4. Will I Disappoint Family & Friends?

Sloth and silence are a fool’s virtues.

Benjamin Franklin

Sloth is “sluggishness of the mind
which neglects to begin good.

Thomas Aquinas

When you pursue a job in gardening, at a cursory glance, it seems like you are just playing with pretty flowers all day. Will your friends and family think you have gone crazy? Will people think you are going through a mid-life crisis? Do you feel like a shiftless, lazy, ne’er do well?

Perhaps these are some of the countless doubts you have running through your head. Am I being lazy about my own ambition? If I am capable of doing more, am I not living up to my potential? If I am educated or have an impressive work history, is it all a waste to just give it all up?

First of all, this is not a career for lazy people. Let’s dispel the myth that this is an easy ride. Physically the work is demanding. Sloth is more than just being physically lazy. Defined as “the avoidance of physical or spiritual work”, its Greek origin comes from the word “akedia” meaning not to care. The greater disappointment of your life is when you allow yourself to compromise your soul by allowing your spirit to atrophy when you avoid pursuing a meaningful livelihood.

Just because you possess a natural talent, intelligence or are either educated or equipped with certain skills and experiences does not mean you have to feel obligated to spend the rest of your life dedicated to a job which does not bring you joy. Would you hire a teenager as your life coach? Just think about it for a moment. The trajectory of your life is largely determined by a younger, less seasoned version of yourself with limited life experience at a time when you found it as difficult to control a face full of acne let alone make critical life decisions.

One of the people that rode me pretty hard about my career detour was my Uncle Max. More out of necessity than choice, his rough hands tell the story of a man who has worked his entire life as a carpenter and general contractor. He chided “You’ve got brains, you graduated from university, what are you doing? Your hands are like sandpaper. Your grandfather worked with his hands fishing, your grandmother gutted fish in a cannery and your mother picked berries in orchards. Why would you waste your education?” Pressing on he added “They did hard labor so you wouldn’t have to”.

I explained that no one is able to walk around in my head and understand the kind of mental stress I was living day-to-day. In enduring the mental pressure of responsibility, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. He looked at me like I was weak. For the kind of money I was making, why did I not have the mental stamina and fortitude to stick it out? I countered simply that my parents made sacrifices so that I would get to choose my calling.

In Buddhism, “hindrances are negative mental states which impede success” and laziness is defined as “half-hearted action with little or no concentration”. It is acknowledged you are capable individual. Just because you are able to do something well does not mean you have to spend the rest of your life doing it as your profession. Some people are lucky enough to discover their calling, early in life and enjoy a lifetime dedicating themselves to their craft. But if you no longer feel committed to what you are doing every day, move on.

You will discover your entire life experience has not been wasted. It is true “wherever you go, there you are” so you don’t really leave yourself behind. If you have been successful in one field, you will apply the same method of inquiry and learning techniques. Exciting challenges will breathe new energy into your life as you bring your own unique perspective, novel approaches and a lifetime of experience that you will be able to apply in new and unexpected ways.

Excerpt from the forthcoming book Getting Dirty. If you would like me to let you know when the book becomes available, just send your e-mail to adriennejenkins@verizon.net.

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