This I Believe

Johnson - Fredericksburg, Virginia
Entered on October 10, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: purpose, setbacks

I believe that each person can have purpose and may contribute in important ways. People engaged in many occupations make our society function. Parents prepare their children for the world through example and instruction. Athletes and entertainers demonstrate human potential. Some people feel dissatisfied with their stature, income, or the very nature of their work. I once worked in a research laboratory that employed a woman with cognitive handicaps. Previously, she had little opportunity to work, so she cleaned glassware and did other chores with great joy. She felt delighted to have a role in our company–setting an example for all of us to find contentment in purpose. As for myself, in high school, I wanted to have a role in the popular “environmental” movement by using my aptitudes in math and science to become a chemical engineer, hoping to influence for the better, an industry demonized for environmental spoilage. Later, I became familiar with the concept that, by eating vegetarian diets, people could reduce demand for resource intensive and environmentally stressful agriculture, and consequently adopted such a diet, believing in the aggregate effects of our personal lives. My career plans went awry when, riding my bicycle home from work, I lost my balance and fell to the pavement, sustaining a head trauma. After months in hospital and rehabilitation, I proceeded with my graduate school plan, considering it my certain destiny. I struggled academically, to an extent unfamiliar to me. After a year, still showing academic deficiencies, I took my faculty’s suggestion to withdraw until more fully recovered. I found work tutoring chemistry and math students and at low-skill jobs but could not support myself on these. After 2 years, it occurred to me that I need not predicate my life my life on my earlier career concept and thus relinquished my future as a biochemical engineer. I continued my low-skill employment, but health and personal management problems made me too unreliable for employers to keep. To capitalize on my writing skills, I earned a paralegal degree. With high grades, positive feedback, and enjoyment of legal work, I thought I had surely found my role in the world, however I could find no interested employers, even when I resorted to applying again for low-skill work. I moved home with my elderly mother who increasingly needs my assistance. Furthermore, I contribute to my community as a volunteer–tutoring adults in basic education, counseling senior citizens on insurance matters, and doing hospice work. I can’t claim the intellectual nor professional prowess that once attracted me, but I like knowing that I contribute to the betterment of members of my community in fundamental ways.