A Funny Looking Map

Tracing My Non-Linear Career and Taking Stock of the Lessons I Found On the Way

A Funny Looking Map

Since becoming a tummler for Indy Hall I’ve been pondering endlessly “How did I get here?” 

I’ve come to realize that a decision I made as an 18 year old was the first step on a path which ultimately led me right here, looking back and admiring my journey.

So, let’s get into it:


Being incredibly lucky to have parents who were supportive (and willing to let me to keep living in their house), my post high school plans were completely up to me. I took full advantage of my freedom and did exactly what I wanted to do: take time off before continuing on to college.

I knew I would need skills, direction, and serious work ethic to get a degree, so I set out to get them.

A few months before graduating from high school I got a job hosting at a restaurant. The plan was in motion.

It’s Not Easy Being Green to the Restaurant Industry

My introduction to the workforce was a doozy. Restaurant work is hard. Between the never ending shifts spent entirely on your feet, the shit pay, and the toxicity, there are infinite reasons why the service industry is so notorious.

And yet there were definitely things I loved about restaurant work. The most challenging shifts were a rush of excitement, a mad sprint and delicate balancing act at the same time. Plus I was good at it, and I enjoyed working under pressure in fast paced environment. (If I had any tolerance for feces I might make a very good ER nurse)

Still, the deep of satisfaction of doing a difficult job well couldn’t make up for the incredibly taxing nature of the work.

After spending three years hosting at three different restaurants I was desperate for a very literal change of pace.

But trying to leave restaurant work with no degree was a tricky task, because despite the considerable strength and ability that I had relied on for several years, restaurant work (like most entry level work) is seen to require zero skill,  and build zero “real” experience in the eyes of potential employers in different fields. My solution was to apply to as much entry level work in other fields as I possibly could, and wait.

Dread Makes Great Fertilizer

After much applying and failing to get interviews, I found a temporary position as Garden Educator for a small non-profit which transformed vacant lots into productive community gardens and hubs for education. I wasn’t looking forward to spending a long summer sweating, designing curriculums, and being surrounded by kids, but I was excited to push myself and hoped discomfort would come with some growth.

I never imagined how much I would grow to absolutely love it.

Working closely with children and the earth is a stunning combination, harder and more rewarding than anything I had yet experienced. I designed and implemented a curriculum on farming, nutrition, and the importance of sustainable agriculture, all while maintaining the beautiful growing space and producing and distributing vegetables.

There’s something spectacular and liberating about going through something you were dreading and realizing how silly you were to dread it. This job was the first time I had catapulted myself out of my comfort zone. My reward of uncovering passion was delicious, and addictive.

That summer I transformed. I strengthened muscles I never knew I had, very literally. I felt valuable, and strong.

Finally it was clear that I was moving in the right direction.

That job led me to the next bullet point on my resume. Still working on a farm, still educating, but this time my all of my students were high-schoolers, and paid interns. Another catapult.

I adapted my curriculum to be more detailed and conceptual, while balancing time-sheets, scheduling, and mentoring teenagers through their first jobs. We talked about revolution, empowerment, and self-care, while cooking lunch for each other after a full morning of harvesting in the sun. I gave them the opportunity and some tools to design their own workshops, to teach the rest of our group something important or exciting to them, and burst with pride when they did phenomenal jobs.

My love for this work was deep, and rooted in newfound passions, but it wasn’t enough. Once again I found myself exhausted from being underpaid and overworked.

With bolstered confidence in new skills, and a refined sense of direction I found myself looking for something better.

So, Here I Am

Which brings us right up to the blog post I made last month, and stumbling upon this job as Tummler of Indy Hall.

Once again I had a single job offer after months of searching. Once again I found myself stretching my imagination to see past the discomfort of a brand new experience, focusing on the lessons I hoped to learn, and getting excited for new challenges.

My job here has come with many firsts. From the pleasure of working in a friendly community to being my own boss, Indy Hall has hosted introductions to endlessly varied and valued lessons. These lessons that are deeply aligned with the goals I set as a little 18 year old who had no idea what they wanted, which has been tremendously validating.

