sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 17, 2019

portfolio of life lessons
posted by soe 2:53 am

It’s now going on eight months since I was laid off. I had hoped to use my severance time to reflect on what seemed important moving forward and to gain some clarity about what I wanted from my next job during this forced time off. To some extent, I have — I’d like to stay with a mission-driven nonprofit, I’d like to earn a living wage with just one job (those two things often seem surprisingly at odd with one another), I’d like writing to be part of my responsibilities, and I’d love for it to focus on books or literacy in some way. In other ways, though, what I’m looking for remains as mysterious as it did in my first days of unemployment.

So far what you can say about the jobs I’ve applied for is that they are all at nonprofits and most of them involve writing in some way. (I have deviated from that only when the ability to focus on reading is an option.)

The next wave of jobs I’ve bookmarked ask you to send in a writing sample as part of the application, which has required me to revisit the material I’ve put out into the world over the past two decades. Some of it I remember quite vividly; a series of plain language health books and a couple of alumni interviews stood out. But a lot of my writing was done rather anonymously, under the general authorship of my project website. What this means is that it’s not enough to Google my name and see what comes up; I have to go back to the website and page through nearly 500 posts to see what stands out enough to be included in a writing portfolio of sorts.

It’s been illuminating. I often tell people that I don’t love writing, but I love having written. I definitely didn’t love being limited to writing about science, because that was never where my passion or my comfort levels were. It always seemed to require a lot of research to learn about something first, before I could capably explain it to my target audience of middle schoolers. But in the end, what I’m seeing and what I didn’t always appreciate in the moment, is that my job afforded me a lot of freedom to find things interesting or curious and to explore why that was and what might make someone else find it so. I’ve written about a lot of interesting things, from space to endangered species to engineering and from current scientific events and breakthroughs to famous dead people (and non-famous dead people I thought you should know more about). Mostly the prose is straightforward; I’m definitely not winning any contests for compelling posts. But most of them served their purpose — to educate — and even, on rare occasion, broke the barrier into inspiring reading.

This was all for a job that I didn’t love and that I never would have picked if a temp agency hadn’t dropped me on their doorstep.

So, if I can find things to be proud of — and that stand up years later as being worthy of reading — then I think that wherever I land next will also be fine, even if it doesn’t seem like the ideal fit at the outset. There will be things I won’t love about any job, but maybe what this shows is that there will also be things that I do.

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