Friday, February 09, 2007

Finding true north

(I am feeling very ill as I write this, so please excuse my foggy thoughts. It's almost nap time...)

Which way is north? To find the answer to this question, you might take out compass and wait for the needle to point to the "N". Or, you may take out a map, and let the map tell you which way is north. Both of these methods (Magnetic North and Grid North) would tell you which way is relatively north, but neither of these would point you to "true north". True north is the direction that points directly to the north pole.

For the sake of discussion, let's say that we're looking for our "true north" in life. While I do not fully understand all the differences between true north, grid north, and magnetic north, I do understand that the differences are significant enough to throw you off course if you are looking for true north. Simply going "north" may not lead you to the place you ultimately wish to be.

And where is that? I am in a place of finding my own true north. I think that finding your true north is about learning who you are apart from other people's opinions or expectations, or even the expectations you've placed on yourself that do not reconcile with who you are when everything is stripped away. When you get to that place within yourself where nothing matters except being true to the person God made you to be, then I think you've found your true north.

I can think of countless times in my life when I've been going "north", but ended up in a place that was only in close proximity to where I wanted to be. I've ended up in places that were good, but not fulfilling. Places that had promises of their own, but promises I realized I wanted no part of, because they meant nothing to me.

Most recently, I realized a few things about myself and my pursuit of true north. I realized that pursuing a career simply because it was one that would pay well was utterly distasteful to me. I was considering changing my college major from social work to legal assisting, and was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the classes I had taken so far could be applied toward that degree. So, I started taking classes in paralegal studies, and it did not take long for me to understand one thing: I LOATHED the idea of being a paralegal! I love people, and I want to work in a field that allows me to get my hands dirty as I help "the least of these" work out problems that most people would avoid like the plague. I have no desire to sit in a pristine office, hiding behind law books, case studies, minute legalities that mean nothing to me, and mountains of paperwork with deadlines attached. Yes, I could make a ridiculously good living as a paralegal...and be utterly miserable the entire time. I have realized I'd rather make a very modest living and be ridiculously happy doing it.

I have been exploring the idea of working in mental health again, eventually. Come what may, I cannot deny that I have such a burden for people who are working through mental health or emotional issues. I know the mental health system is utterly dysfunctional, perpetuates problems rather than solving them, and does little to encourage mental "health" of any kind. It's a broken system, badly in need of reform. Still, does that mean that those who have a desire to help should bow out and look for greener pastures? Perhaps find a way to help that does not require so much of their patience, endurance, fortitude, and ability to take it on the chin when the state decides what they're doing isn't that important? I am beginning to believe that the answer there is a resounding NO!

So, I am looking into colleges that offer a program for Mental Health Technician. That allows me to have the clinical understanding of the mental health issues, but still serve in a capacity that allows me to "get my hands dirty" in helping those who are struggling through toward wellness. So far, I haven't found any colleges in Michigan that offer such a program. But, we'll see where God leads.

You know, my former fiance told me that he believed my job at the non-profit organization where I now work was going to be a springboard toward greater things in my life. I believe he was right. This job has brought to light things that I've kept hidden for a long time, out of fear of reliving my horrific experience with CMH. I believe this job allowed me to see that I was pursuing a path that was not my true north, and shined a light on the path that was. It's really something, the way God works all things together for good.

"I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do." Helen Keller

You are a gifted writer -- in addition to being compassionate toward nutsos.

I'm sure you will find where you belong. Just head due North.

(PS: I use the term "nutsos" in a purposely crass way, but I'm not actually that insensitive. Good for you for wanting to help people hands-on. It's a gift.)
I am sure that you use the term "nutsos" with nothing but the utmost respect toward those you are referring to.

Thanks for your encourgement. I am sure that, as always, God has a plan here...and it's bigger and better than anything I could imagine. :)
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