Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Direction in life

This evening I had a long conversation with a friend about her direction in life. She's not someone I've known particularly long, but we really hit it off when we met so we've kept in touch. She is one of several twenty-something or early thirty-something female friends I have who work in some aspect of environmental education, like I did at Mid-Atlantic Field Station. I have met them all in different ways and at all different stages in my life (high school, college, working at the field station, traveling...). My friends in this field love their jobs, but struggle to get everything done, make ends meet financially, and to advance their careers (many jobs in this field are dead-ends so you often have to leave the organization to advance). Environmental education jobs tend to have some very cool fringe benefits (such as working outside in a spectacular place), but don't pay well.

The friend I talked to tonight is feeling particularly unhappy with her present situation. She feels overworked and poorly managed at her job, which interferes with her deep love for what she does. She also said, "I'm just tired of being poor!" She's stressed out about the fact that she's unhappy and doesn't know what to do next with her life. If she knew what she wanted, then she could start planning how to get there, but every time she thinks about what she really wants to do she becomes frustrated because she feels like she'll never be able to earn a decent living doing interpretation. The kind of work she does is really important to her and she won't be happy just earning a paycheck for the sake of surviving. Still, she's afraid of taking a big risk on a totally different job only to discover that she hates it and wants her old job back.

I think she has taken the first important step in this process of being happier about her lot in life by looking for other jobs. But, she's also the kind of person who won't leave her current job on short notice because several programs would grind to a halt without someone in her position (I can relate to this- I carefully timed my leave from Mid-Atlantic Field Station and gave 2 months notice).

I really feel for her and I wish I could just find her her dream job. I thought quite a bit while working at Mid-Atlantic Field Station about what I wanted to do and how to get there. I suppose I feel fortunate that I was able to identify and pursue (successfully, so far) my goals. I wish I could help my friend find her direction and vocation. I think she's incredibly good at what she does, and I wish that she could get paid more for it and have a lighter workload by the creation of a new position (the organization hasn't been able to secure funding for one). I always find it frustrating that jobs I think are so important (eg. teaching) aren't valued more in our economy, and I haven't heard a satisfactory explanation for why.

If you happen to hear of any great salaried interpretation/non-formal education/teacher training in environmental education type jobs for someone with several years of experience, please post a comment.

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