catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 8 :: 2005.04.22 — 2005.05.05


Career anarchy

When people asked me as a kid, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, not once did I say my ambition was to be a cat sitter. Of the many dreams I had for the future, none of them was remotely connected with animals or the service industry.

So how is it that I now find myself, together with my wife, starting our own business as cat sitters? To family and friends, it has come completely out of left field. But the answer is simple: I want to spend my days working together with my wife. I want to share life together with her, not just a few hours in the evening, but in its entirety—in all its creative energy, ups and downs, struggles and quiet moments. People told us when we were first married that we’d soon grow sick of spending all day together, but after seven years of making our living across the desk from each other in our apartment, we consider the time together essential to who we are. We are wholly devoted to experiencing life together, to being known and knowing in the fullest. This is the kind of person I want to be; the specific job we do together comes a distant second.

I first discovered in college that I was a career anarchist. I had intended to follow a rather straightforward path into newspaper journalism, but at every turn I found myself transforming into someone I didn’t want to become. In my graduate-level copy editing class I became so consumed with finding errors that I became overly nitpicky with everything in my life, with people as well as words. The more reporting I did, the more I discovered I was uncomfortable being an observer, and was largely uninterested with the who-what-when-where questions. I wanted to participate, to communicate how things felt, reveal the deeper meanings that lay under the surface. I found myself drawn to writing about the arts, where these layers are explored, and this felt more like home. But making a living on the arts and entertainment beat meant wading through a lot of bad art, and it was grating on my soul to experience a steady stream of worthless films. I found myself turning into a critic in the worst sense of the word, the eternally joyless fellow who is quick to anger.

So I gave it up. I stopped writing anything paid, because I wanted to write only when I had something to say. By any career-counselor standard, writing should have been my job—it was something I loved doing, was good at, and, if done properly, could make a difference in the world. But my number one priority in life had to be the kind of character I was developing. The question I needed to answer was: “What kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?”

As God would have it, this complete lack of direction made me open to finding the right job, a ministry position that had me designing, developing, editing, and promoting products for churches. After seven years there, I can gladly say that the position helped me develop in my character, my leadership, and my spiritual habits. The telecommuting also provided me, although I took it for granted for so long, the deep marriage connection I have come to enjoy.

Now I’m at a similar standstill, and it remains to be seen what God will do with me. Will our cat sitting become a stable business, and teach me something about community, neighborliness, service, resting in God’s providence and caring for God’s creatures? Will I return to the computer and work at developing and designing products for Christian companies? Will something entirely unexpected come up? I do not know the answer, but this transition time has crystallized one thing for me—my first priority is sharing every step of the journey together with my wife. Living life together is essential to the kind of person I want to become.

In a country where you are defined by what you do for a living, this is anarchy. But in the end, my tombstone will not say cat sitter or graphic designer or writer. It will say “husband,” and that is one job description that I intend to embody wholly.

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