Monday, May 20, 2019

Careers: What Are You Hungry For?

[Image: Created by Carrie T-P]

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.’*

The children’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar*,” by Eric Carle, opens with these words. The book was one of my child’s favorites. His pre-preschool would read the book aloud during story time. The bonus: the pre-preschool had a caterpillar costume, and would ask for wee volunteers to “suit up” and become the very hungry caterpillar. My little one was usually the first to raise his tiny hand to volunteer, to get into the caterpillar costume, and act out the story. 

The story interweaves helpful educational themes for little ones. The vivid illustrations will show up as days of the week, counting/number, various foods-some healthier than others, and the science of a butterfly’s life stages, and the pain that can come within each life-stage, each transformation. The story also interweaves themes for adults, too.

The book helps me to chew-on: “for what am I hungry?" Within "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," the tiny baby caterpillar emerges from his egg very hungry and seeking food. He’ll eat a leaf, and eventually go onto more exotic foods that leave him with a tummy ache. Then: go back to the leaf. Over time and with the right nourishment, the Very Hungry Caterpillar transforms into a vibrant, beautiful butterfly. Just as the baby caterpillar is born hungry, and continues to be hungry--and actually needs the right "fuel" to transform and grow--so are we. Throughout each life stage, each transformation, each career journey and transition, what do we crave? 

In our careers, we can hunger for much. We can be hungry for the next promotion; working on that delicious, plum client; the next new job with a new employer. It’s helpful to reflect on our career-hunger: our hunger can draw our eyes to a menu of diverse choices: some exotic, some simple, some in-between. The green leaf that that caterpillar chooses first and then last isn’t the most exotic experience: it’s simple and it’s healthy and nourishing. The simple green leaf is exactly what the hungry caterpillar needs, exactly what he’ll will come back to, after tasting so much exotic — the exotic that leave him empty, not-nourished, in pain. The junk-food in our career lives comes in many costumes: it can show up as workaholism, resentment, bullying co-workers, burn-out. It’s a bad menu that leaves us depleted and starving.

We all hunger for the right “green leaf” in our career-lives, to feed and nourish us. Our healthy green leaf will feed us all in myriad ways. The green leaf can be diverse: it can look like work-life balance; partnering with a supervisor who transforms us, who makes us better. The green leaf can be working in a career that fills and feeds your strengths and passion. Green leaves can also look like managing and mentoring a growing team. Just as green leaves come in different shapes and sizes, there’s no one right way to be fed and nourished at work, and to likewise feed and nourish others - your team, your clients, your community.

Final word: as you reflect on your hunger, feed on this wisdom, from theologian and Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner:

“The place you’re called to 
is the place where your deep gladness 
and the world’s deep hunger 
meet.” [-Adapted, Frederick Buechner]

REFLECTION QUESTION: In your life and career, what’s your healthy green leaf? On the flip-side of the menu: what’s your exotic junk food that’s leaving you saggy, depleted, starving? The invitation: share in the COMMENTS section; or get creative: journal about it; draw a picture, write a poem: let your creativity soar with the color, lightness, vibrancy of a butterfly

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