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AmeriSaur- What happens when an AmeriCorps supervisor hits the wall?

April 15, 2010

Passion- the internal drive to get out of bed in the morning, a fundamental part of life, not something I found during miles 10 -13 of a recent half marathon.

Last weekend I ran a half marathon (feel free to congratulate me in the comments section). During the two and half hours it took me to “run” the 13.1 mile course I had plenty of time to think and reflect about passion and what drives and motivates me… that was until I hit mile ten and wanted nothing more than to cry, grab a taxi, and find the nearest doughnut shop. I totally hit the wall. I found myself in downtown Portland, OR, in pain, really sweaty with a choice to make: either pick myself up and finish what I started or stop. One foot in front of the other I finished the last three point one miles and by the time I hit the end I was “running like I stole something”. For reference it hurts to walk today.

In previous posts I’ve acknowledged that I’ve “hit the wall” as an AmeriCorps project supervisor and unlike my half marathon experience I’ve reluctantly made the choice to move on. To help me climb over the wall and move on I issued homework: realize my passion, find my dream. The half marathon was difficult but I think my self-issued homework was even more challenging and when I asked some of my current team members and friends I realized that a lot of twenty and thirty somethings don’t really know what they are passionate about either. Do we have a generation of folks who failed to learn how to dream or is it part of the twenty/thirty something experience, or is it a Pacific Northwest thing? I find it interesting that a lot of current AmeriCorps members and recent alumni are currently struggling with trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their life. As a group we are individuals who have dedicated a significant amount of time to help others but when it comes to our own lives many of us could probably use some help. Maybe we should change the AmeriCorps benefit package: stipend, education award, professional career councilor/ therapy! I think we should look to it.

While I wrestle with this I am giving myself (and you dear readers) another week to find passion. In the meantime I am going to continue to research this intersection between missing passion and AmeriCorps service (maybe it is all in my head but I think I’m on to something) and I’m starting a list of my own possible passions: serving others, pop culture, music/art/drama, humor, good food, creating, working with others, pretending, a hand-me-down-couch to watch Buffy on…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 10:18 am

    I don’t think it’s that the passion is missing, but rather the fact that the majority of us are overwhelmed by options of things to be passionate about. My service is in housing, but I’m good at large-scale event planning, writing, and research. I’m passionate about activism, but that’s something that’s limited by the federal-contractor-like aspect of my service, as well. So I blog. But that doesn’t mean that everything else is less important to me…

    Are you really clueless as to what your passion is? Or are there too many options to consider picking just one?

  2. Patrick Bader permalink
    April 15, 2010 4:11 pm

    I feel you. I served for 2 years, and managed an AmeriCorps program for 2 more, and then I left. I was burnt out, I went to grad school and got more in touch with other things that motivate me besides service. I think a lot of us come into service with the belief that giving to others should be enough to sustain us, and when we get burnt out and overwhelmed, tend to feel guilty. I came into service because I did not want to participate in the for-profit mentality of the world. I want more out of the work that I do than money or stability, and this attracted me to national service. But knowing what you don’t want to do is not the same as knowing what you do want to do. It is a harder path to follow because it is outside of the norm. I think you’ve got part of it down: reflection. Maybe expand your thoughts from finding your passion to thinking about the things that will make your work life sustainable. For me that meant finding a job where I could be outside and where I felt supported and empowered to make decisions. That’s not really a job description or a passion, but I know that I need these things to be part of my working environment for me to feel personally fulfilled.

  3. Eilidh Lowery permalink
    April 16, 2010 11:04 am

    I agree with Kate! There are so many options and it’s hard to figure out what will be the best fit. I see this is a lot of my friends, AmeriCorps alum and not. Another challenge is that there relay isn’t one right answer. No job is a perfect realization of our passion, it’s finding what fits the best now. I also know that this passion thing was an issue back in my AmeriCorps day. Part of the problem is that most of us become involved with national service because of a desire to do direct service. As we move into the management part though we are removed from that and become engaged in the administration of the programs. We all know this is vital and we are in direct service with our AmeriCorps members, but by definition the kind of work being done in this role can easily stifle some of the passion! Although I’m sure some people are passionate about maintaining time sheets properly.
    I guess you just have to figure out which taxi to jump into and what donut shop you’ll be going to but know that no matter what you decide you will enjoy some deliciousness in your new setting!

  4. April 16, 2010 12:36 pm

    Congratulations to you (and me) on that dang half marathon. Yes…post-event walking proved challenging.

    I don’t know if it’ll be any consolation to you at all, but you and your AmeriCorps pals aren’t alone in this conundrum. I’m certainly afflicted too, and a number of my 30ish non-profiter and profiter friends as well. It makes me think of what a naturopath told me awhile back about my sleep troubles–“You’re 26. It’s hard to be 26.” I don’t know if 30 is any easier, and that’s not really the answer I’m looking for.

    Perhaps Kate is right…too many options! And that for a crew who’s focus is a little crazy from being pulled in so many curricular and extra-curriculuar directions since our birth in the 80s.


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