I didn't always have work that lit me up. It took me until forty to find the right fit. That's late and yet entirely worth it.
Many little moments and thoughts helped me change course. Last week, a friend encouraged me to share one idea which guided me towards work (and a life) that feels like home.
Let me start by saying, I was always a late bloomer.
Many of my friends have (or were) these brilliant little kids reading while in diapers. I wasn't like that; I never thought I'd make it through the first grade. Counting by fives confounded me-- I wore a digital watch until I was a teenager.
Reading took time and writing took longer. Teachers wanted to hold me back to give me time to catch up, but I gripped on to my second grade desk, refusing to leave my friends.
Eventually, I plowed my way into an Ivy League university and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Intellectual History, probably in large part just to prove to myself I wasn't an idiot.
I proved that, but I still had no idea what to do with my life. I've worked as Barney (the dinosaur), an editor, a waitress, a librarian, a healer, a farm hand, a temp (many times) a coach and eventually and for years as an advertising executive. All had their highlights.
But I also found myself at times crying in the bathroom -- some jobs just hurt your soul.
What kind of emails do I want?
At one point, I started paying attention to the "kinds" of email in my inbox. Most folks wrote me to express frustration, correct me, get out of a contract, to describe why something could not happen.
Email usually meant problems...unending problems, complaints and explanations about why the world could not be as I wanted it.
Email was treacherous. In defense, I'd often respond too quickly, too harshly and the cycle would continue.
I really liked my colleagues and clients as people, but the environment felt so harsh.
One day, I said to myself, "Well, Sarah, what kind of emails would you like to be receiving?"
This little question helped me change the direction in my life. I'd love to get emails from people saying how our time together helped them live better lives. I wanted to hear, "because of you, I was able to..." Imagine that? An inbox filled with messages like this?
This helped move me towards a career in conflict resolution, working on everything from interpersonal conflict to genocide prevention. Eventually, somehow, little-by-little I found myself becoming a scholar-activist-author with a really awesome email inbox.
The new inbox
My first semester at the University of Baltimore is coming to a close. And while I was not able to transform the lives of every student, I received a number of emails similar to the ones I began to dream of 7 years ago. It took time to develop the skills to be able to help people. I also needed to grow personally before serving others; I could not bring people to an awareness I did not have.
Thousands of hours later....the first shoots of my new life began popping up in the mail
Here are some of the emails coming in this month:
I will truly miss you and thank you for giving us a new perspectives in life. You helped me look with in myself and create a plan to have a balanced future. You also taught us not to be so consumed in ourselves that we don't see others that are in. You helped me face a lot of things and now I am ready for the next phrase in life. You encouraged us and taught us how to always find the positives in everything. All of the UB students will be happy to have you as their instructor.
Dear Dr Federman,
Thank you for giving selflessly to shape my future, I appreciate you.
happy teachers day
I am blessed to have you as my instructor...Coming into this course I was quite myopic, but now I have a wide angled vision of where I want to go with this profession, all because of your oratorical skills in and expertise in the field.
Thank you for a wonderful term! I enjoyed your class a lot. I may not have said a whole lot, but it was a great experience! And good luck on your textbook! You should message when it's going to be published, I'd loved to have a copy at some point!
What kind of emails do you want in 2018?
....It's your life, your email....you decide....
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.