Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's My Line?

Restaurant Hostess. Teaching Assistant. Ice Cream Truck Girl. Geologist.
Soils Lab Manager. Attorney. Contracts Coordinator. Store Owner. Consultant.

Over the years, I’ve held a number of titles, some more humble than others. Some were dictated by a corporate HR department, and some were intuitively obvious. Until I worked for myself, however, I never gave much thought to what my title was.

Sure, I was more proud of some than others, but still, I never had the opportunity to choose my title. Business cards, if there were any, were prepared and proofed without my consultation. I never worked for a company with the freshness of a Google, where creativity in chosen titles is encouraged, even allowing one “Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe.”

But now I work for me, and I like to think I’m pretty fresh. There are still a few positions I hold that carry the dictated title of “Independent Associate,” and those do come with prescribed business cards. The positions that I have made up myself, however, do not. I’ve been feeling lately that I want one business card that sums up the various aspects of my Cheryl-Pie-Hands world—from the spiritual to the practical, the global to local. Is it possible to come up with a single title that accomplishes that?

This task feels both impossible and compelling. Why does it matter to me so much? It feels more professional to have a recognizable title, I suppose, and, for some reason, that still matters to me. Perhaps it is my years of accumulating credits and degrees that causes me to crave an identity that can be capsulized in a few words.
As it is, when people ask, “What do you do?” I answer with one of a half-dozen of possible, wordy and rambling responses. I can give an elevator speech—several of them, in fact—in my sleep. But can I condense it down further?

It occurs to me that this may well be a common issue for us entrepreneurs, especially as we diversify into different areas. More and more of us are leaving jobs, giving up the comforts of a corporate gig, either because our jobs have disappeared or because we’re seeking more autonomy, more flexibility, or a more purposeful devotion of our time and talents. Looking around my Work@Homers networking group, I see a lot of people who are engaged in this sort of professional redefinition.

So decided to facilitate a workshop called “What’s My Line?” and invite other entrepreneurs to join me in this head-scratching exercise.   I don't profess to have any answers, but I have some really great questions to get a conversation going.  I'm curious to see where this leads and if I will really come up with an encapsulated version of me.  I'll let you know if I do. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Live and Let Clover

Over the years, I’ve come to adopt a “Live and Let Clover” sort of philosophy about my yard, for a variety of reasons.  For one, it’s easy.  Who has time for a meticulously-manicured lawn when there are little children in the house?  Two, I truly love clover, and so do the bees.   I’m so concerned about the status of our honeybees that I’m happy to host whatever makes them happy.  In fact, the bees in my yard and I have an agreement.  I promise not to prune away the bright flowers they love so much, and they agree to leave me alone when I’m working in their space.  It’s an agreement that works for all of us.  Three, if a different strain of grass blows in that is more resilient than what we’ve planted, then I say WELCOME!  It’s the survival of the fittest in action. 

Last, and most recently, I’ve been pondering: who am I to say what can live?  It’s Nature, that’s the domain of God, Great Spirit, Creator.  I may choose to do some planting in my yard, but it’s up to the Master Gardener to determine what lives and thrives.  And  Nature thrives on diversity.  If a volunteer pops up, then it’s the divine spark of Creation, and I intend to honor it.

And yet today, when I saw just how many volunteers of a certain variety were thriving in my lawn, I admit that I felt the urge to purge.  A tangle of assortment of sweet clover, grasses and grass-like weeds is one thing.  A lawn full of dandelions is another. 

So today, I attacked the dandelion patch with a digger, working diligently, pulling out as much of the root as possible, and meticulously, not allowing a single seedling left intact.  I felt a real sense of accomplishment when the entire patch was eradicated. It’s a metaphor, I thought, pulling the weeds out of the garden on the day of the full moon; it’s is symbolic for all of the things I’m releasing.

It was only when I went to put the digger away that I discovered the even bigger patch on the other side of the yard.  How had this escaped my attention?  How na├»ve was I to think that even my small lawn could be so easily eradicated of a most successful and well-adapted weed as the dandelion!

I considered whether to begin work again or to Live and Let Dandelion.  What is it about dandelions that offends me anyway, I wondered.  Dandelion greens are nutritious, the greens being rich in Vitamin A, C and calcium.  It is used in herbal medicine to treat infections. It’s an ingredient in real root beer.  Despite its serrated leaves, dandelion leaves are soft on bare feet.  The pretty yellow flowers are sweet and cheerful. 

And yet there’s just something about dandelions that shrieks WEED, and a yard full of the quintessential weed symbolizes inattention and neglect.  I sat down to work again, this time asking the dandelions what they have to teach me.  “Discernment” is what I heard.  It’s not about passing judgment on poor old dandelion, but discernment to choose what is pleasing and root out what is not, to ask for what I want, instead of taking whatever comes along.  We come into with desires and preferences for a reason.  They guide us into action and steer us from disasters. 

The dandelions say they are here to serve, giving us the opportunity to practice discernment right in our own front yards.  They aren’t like some stealthy pests, which hide in the dark recesses.  Dandelions sprout up right out in the open, popping up their poufy white seed clouds bright, unmistakable blooms as if to say, “here I am!  Look a me!  Whatcha gonna do about it?” Left to their own devices, they thrive.  Subjected to our weeding, they succumb to the digger.  It’s all up to the gardener.  Do they stay or do they go? 

So I dug up dandelion plants until time to cook dinner, and then I went inside the house, willing myself not to look for more dandelions on the way inside.  I know, however, there are more out there, and that’s suddenly quite all right with me.  Truthfully, I like their cheerful little flowers.  Maybe I will even cook up some of those greens one of these days.  And when I again want to practice discernment, when I feel the urge to purge, I know the resilient survivors will be there, ready and cheerfully waiting.