Monday, March 04, 2013

it's work, this life

An old friend told me the other day that she was totally expendable. There was nothing she did, she said, that couldn't be carried out by someone else instead. I'm sure my face signaled surprise at that point, because she looked at me and said, "And the same goes for you".

No one has ever told me anything similar before.

My friend is a middle-aged woman just as I am. But she lives in Sweden, not in the US. And I think her, in my mind, depressing outlook stems from the fact that you get "old" earlier in Sweden than you do here. No one will hire you if you're over 50, the saying goes. At least not if you are a woman.

I've taught at a Jesuit university for almost exactly 13 years. The Jesuits are big on vocation - the idea that as a person in the world part of your job is to find the place where "your greatest talent meets the world's greatest need."

I am sure there are hundreds of people who can teach my classes or take my photos. But I don't think of my work that way. Instead I tell myself that where ever I am at any given point, that's exactly where I'm supposed to be. I, no one else. And: Wherever I am, I have to stay open and sensitive to my surroundings so that I can see clearly what it is that I'm needed to do.


Katie H said...

Whether you or your friend are right, we chose actively every day what we believe. And if it doesn't serve us, it's best left behind. If your friend's life is richer from her beliefs, then she could stick with it. Perhaps it isn't important to her to feel needed. I mean, theoretically, we are all replaceable. But how is that fact relevant to our lives? In the day-to-day living of my life, I know that if I can make a positive difference to somebody each day, then I'm satisfied to be here.

Anna said...

I'd say 50 is positive thinking. It gets increasingly difficult after 40 to get a new job in Sweden (unless of course you're very specialized or know people).