Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Green Dream Job

As a freelance writer, part-time teacher, part-time speaker, and sustainability activist and volunteer, I often get the question, “So, what do you actually do for a living?” or “How do you pay your bills?” It’s a fair question. After all, I’m always espousing the value of pursuing your passions and making a living doing something that makes a difference.

The answer, of course, is complicated. As is the case with many writers, I have had to come up with many different ways to minimize and yes, eventually pay those pesky bills. The short answer is that I write and I speak about what I write. I write for pretty much anyone who asks me to, and I hope that they are able to pay me a bit of money so that I can keep writing. I also teach writing and even yoga sometimes, both of which are endeavors I love. The energy and creativity that teaching requires is renewing and gratifying, regardless of the subject matter.

No matter how creative I have to be to make ends meet, the effort and even the stress of a career like mine is always worthwhile because I get to research and write about issues that matter. What’s more, I have the privilege of speaking to people about tangible ways they can take action. I love my job, and I believe strongly in the work I do. Sometimes I even get to plan parties, like the Party with a Purpose we recently threw here in Seattle. By definition, therefore, and no matter what the number is in my bank account (and it’s often a minuscule one), I consider myself successful.

It wasn’t always this way. My route to a dream job was a circuitous one. In my early twenties, I worked in production on big budget movies in Los Angeles. I landed my first “dream job” producing a low-budget independent film, and from there I was able to find jobs on Hollywood blockbusters, working with stars like Harrison Ford and Cameron Diaz. While I do believe that the medium of film has the power to change the way people think about important issues, I didn’t feel like I was using my talents to effect change from my post in the production office. The job was fun and exciting though, and I cultivated many of the traits I would need to pursue a career in writing—patience, persistence, creativity, multitasking, organization, and the ability to work insanely long hours while still keeping a smile on my face. I’m grateful for my time in the film industry, and I’m also glad that I experienced my quarterlife crisis right on schedule at the age of twenty-five.

I went looking for the kind of book that I would eventually write once I realized it didn’t yet exist—one that goes beyond raising awareness by offering tangible suggestions and inspirational stories about people all over the world who are making a difference. I left the film industry to teach middle school English and build my platform as a writer. After a few years of teaching and writing, I was able to find an agent and publisher for my book. Along the way I encountered many people who inspired me and encouraged me to keep writing, even when rejections greatly outnumbered acceptances. I met people who had started nonprofit organizations and sustainable businesses, and I met volunteers who changed their entire career paths because they were so moved by what they had seen while volunteering. I met scientists, activists, lawyers, politicians, teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, writers, students, and countless others who devoted themselves tirelessly to the issues they were passionate about. Even as the circle of world changers I personally know continues to expand, I am continuously reminded of the energy, innovation, and potential of my generation and the next. These people also reinforce my belief that no matter what we decide to do for a living, we all have a tremendous capacity to make a difference.

Photos courtesy of Paul Grady

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