I remember being 30. I remember living off of all that kinetic energy, willing myself to do difficult things just because they were difficult, and putting myself in uncomfortable situations solely because they were uncomfortable. I approached both simple tasks and high-caliber challenges with the same vigor and enthusiasm, and I pushed myself hard to grow, learn, and experience as much as possible. I wasn’t ready to die – I was brave, naive, and also, a bit intense.
In attempting to recover the same drive and energy of my 20s and early 30s, I realized the injustices and inequalities of society I could previously count on to motivate and inspire me to action didn’t have the same internal effect, nor did they produce the same external responses. I was having to work harder and more frenetically to achieve the same level of intensity about my work that had once been so easy to access. At first this was a difficult truth to accept, and I felt confused, tired, and burned out.
The desire to feel enthusiasm for my work is what initially pushed me to take a professional leave, but I ended up learning more during this time than just what my next area of focus would be. I took the entirety of my sabbatical year to reengage with the world, moving abroad, learning another language, taking the time to read, research, and travel, all which helped me clarify the next iteration of my career.
This past spring I was asked by a close friend, “What things would you want from your work, if supporting your family and basic necessities were not issues to be considered?” Such an excellent question:
Because I am introverted I easily work independently on projects and tasks. I pride myself on not needing to be told what to do each step of the way, I just get it done. Surprisingly, I also very much enjoy being a part of team and working on common goals together. I listen well, so I can see and hear other people’s perspectives and the angle they’re coming from, and it feels good when there’s connection and synergy within a group, which comes from either well-planned team-making, or luck. In larger groups, I prefer protocols and organized processes of communication (see Critical Friends Group), because I’m not good with competing to be heard. Protocols and systems help me relax about process, and focus on the problem or project in front of me.
The last 17 years of my career I spent developing programs that serve teenagers in incarcerated facilities and similar environments, and in doing this work, I was utterly devoted to improving services to support them. Doing the best work I could informed every decision I made, and everything, from process to program, was created and functioned with their best interest in mind. I am proud of the work I did, and I know I created or helped to create useful and irreplaceable services that supported their growth, and enabled them to have access to more options and services. I want to continue to serve and support, and I am now turning my focus toward the support of communities via culture, art, and artists.
Humor is the best. I have a decent sense of humor, which leans toward the dry side. Once my supervisor, a colleague and I were laughing so hard in the midst of a crisis that we were crying, and then we went on a few moments later to successfully work to save lives. We often worked together, and our work was tough, but it was also joyful. Not only do I want my work bring me joy, primarily its results should bring joy, directly or indirectly, to others.
I am an organized person, but I am not obnoxious about it; it’s how I go about understanding and learning something new. I also enjoy taking what at first appears to be a complex or overwhelming situation and streamlining it into productivity. I love that. Really. The potential available in each new-to-me situation is invigorating.
I strive to live my life authentically and to connect and find commonalities where, at first, there appear to be none. I enjoy connecting ideas, people, and institutions together to make sense and solve problems. I seek to understand people, their cultures and experiences, so I do that actively, immersing myself, asking questions, experiencing. During a recent visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, I was struck by how an artwork can change in meaning and presentation, based on random factors like space, time, and the audience’s movement through the space in which the art is housed. I saw how culture has the power to transform and uplift a community from the inside out, and how the democratic process of collaboration between government, non-profit, and community can organically build prosperity and cohesion.
So why the picture of Casey Neistat? Well, to start, he’s sharp. He’s energizing, entertaining, and a he’s a talented artist. My personal motto is, “Art Saves Me,” because it has and does. I am indebted to art and artists for inspiring me, bringing me both joy, and an increased awareness of the world. Casey is one of those artists. Though I probably won’t be achieving successes at the rate he currently moves through his life, I subscribe to his above suggestion that my next career goal should be “bigger and more ambitious” than those I have had in the past. I have a renewed confidence and commitment to move in a new direction. I’m no longer 30, but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.
Hailing from the great state of California, Megan is mid-degree in SJSU’s MLIS. Her program focus has been special librarianship and she hopes to integrate her love of art, technology, and cultural exploration into a future, information-related position. In her spare moments, she loves walking around cities, visiting museums, generally being outdoors, and learning about people and places. She blogs at www.mmeprice.org.