Job contentment has long been an issue of discovery for me, mostly due to perfectionism tendencies and the equation of happiness and work. I’ve rummaged resolve to get through really tough bosses, or practiced escapism through overdoing and over committing on weekends and weekday evenings. I’ve loaded everyone’s ears with complaints and future goals and hopes for something “better.” Eventually, through years of stretching and resting I’ve reached a place where I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve learned that difficult relationships will always exist. Work is just another place to choose what kind of characteristics to adopt and how to help others. Under that preface, I’ve reached a place of acceptance at my current position. The personalities I don’t have many encounters with are still there, but my work is important and it doesn’t scare me off. It’s been comfortable these past six months. I walk (or sometimes stumble) in each morning and leave each evening, cognizant of the endurance.
Out of the blue a few weeks prior, a recruiter named Lori called and left a voicemail about an offer. Just out of curiosity, I called her back to see what kind of work it was and how I might fit in. Less than two weeks later, I was given the job along with higher pay and a four-person interview that delighted me. Aside from working as a traveling missionary and summer camp counselor, I’ve never been so at home with interviewees. It felt much like a conversation over coffee, a meeting at a bistro on Saturday morning, or cards with acquaintances. We bounced enthusiasm and stories off of each other, and practiced what our banter could be if I was chosen to work there. Even though it was still in the realm of administrative work, it just felt right. As Madeline L’Engle states in “Walking on Water,”
“Instead of understanding—that intellectual understanding which we are so fond of—
there is a feeling of rightness, of knowing, knowing things which we are not yet able to
Why am I apt to accept another office job, despite my ultimate dream of writing and mothering? Is it merely due to the extra cash that will pay for our child’s nanny towards the end of this year? Is it because I’m “moving up” in the career world? Is it because I’m a confused goober who can’t get her junk together and follow that deep-seated passion? It’s because there is rightness that tells me to do it.
When is it appropriate to give up on a notion? One character that donates an answer to this question is the ever-interesting Jean Valjean from Les Misérables. Having escaped his dreary prison life through the grace of God and an older bishop, Jean gives back all he was given through charity and compassion for the city he presides over as Mayor. Once the vicious Javert tracks him down and puts him on the hunt again, he decides that being around to take care of Cosette and bestow kindness on her is more important than his own life or safety. If there were no Cosette I would be inclined to believe he would just turn himself in and be done with it. His fatherly love and affection for this poor darling is what motivates him to keep running from the law. Law and grace, two things that are symbolized quite well by Hugo with the two men in this story. He feels the rightness of improving the little girl’s life.
So in memorable scenes of Jean attempting desperately to escape Javert on shadowy French streets with Cosette on his shoulder, the reader knows that his decision was wise. Even if they are caught (gasp- please, no!), Cosette will still have known a love that was willing to go the extra mile for her. She would have seen grace in action, apart from the ugly battles her small life has endured. This makes the trade worth it.
I’m not sure yet of what’s going to make my trade of one job for another worth it. On one hand, leaving the continuity of something fills me with dread and returning voices of failure. How many more companies will I cycle through? When will stability finally happen? On the other hand, there is the power of the right. It holds me and quietly explains, “That doesn’t matter. You belong here. You belong to the circumstances that God has given you. Make use of them.” That simple confidence just might be my ace-in-the-hole.