tl;dr - There's a delicate (and potentially unhealthy) relationship between career identity & personal identity. Balance is key.
I came across an article on this topic today. It got me thinking about my own relationship with my work. Not that I blame my former employers for anything... I've had great jobs and I have loads of love and respect for the folks who have taken a chance on me. However, I recognize that some of the aspects of my personal relationship with work contributed to & highlighted pre-existing issues I needed to work through.
When I quit my job as Director of Retail The Bruery to become a part time bartender working towards my eventual dream of opening my own business, I'm pretty sure most of my friends and co-workers thought I was crazy. I wondered if I made that decision from a place of fear and abandonment. At the time, I was certain that was what my career path was supposed to be, but I was ignoring my personal path.
To be honest, much of my career has been mindlessly in service of my ego. I am guilty of linking too much of my personal identity to my job. I've made career decisions from a selfish place, rather than a mature place of love. To the point where I've grown cynical and volatile, accustomed to interpretting feedback as criticism and criticism as personal attacks. At some point, I convinced myself that if I was successful, I'd be happy. The obvious problem with this type of thinking is that the egocentric monkey mind is never content. The grass is always greener...
Since my work life quieted down, I found myself with more time to be alone with my thoughts. Enter soul searching and confusion. I thought about the perennially overworked and under-rested business owners I've known in my life, and for the first time in my life, began to seriously question if this lifestyle is really what I wanted.
With that, came intense feelings of worthlessness... Duh! I'd attached so much of my identity to being "a beer guy" for the last 10 years, it's no surprise my ego would take this route to scare me into submission. I found myself thinking, "my dream is dead".
That's not the case. Rather, a new dream is being realized.
Lately, I've been feeling this distant glimmering bit of a belief that I have the potential to make a positive impact in the world. To be a force of good. I don't know how yet, but I do know that the more I get in touch with myself, the more I want to help others... go figure.
PS - I'm starting Psychology classes at a local Community College this spring to try out this whole 'going back to school' idea :)