Reclaiming our masculinity and finding our authentic life path is a journey of uncovering stories and assumptions. We’re all told a lot of stories by our families and the culture at large and so we end up with a bunch of false beliefs about work and livelihood, stories about who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. Thus our work tends to carry the weight of these illusions and ends up tangled up with our identities and sense of worth. In my own life, I have found that digging through these stories lets me reach the truth buried beneath them: the truth of my authentic desires and capacity to make my own choices.
In 2012 I had just finished my graduate program with a degree in conflict transformation and I was pursuing a job in the non-profit world. I had been unofficially accepted for a position developing Restorative Justice Initiatives in Berkeley CA. The job was right in line with exactly what I had been doing and what I thought I wanted, and it came with a good salary. I had visions and dreams of owning my own house, and all the things that I now could have with such a job; status and prestige, a nice place to live, a “real” relationship and kids. For a few weeks I was strung along, believing I had this job and my fantasies swelled. Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t have the job. The funding for the position fell through and it was now longer available. I was devastated. Disappointment, anger and deep sadness and regret were all consuming.
I expressed these painful feelings to my masculinity group and got the attention and support I needed to see them through and get some clarity on the other side. I realized that the beliefs I had attached to this job were rooted in my upbringing, that my sense of worthiness and goodness as a person was attached to my ability to achieve a certain mark of success and life style. I realized I had been living under this belief for a long time, and it didn’t leave much room for me to know who I really was and what I really wanted or was called to do. I realized that working for a non-profit conflict mediation/ restorative justice organization was not really what I wanted or where I felt called. I had more work to do to heal, find my own path, rooted in my own deep joy. What I really wanted in the meantime was to build, to work with my hands and allow my mind and my spirit to heal by freely exploring possibilities.
I have been making a living as a builder ever since. Recently, since I’ve been simultaneously developing my professional healing practice, I’ve been noticing those old stories creeping back in. I find myself anxious to quit the building work and jump full time into seeing clients and running my practice. At times I feel frustrated and get hard on myself for still doing carpentry because it is not as prestigious or lucrative as something else. Again I am attaching my goodness and worthiness as a person to my livelihood.
I am so blessed to have learned skills and developed community around me to be able to notice these stories, because they can be really destructive. These stories are not coming from me, they are not coming from my guides, Higher Power, or those who help me on my path. They are coming from the society I grew up in, which values intellectual work over physical work. It has nothing to do with me and my path and purpose. And yet if I am not meticulous and prioritizing my healing work every day, my life could easily be swept away by these lies.
My truth is that I love carpentry, and I am called to it. It is a craft and a skill that is essential to my being. I have always been a builder, since I was a child, I spent hours down in our basement tinkering with Dad’s tools, seeing the way things fit together, building, breaking and building again. I might at some point be called away from building as a main source of livelihood, but the desire, or goal to do so comes exclusively from stories and values that are not my own. The pressure to choose one livelihood path over the other also comes from some story that doesn’t serve me. My truth is that I don’t have to choose one or the other. I choose both fully and completely. They both serve me, complement each other, and provide what I need in different ways. They are vibrant expressions of different parts of myself. And all the authentic parts of myself are essential to my being and deserve my attention and respect.
When it comes to work, where are you living in pattern or external expectation rather than in your empowered choice and reality?
What are the stories and beliefs that you hold about your work or livelihood, and what they say about you and who you are?
What are the different ways that your livelihood actually serves you and your highest purpose?