Why Bother With A Healthy Occupation?
Our mental wellness is tied to managing and caring about all the different aspects of our lives—the emotional and physical self, the spiritual, intellectual, and social self as well as our environment, interpersonal and occupational areas. We are complex creatures and when all of these systems work in congruence to one another, the result is mental stability. But when they are incongruent, acting against one another, chaos reigns.
Though each of these areas of our mental wellness are interconnected, I thought it wise to break them apart and look at them individually. Today we look at the last item on our long list of the areas that we need to pay attention to for our mental wellness; healthy occupations.
Oh The Jobs I’ve Held
While growing up, I didn’t think too much about the future since I liked my present status as a kid. But I remember my fourth grade teacher asking the whole class a question that forced me to think beyond childhood and into adulthood. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She asked while standing in front of the room full of nine and ten year olds. There were plenty of my classmates who wanted to be nurses and doctors, policemen and firemen. So that by the time my turn came I wanted to be something other than what everyone else wanted so I announced, “I want to be the president of the United States.” The laughter echoed off the walls deafening my ears. I guessed my answer was too far-fetched.
Arriving at high school, the counselors put students on two different tracks—those who were college bound and those who were not. I fell in line with all those who were not. Obviously I’d lost sight of my elementary desire to be president.
While in high school I took a job as a nurse’s aid to earn money for a car. Working as a nurse’s aid was far better than going to high school and I imagined dropping. But my mother would not allow such a thing. When I finally did graduate I pursued other jobs for better pay. Though house painting, house cleaning and waitress jobs were steady and somewhat satisfying because of my earnings, these jobs felt hollow.
When I turned nineteen, though no one had ever suggested it before, a fellow restaurant worker suggested I try going to college. I was surprised by his idea and later as a student, I was amazed with my ability to succeed.
My choices for job opportunities broadened and for a short while, I believed working with handicapped preschool children would be my career. But then I fell in love, married and started a family, and my profession changed. Though as a mother, I was not paid any wages, motherhood became my livelihood. It also became the training ground where I learned how to inspire, guide, and encourage others, namely my sons, to maturity. My labor did not feel trivial, but as my sons matured into young men, I could see my job would soon end. Mothering is not a lifelong career.
I knew my education was not finished and I returned to college. After earning a Bachelor’s degree, I still did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then one day, while working as a teacher’s aide, it occurred to me that the profession of teaching was calling me and I answered. Once again in the workforce, teaching is my station in life.
Finding our profession is not necessarily a linear pathway. We may start out going one direction and then shift directions later on. What matters most is that we find satisfaction in where we expend our energy. Our satisfaction or dissatisfaction at work will have a direct impact on our mental wellness.
Why bother with a healthy occupation? Working at a career that just doesn’t fit is like sucking in our gut into a tight pair of pants. We can do it, but not for very long. On the other hand, working in a healthy occupation, one that “fits” us, is much more enjoyable for the long haul.