One of the things that keep me returning to career counseling and aspiring to develop and grow Sounding Line is how closely related my own personal experiences are to the service I provide. For my entire career, I have coached and counseled, administered and supervised, and trained and built teams. That’s my craft. It’s what I do. And I have had the opportunity to be a part of some great organizations as well as some not-so-good ones. When I created Sounding Line, everything I knew about work, employment, family life, and schedule started to change. I kept my craft, and the work I held sacred, but I wasn’t exactly sure if I still held a seat at the table. Within the narrative process of career development, we spend a great deal of time honoring the commitments the client wants to keep, and the harsh reality is that over the past year, my own daily practice has been put to the test. Today’s story is about moving on and letting go - about how to decide what not to do and be at peace with it.
A year ago, my wife and partner, mother to our three boys, decided that she was ready to start actively looking for new opportunities outside of the student travel business where she had worked for over twenty years. I like to say that she was one of Sounding Line's best customers. She humors me. More importantly, we were both looking at our lives together through new and different frameworks. From that process, we gained perspective and clarity on the life we wanted for our family and how to play that forward.
Lauren accepted an executive position within the Keewaydin Foundation as the director of Songadeewin Camp for Girls on mighty Lake Dunmore in April. We feel blessed and a little scared too. When you sell your house and don’t know where your family of five will live next, holding that space puts a lot of who you think you are to the test. I can say in hindsight, “don’t fear the pause”. The life you live uprooted provides a tremendous opportunity for growth — growth you are going to need to contend with all the new opportunities afforded by a big transition.
In past blog posts, I have talked about how society as a whole is also in one of these “liminal spaces” between epochs. Throughout history, there are always these unprecedented times that accelerate and decelerate the human condition— when normal routines and traditions just don’t feel like they are going to bring about the life-changing experiences we need to reconnect with the world and its people, and set things right. Yet, we still need to play something deep and spiritual forward. Some people race ahead of their supply line, others hold on tight to tradition, but we all share the common need to go from uncertainty to possibility or face cultural death. The search for the “nature of being”, found in the new sciences, provides an important message — don’t retreat from the belief in basic human goodness. There is a great deal of societal pressure, pitfalls, and dubiousness that comes along with developing your career. Within the “struggle for humanity” interlude we are in right now, your career and who controls it makes a big difference in how things play out for everyone.
We have reached a time where we realize that there are no boxes to check for most of the things we truly are. Humans are more than check marks on a census or an application for financial aid. During our family’s move from Westminster West to Middlebury, Vermont, I got to disconnect from the shitstem, and grow as a person without striving to fulfill qualifications within a job description. It was liberating and a little lonely too. I got to put the whole system on ice. Stop collecting my chips. Use the money, and make a play. Not for long. You are part of the system whether you like it or not and you are the relationships you build too. When you strive forward with clarity and patience, it becomes your art. Your game face. A place to discover new and more meaningful commitments. Temporary protection when things go haywire. Your force of life that nobody can take away. There are a lot of different narratives out there trying to claim our attention. And I think we all have to admit that we are not that great at sorting through all of the noise and centering our response. We’ve reached a point in our collective and individual history where the next story needs to get started soon or we are all in peril. If you are going to trust in anything, trust in your choices and the best human qualities you possess.
Throughout the move, career counseling became my lifeline. Thanks to some well-thought-out and patient SEO work from Abdullah Al Qayyim, clients who were doing the same type of soul-searching I was doing, found Sounding Line. Over the past twelve months, I have been fortunate to work with a manageable number of career seekers while undertaking a huge transition of my own. Within the Sounding Line framework and the narrative process of a five, eight, or twelve-session program, the point of no return usually happens around the third session when the career development and clarification side of the equation shifts to coaching. There’s a pause. Where what you know about yourself gets activated and ushers in new learning experiences and inspiration. Every time I reach that point with a client when I don’t know what’s going to happen next, I remember more clearly we are doing well and we don’t fear the pause together. And by living our stories together, we get to talk about the things you only talk about after you set sail, within the journey, and before you reach the next destination. Most of the thinking and planning and doing needs to happen while you are en route when you can’t see land and you have to be at peace with the open water and confront your limitations.
We are more free right now, to craft our own story, based on the experiences and meaningful events that make up our own lives and the people we love and honor, than at any time in history. That’s how the laws of nature work. At any point in time, you are free to create what Margaret Wheatley calls an "island of sanity”. Small, unabsorbed, unGoogleable, and growing — that’s what saves us. Give up on being an influencer, getting followers, and selling your body and soul to become a billionaire so you can give it all to charity. Let the human spirit do the work. Nothing big is holding any weight right now. The power of human possibility provides a far more enchanting and magical progression to what we need to do in order to flourish.
When ancient ships cast sounding lines, through the fog of a new day, what can be known became how we face the unknown. And sometimes a handful of dirt, a change in the ocean surface, or a warm swell of weather is all you get to decide. See wisely, and use your freedom and acquired knowledge to trust yourself and who you want to be. The answer is in your hands. That is mother nature's way of saving us.