When I moved to Berlin, I took a big leap in the career category which took months of discernment and prayer and thoughtful consideration. I didn’t just take the leap lightly. I talked with my therapist and trusted friends and processed over and over with Ana. Ana and I had decided that perhaps it was time that when I went on personal leave with the UMC that I wouldn’t worry about paid work right away. This came on the heels of some realizations….
- I am yearning to write. I want to write about the Camino, pilgrimage, peregrination (another blog for another day about what and why and its coming I promise), theology from a different perspective and from different lands, but mostly about this idea of the search for new life and God in new ways.
- After 11 years in the pulpit with some not easy appointments, I came back from the Camino transformed but still very very tired of what I had been through in my life. While I still felt passion about my ministry, I felt myself getting cynical toward the church and I didn’t want to be in that space. I felt myself creating distance in order to figure out how I want to relate to the Church as a whole. And in that headspace, you need a little bit of distance from the thing you are figuring out how you want to relate with it. I also still feel like I was the best fit for what I was doing but I needed to recover and gain more energy for that work instead of exhausting myself and not doing what needed to be done for that amazing place.
- I want to travel and explore and this is the place and time to do it and in order to do that, I can’t really be tied to a 9-5, everyday job.
- We have the ways to be ok and afford our life right now from some very intentional planning and budgeting and prioritizing.
- My career is still intact if I take a little time on leave. And that is a healthy choice.
So I did it. I took the big leap. I went on leave and while my credentials are intact who knows what will happen in the future and what choices will be made.
BUT and this is a big one, I am constantly asked, “Have you found work yet?” “How can you NOT work?” “How are you surviving without paid work right now?” “When will you finally get a job while you are in Berlin?”
I think you get the idea. So this has put me into thinking about the nature of work and what it is and how we do it.
Out of that has come some realizations as I am in this place…
- Our concepts of time in the US or stereotypical busy American style is different than the rest of the world. It seems to me that Europeans are much better at a) taking their time off b) respecting being off the clock and living life and c) are good at not working all the time or pretending to be “busy” and productive all the time. It is not serving us well, people. It is harmful to our health to not take our time and care for ourselves. It is not a badge of honor to be going and busy all of the time. And I am fighting it constantly in my own self. I have started filling my time again and I constantly tell myself to not. It is ok to hang out at a café with friends on a Sunday for hours. I still get antsy but I am shifting this about myself. I was in language school yesterday and this topic came up. I finally had to admit this is the biggest adjustment to moving here for now…my adjustment of time and time off. I have blogged a little about this but it will come up again. And this means as well that it seems as though there is more space to explore and think and nurture what could be. Although it isn’t just Americans who ask me about my work.
- Even though I am not in paid work, I have found what I consider my work to be at this time and I gain more and more clarity around this the more I lean in. I am working and that work looks like….
- Writing as a discipline via blog, email list and things that I am cultivating on the side. There will be more day to day writing as we enter into Advent and I hope to do some self publishing in the near future. And sometimes I just write essay style to explore what I want to say. I am not making money at it right now but I hope to at some point and I have a paypal link if people want to contribute but it isn’t about the pay, its about the work, fulfilling passionate work.
- I am going to language school. I spend hours studying and 2.5 hours in class Monday-Thursday. This is part of my work in being here. Again, not paid, in fact, I pay to do it but it challenges me and expands my brain and helps me invest in this place. It is indeed, work.
- I am volunteering at the Refugio Café 5-10 hours a week. I make a few tips but I am not paid and it is directly to serving the refugee community. I am passionate about cultivating community, and contributing to helping this population. So it is work. Even if not paid.
- So my work is three fold right now. But what about money? I am incredibly lucky to have an incredibly supportive partner but I am making a few bucks here and there by walking dogs or taking care of kids or I might be an extra in a movie next week and freelancing a bit here and there. I came without debt and so I have little to cover and right now, that’s ok. Sure, its not a lifetime thing. Sure, I will need to make some money at some point but for now it is freeing to be in this place.
Perhaps our concept of work needs to change a bit. Plus, is it the most important thing about a person. Is it really the first question we must ask, “what do you do?”
The perception of how I answer that question has shifted a bit too because for me right now it really isn’t attached to how I am paid or if I am paid. If I am an extra in a movie, I still answer that question, “I am a Pastor.” I am not pastoring a church right now and I have no congregation to report to but my call is still that as an ordained pastor in the world, set aside to do God’s work. I don’t answer dog walker because I don’t think that is my work. See what I mean?
And being in this place allows that work to continue but in different ways.
How would you define your work?