Sometimes the Job You Need

Isn’t the Job You Were Looking For

Manhattan, New York, USA

When I was in high school, we had an interim minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County whom I found to be really inspiring. I’d been interested in comparative religion for most of my life–since long before we became Unitarian Universalists–but initially mostly in order to be able to defend my agnosticism from my evangelical classmates. Sometime during Rev. Kathy’s interregnum, I realized I was interested in comparative religion for its own sake, and that eventually (in my 50s or 60s for a “twilight” career) I would like to go to seminary and become a UU minister.

But first, I had some other careers in mind. It was being said over and over that my generation would have 3-5 careers or more–not jobs, but careers–over our lifetimes, and these were gonna be mine: simultaneous translator of Arabic, then special education teacher, then bestselling novelist, then UU minister. Along the way, the plan has changed. I passed over the simultaneous translation, tried out the special ed thing in a few venues to varying degrees of success, and have worked on-again-off-again on the novelist gig. In my unemployment this summer, I’ve been looking for nonprofit entry level program management positions, preferably with connections to Arabic and/or the Middle East and Islamic world writ large. When the Unitarian Church of All Souls I’ve been attending for more than a year advertised the position of Membership Coordinator, I applied on a whim–or perhaps something of a sense of desperation!

Garth Brooks says that “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” Whether you believe in God or not–I’m perpetually on the fence–I think it’s a truth universally acknowledged that from time to time we all look in the wrong place with the best of intentions. I think that nonprofit program management in the Middle East could still be in my future, but there are so many reasons why the job I started last week is the perfect job for me right now.

For one thing, I get to stay in one place. I get to stay in the United States for awhile; globe-trotting is fun, but exhausting, and hard on your social life! Better yet, I get to stay here in New York, where I’ve established a nice network of new friends, and many of my old friends are less than 4 hours by bus away and happy to come and visit. I’m close enough to my parents, siblings and cousins to spend holidays with family, which hasn’t often been the case in the last 15 years. I get a chance to try having a relationship that doesn’t start with an expiration date.

Better yet, I get to spend the next several years in nonprofit management, so that when I’m ready to go back to the Middle East in a few years, I’ll have more than fluency in Arabic and understanding of local culture. I’ll also have the technical skills required to get one of those development jobs I really want.

Best of all, I get to work with an office full of people who share my convictions, who are working to make the world a better, more loving place, and who appreciate my talents. It’s been a long time since I felt like the whole office thought of me as a good employee.

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