Finding Joy Amid Career Changes

Finding Joy Amid Career Changes

brianna albers

It’s been a hard week. Half because I’m an emotional kiddo who takes everything twice as seriously as I should, and half because my life is changing in some very big ways. Just now, I told my Google Home to play some ocean sounds with the vague hope that sunsets and horizons might calm me down.

Here’s what the ocean sounds like.

It’s funny how quickly things change. All of us can relate to some extent, but I think it’s especially relevant for those of us with disabilities because if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that life is finicky. Bodies are petulant and plans fall apart and nothing goes the way it’s supposed to — which is fine, really, if you’re detached enough. But I’m an emotional kiddo who takes everything twice as seriously as I should, which means I’m very much attached, which means the ocean sounds are only helping in the abstract.

Things change. Plans fall apart. Sometimes it feels like my whole life has just been one lesson after another, with the stubborn part of me refusing to accept that I can’t control everything. When I was in high school, I had plans of being an English major. When I became depressed freshman year of college, I said, “OK, how can I fix this?” I had the bright idea of becoming a psychology major and maybe even getting a master’s degree in counseling. It made sense. I’ve struggled with mental health my entire life, so why not use that experience to help people?

There, I thought, graduating with my bachelor’s in psychology. There, I thought, applying to a master’s program in clinical mental health counseling. There. Problem fixed.

But things change. Plans fall apart. Bodies are petulant, they get sick, they develop things like chronic pain. When you forget things, aspects of your personality that maybe don’t gel with a high-stress field like counseling, they remind you, and you end up listening to ocean sounds at 9:21 p.m. on a Wednesday night because nothing has gone the way it was supposed to and now, for the first time in five years, life looks … different.

Here’s what the ocean sounds like.

It’s hard. I don’t like admitting my flaws. And it’s not even really a flaw — it’s just something, a part of me that affects what I can and cannot do. Like my father’s dyslexia, my mother’s mind for math. Just things. Mine happen to be anxiety and depression and chronic pain, a body that tires easily, a heart that gets overwhelmed. Quirks. Traits. Constellations of an imperfect life.

In times like these, I return to poetry. Another “plan” of mine: Did you know that at one point in my life I thought I was going to be a poet? Things change! Plans fall apart! And sometimes it’s a good thing. I can honestly say I have an anxiety attack every time I think about a parallel version of myself that writes poetry for a living. I love poetry, but only in the sense that poetry exists apart from me as beautiful words I have no responsibility for but can still carry in my back pocket like a good luck charm.

Right now I have “Three of Cups” by Marty McConnell pinned to the bulletin board behind my laptop. “I will bend toward joy until the bending’s its own pleasure,” she writes. “Anything that moves the world toward light is a blessing.” There’s simplicity in those lines. Anything that moves the world toward light is a blessing. Anything. Not only counseling or poetry, a finished manuscript, bodies free of pain. Anything. Cashiers at Target. Snail mail. Chocolate chip cookies.

Here’s what the ocean sounds like.

I’m trying to remember that, even as things change, even as plans fall apart. I will bend toward joy until the bending’s its own pleasure. Which means there’s joy to be found in career crises and job hunts and frantic, last-minute résumé upheavals. I just have to search for it.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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