If You Could Do Anything …

I guess it’s probably not surprising, when someone is in vocational transition, for people to ask them, “If you could do anything for work, what would you do?”

Anyway, within the last five days or so, it seems like a lot of people have been asking me some version of that:

“What would your ideal ministry look like?”

“What do you really love to do?”

“In the next five years, what do you wish you could be doing?”

Yesterday I was driving to visit my nonagenarian grandmother and, as I often do on long car-rides if I don’t nearly fall asleep instead, I had an epiphany. The epiphany was,

“I want to teach a class on Roman Catholic literature!”

That's a Jenn Story

Cue angelic epiphany music here.
(Also, don’t judge my drawing. You’ll note that my epiphany was NOT about wanting to teach art. Or science.)

Maybe just 20th century Roman Catholic literature, although the original trigger for the idea was pondering The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila, which I just read as part of my spiritual direction training. The Roman Catholic literature idea is a blogpost in its own right (but may I just say with breathless excitement #FlanneryOConnorWalkerPercyGrahamGreeneJRRTolkein? I mean, awesome, right??).

That’s not normally how I answer people when they ask those questions, though. Normally I say something like, “Well, I really love listening to people’s stories, and coaching them on their spiritual journeys, and teaching–especially teaching stuff that I’m excited about learning.” Today I told someone, “CS Lewis said to write the kind of book you want to read, and I’ve tried but I can’t do that” [mostly because the kind of book I want to read is Roman Catholic literature, and I’m not Roman Catholic; or CS Lewis books, which have already been written by CS Lewis–and when I try to write in the genre of Narnia or the Cosmic Trilogy I fail miserably] “but I think I could probably teach the kind of class I would want to take.” That was a little bit of an epiphany, too.

One time, in answer to those questions, I spent a couple of days writing a proposal for the Gradually-Less-Nebulous-Nonprofit. Maybe at some point (tomorrow?) I will post some of it here. It involves listening to people’s stories, and coaching, and teaching, and some public speaking/seminar-type deals, and retreats. This is what I want to do, but it’s sort of scary, because then I think,

“There are other people who do this already, who are really good at it, and who do I think I am, and do I even begin to think I’ve got something else or more to offer than they’re already offering?”

And, “If it’s a nonprofit, why on earth would anyone donate to it, when there are other, already established, reputable nonprofits?” (Not to mention, the idea of responsibly setting a salary for myself is scary.)

And, “If I decide that really, it should be for-profit, no one could donate even if they wanted to, and then how would I keep costs down for potential clients/students, and either way, what if no one wants to take the courses I hope to teach?”

And, “How does one go about choosing a board of directors? And what are they supposed to do, anyway?”

And, “What the heck–I don’t know how to do this stuff. Maybe I’ll go back to professional nannying.” I mean, it’s an honourable profession–and I am still training to be a chaplain … even though I won’t have certification for at least two more years …

Guys. This is terrifying.

Is this (and, say, lack of funds) why so few of us actually do what we would do if we could do anything?

What would you do if you could do anything? And are you doing it?


13 thoughts on “If You Could Do Anything …

  1. I started five forms of encouragement and/or the coaching-style questions that spread through my family like some sort of virus. I’ll keep it to this:

    It’s good that it’s terrifying, because it means that it’s important. It’s okay to be scared, as long as it doesn’t scare you off. Don’t underestimate yourself. Give yourself the advice you’d give the one who’d come to you.

      • The one that might be most applicable now, could be: if you were to wake up tomorrow and everything would be just how you wanted it to be, how did you get there?
        And then some time later, there will be: how does that make you feel? Or: what could you do right now to make a small difference towards that?
        My dad is a pastor and always focused on pastoral counseling, later taking up coaching as well. Coaching comes with those typical questions, and we’ve gotten too used to it. Then my mom took up coaching, as well (making the questions pop up more) and so we’re all infected with those questions.

  2. I suppose that, if I could do ANYTHING (no restrictions at all….) It would involve having enough paid time to write a book that would be part spiritual autobiography, part memoir, part workbook-journal/ discussion prompt…….But since that seems like a pipe dream, based upon my actual life circumstances, I would say that my dream job is to teach- thankfully, a job that I am already doing. In my present position as part teacher- part administrator, I am getting the opportunity to mentor some younger teachers (which I love). I would like, eventually, I think, to teach older kids (High School or College) – I have always had the fantasy of being Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society- but with regular kids- not ones from a fancy prep school….The thing that is most shocking to me, at the moment, is that I don’t think I have any present desire to work in a church. So NOT how I would expect to feel after finally graduating with my M.Div……On the one hand, this is great because I feel no pressure whatsoever to look for a job that is different from the one that I am already doing. On the other hand, not quite so sure, at the moment, why I went to Seminary…..which is a little disconcerting.

    • I get how that would be disconcerting! And also how that could happen. I’m still up for working for churches and in ministry roles, but I guess I’m going in related but different directions than I was previously.

      In other news, I’d love to get your book! 🙂

  3. I’d like to write stories wrapped round the place I love. Fever dream, swamp heat stories of South Florida. Ideally this would net me handsome profit that would allow me to retire to the Florida’s gulf coast where I’d sip beer on the beach and never write again.

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