Have you had trying times in your work, and how did you work your way through those?

Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

I’ve never felt like I couldn’t find work. I’d been a waitress at one point when I was in high school, so I felt like, “Well, there are things I can do. I can always go wait tables. I can do something.” So I’ve never had that sense of, “Oh my God, how will I live?” I’ve also had family and others who would be able to support me. So that hasn’t been a struggle. There are times now when I look back and wonder, “What if I’d stayed in teaching?” I’m pretty sure I would have been a principal. I might have had another kind of administrative job, but I think I’m definitely drawn toward leadership positions.

For more of Diane’s story, click here

Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:

Yes. By talking to people who’ve had similar experiences. By talking to people with different life experience than I have. And not giving up. Persistence is a key quality in moving through life changes, be they career or otherwise. It’s natural, for me at least, to want to escape at times or give up. You can usually find a way to move or shift, to no longer be in an unsatisfying situation. But I find that “standing in it” has been a huge teacher to me, when I’m really challenged. I’ve experienced a range of tests here at Pendle Hill. Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, just knowing that someone does, or that a group coming together and sitting with the question will, is all I need. Knowing that I can ask, and that the wisdom is out there, is what makes it possible to stand there not knowing what’s coming.

For more of Jen’s story, click here

Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:

The hardest times for me were finding summer jobs in engineering, when I was an undergrad. I definitely had experiences like showing up for an interview and having the interviewer say, “Oh, Shan Cretin, we thought you were a man,” and that was the end of the interview. I had a couple of those kinds of experiences. A friend of mine at MIT, a grad student when I was an undergrad-I was looking for a summer job and she was looking for a full-time job at Xerox, and she sued them! I watched her go through that and thought, “She’s doing the right thing,” but it so diverted her from everything else, to be engaged in that. I was actually more interested in a field like public health in many ways, and also I wasn’t interested in trying to fight my way into a position. My colleagues were supportive, my fellow students were supportive, but my faculty advisors didn’t really know what to do with me, and I think didn’t take me very seriously. I was not interested in being the token woman in the mechanical engineering department, having them give me an office with a window on the first floor so everybody could see they had a woman.

For more of Shan’s story, click here

Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:

I think one of the biggest struggles for me happened when I had what I thought was my dream job, which was working for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). This is not a criticism of AFSC, it’s just where I was in my life. If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, I probably would have said my ideal would be to work for AFSC. I started working for AFSC as a full-time peace educator for the Southeast region, here in Atlanta. My college self would have looked at that and said, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do, it’s the perfect job for me.” I did it for just a couple of years, and it felt increasingly like… I was burned out, I was kind of depressed, I didn’t feel at all like I was bringing my full self to the work. It felt like this one piece of me was being utilized but all this other stuff that was important to me, including faith and Quakerism, was not at all part of the job. It felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. It felt like good work. I believed in the work I was doing. But it just didn’t feel like what I was supposed to be doing. That was a struggle because it was like, if this—what I always wanted to do, the dream job that anyone I know would love to have—if this isn’t it, then what the heck am I supposed to do? It was at that point that I decided to go to seminary—in part because I felt like there had to be some other way to be engaged in social justice work that would be sustainable. Most of the people from the Catholic Worker and other places I was working, people I really admired and wanted to be like for some reason, had gone to seminary. That theological education had been part of their formation and it felt like there might be something there for me. I’d been interested in religious studies and theology already. It was more like, “Well, I’ll apply and see what happens.” I only applied to one place here in Atlanta – Emory – and it was like, well if it works out then I’ll do it. Doors kept opening, and it was really important shift. QVS isn’t a total shift from AFSC in some ways, but in terms of my leading and calling, and feeling like it’s what I’m supposed to do at this time, it’s kind of night and day. And in terms of how I feel engaged in the work. That’s not at all criticism of AFSC, it’s just me and where I was. The person who took over for me is absolutely doing what he is called to do. That was a good lesson.

For more of Christina’s story, click here

Drew Smith, Friends Council on Education:

This is about me and my spiritual struggle, not anyone else, because there are always plenty of human interactions that are struggles and cause concern. It’s sort of “What does your faith call you to do?” The conflict that I have is that a significant part of my job is supporting institutions that aren’t helping a lot of kids who need it most. What I’m doing about it is this: I was very clear with my board, my bosses, that if expanding the role of Friends schools in the education of all children isn’t an important component of this job, I can’t do it. It’s a challenge to me, and to all of the schools, both. My challenge is to find the right people in Quaker education, find the right people in public education, the right people in government, to try to see ways in good conscience that we can make this happen. I’m working with a couple of Friends to figure out if it’s possible to translate the spiritual version of the way that we describe ourselves normally–is there a way to describe it secularly?–and to begin starting schools that we would consider “in the manner of Friends,” but that we can with integrity say, “This is not a religiously-based school.” Can we actually do that? We’re going to try that experiment. And in some cities, like Philadelphia, it’s possible for anyone, with the support of the local public schools, to reimagine their curriculum, to add things like mindfulness, and be a true partner in the management and running of the school. So if we can pull these things off, I’ll feel really good about taking this job.

For more of Drew’s story, click here

Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:

I’ve never been out of work since I’ve been an adult. I’ve worked bi-vocationally a couple different times, sometimes working two or three jobs because that’s what we felt was right at the time and what we needed to do to survive financially. In terms of opportunities, they’ve sort of presented themselves. I guess I’ve tried to be open to opportunities as they’ve come. For me it’s been helpful to try each one on a little bit, just imagine myself in that role, and  in the process of doing that, that’s where I get a clear sense of, “Does this fit who God’s made me to be, and the things that I feel like I’m actually called to do?

For more of Colin’s story, click here

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