I won’t speak much more about Indy Hall here, because I did so much of it here, but here’s the really exciting part: my tool box is growing, my ambitions are getting clearer, and my stamina is packing on muscle.

The plan is working!


Varied as these jobs were, I found myself noticing distinct similarities amongst my responsibilities and the skills needed to keep up. Skills that deepened and blossomed from one challenge to the next. Skills that are mine to hold on to and nurture, regardless of what comes next.

Which leads me to urge you, my dearest reader, to take inventory of your knowledge and consider how you found it (or how it found you).

It is so easy to undervalue our wonky, nonlinear journeys when we compare them to mythical career-ladder-climbing folks who do things The Right Way. Is it just me who sees how phenomenally rare that is, and what a good thing, too? I’d be willing to bet that if you’ve found yourself running a coworking space, or working in one, your story is more similar to mine than you might realize.

Without taking the time to think back and take stock of how you got where you are, you’ll miss out on the overlaps, the commonalities, and the bridges. Those interwoven trails of growth that you are probably still working on, and will continue to build on far into your future.

Even more helpful to discover is the support for new growth that lies in skills you already have! There’s no one way to build a foundation, and no reason to wait even if you don’t think you have enough. A little creative thinking and the tools you already have become powerful aids of transformation.

My own exploration produced this funny little Venn diagram:

Let’s look closer at those few things in the middle:


The Multitasking Magician

While working in restaurants, the multitasking comprised of flawless customer service while clearing tables, seating customers, answering phones, and keeping the whole night on track at the same damn time. On the farm I had to balance restrictions that came with the present season, weather, and minimum standards for harvest with the needs and desires of each and every seed and each and every student.

Here at Indy Hall, my entire job description can be summed up with “Do 12 things at once, and don’t forget to get started on #13 while you’re at it!”

Enough said.


Deep in Puzzle Paradise

love solving puzzles. Always have always will.

In restaurants that was fast paced reorganization of a seating plan to maximize our headcount for the night. While farming, the puzzle came in the form of efficient crop rotation or perfecting a lesson plan.

A big part of my job at Indy Hall is being the go-to problem solver. Heck, I’m supposed to anticipate problems that don’t even exist yet and fix them before they surface. I just replace “problem” with “puzzle” and suddenly it’s 6 flags up in this brain.


Project Management (or, The Big One)

Oh, project management, what a fickle beast. Equal parts big picture and minute detail, instant judgment calls and long term decisions, project management is the end-all be-all necessary skill for Getting. Shit. Done. To be excellent at project management, you need to be practiced at solving puzzles and multitasking and the combination of the two. (Need to figure out which things must be prioritized to then multitask? That’s also a puzzle. Puzzling over the plan for future while adapting to unexpected circumstances? You are multitasking!)

Hosting put me through project management bootcamp, every night was a high intensity sprint. Then farming hit me with a whole different scale of project management, everything I’d been practicing was required in enormous proportions. Suddenly I had projects (like managing a plant from seed to harvest) that took months to execute, while simultaneously juggling a bunch of smaller, daily tasks.

At Indy Hall there are is an unending parade of projects, one after the other after the other. Some of them are self inflicted, (like this here blog post you are currently reading) some are an utter necessity (planning events, keeping up Indy Hall’s social media presence) and they each have unique timelines that must be recognized and contended with. (Cue flexing project management skills)


Besides commonalities in skills used and lessons learned, I found the deepest similarity between my jobs, past and present, to be their equal place in my weird little journey.

On the surface these positions can barely be united, but my experiences prove just the opposite.

There’s another big thing they have in common; the commitment I made when I was 18 years old and persistent faith in my instincts. The risk that started it all, which brought me pride, happiness, and big dreams that I wouldn’t trade for anything– including a diploma.

This spring it will be a full 5 years since I graduated from high school, 5 years since I made the first decision of my young life.

5 years of catapulting myself across barriers that never really existed in the first place.

See you on the other side,

Anaia

Do you have thoughts to share in response to this post? Any questions for me? Let me know at Anaia@indyhall.org!

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