated to their training for so many months just to let it all ride on their performance, good or bad, on this one single day. They did not do it just for the hell of it. It had to be for the love of it.
What do I love to do so much that I am willing to sacrifice for it without any promise of tangible rewards or huge financial gains? What do I escape to when I am trying to escape from other responsibilities? Where do my natural talents take over when my years of formal education and training begin to fade? These questions have been bouncing around in my head for a while now. Quite frankly they have crowded my every waking thought for the past week since our Ironman outing last weekend. Those darn triathletes have me questioning if just about anything is a possibility. They were all just regular Joes like me once but now they are accomplished Ironmen (and women!). They turned their love for competition into a grand life achievement that no one can ever take away from them. There was no money and no prizes at the end of their Iron distance experience, but they walked away from that race no doubt feeling that anything was indeed possible. For one incredible day, their spare time activity was on full display for all us to admire. Regardless of the pain and soreness they felt after completing that race, I will bet they only took a couple of days off from the sport before they hopped back on their bikes again in search of an open road. They love the activity too much to have too much time away from it. Is it possible to turn your unapologetic love of something into what you do full time? Is it selfish and simply naive to seek this out at all? There I go again with the endless questions. Forgive me. This quandary is the grown up equivalent of me wanting my cake and eating it too.
When work and home duties are neatly tucked away for the week, my spare time is spent either reading, writing or running. If I don't feed the need to do these things regularly, my spirit becomes restless and weighted until I seek them out with a vengeance. I escape to them feverishly when I have no one to answer to and nothing to account for. If these are the things that keep me happily nourished, then surely I can figure out a way to bring them out of my spare time and into my full time. It is like piecing a puzzle together, trying to come up with career options that fit all the elements together in a new nice neat order. All this illustrates my point of how difficult it is to figure out my next phase when my interests are so scattered. Who knows what ideas will finally come together when my reinvention is complete. The top of my resume' should read something like "yoga-loving reader/writer seeks running adventures with scheduled breaks for coffee and spa pedicures". Recruiters would beat down my door for the chance to hire me, right? I will get back to you with a full update if I ever find a job that fits this very specific description. Besides, you never know what possibilities are waiting when you spare the time to carve them into reality.