Will I ever really be able to change the world?
Do you want to change the world? What does that even mean?! I’m not sure I really know, but I know that I want to.
I have just started having some coaching sessions. (If you’ve never had a coach and you have the opportunity, I could not recommend it highly enough!)
In my first session I shared some of what my life has looked like so far. University, work and various achievements within work, writing a book, being mum to two kids… It was a list that I know I would look at and, if it was for someone else, I’d be impressed and think, ‘wow, you’ve done a lot by 32.’ But, when someone else gives me that reaction, my gut says, ‘but it’s not enough’.
It’s something I’ve written about before. There’s a whole chapter in my book about the word ‘enough’ and I’ve written blog posts and articles about it. In fact, just as I finished writing my book I found myself thinking about this need to always do more. I shared how I longed for the day I would complete enough tasks to stop and rest and enjoy that accomplishment. However, even then I realised the reality is that it will never happen. There will always be more to do, and I will always find more to do.
So, since this came up again in my coaching, I decided I needed to spend some more time thinking about it. About why I felt I could never do enough. About why I felt so desperately that I needed to always be doing more. And, not just more but more stuff with bigger impact. I made a note in my diary for this evening which said, ‘Think about changing the world.’ No big deal. Just a light Saturday evening.
I think this could be a long one, you might want to make yourself a cup of tea!
Although I’ve only recently been able to find the words to articulate this feeling it’s something I have felt for a long time. An uneasiness. A dissatisfaction. This feeling that I can’t quite figure out what it is that I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing. This feeling that what I am doing isn’t enough.
At sixth form we met with a careers advisor to chat about what we wanted to do in the future. I knew that what I wanted was to do hospitality and catering. My part-time jobs as a teenager had been in pubs, hotels and at catered events. It was something I knew I could do but that wasn’t why I wanted to do it. I don’t think I really knew at the time but what I loved about working in hospitality was the opportunity for connection. I loved that I could provide a service that would make someone happy. That I could have a conversation and connection with a person which might have an impact on their day.
I wasn’t able to articulate that at the time. The response I got was ‘if you can get good grades you should do Law or Medicine’. (There is a whole different blog post waiting to be written about this conversation!) I wasn’t taking any science subjects so I applied to study Law.
I didn’t want to be a lawyer
Getting into University was an interesting experience. I didn’t get the grades I was predicted but I went for an interview and they accepted me. So, it felt like it was the place I was supposed to be. When I started to wonder whether I really did want to be a lawyer, it felt like there was a lot of pressure to stick with it.
However, I remember the moment I knew I had to change courses. I asked another student if they were enjoying Law and they replied, ‘no, but I’m going to earn lots of money’. In that moment, I knew that wasn’t enough for me. Earning a lot of money wasn’t enough for me.
I decided I needed to do a degree which qualified me to leave University and work with people. So, I transferred to Social Work. Long story short, most of my placements weren’t even with Social Workers and the Social Workers I did meet were overstretched, stressed and cancelling holidays because their caseload was too big. I visited families who desperately needed help and was told we couldn’t help. Sometimes due to a lack of funding, sometimes due to them not being in quite enough need. I graduated and I knew I couldn’t go into a role where I was faced with heartbreaking circumstances where I would have to say, ‘we can’t help you.’
Out into the big wide world
I moved to London and began working as a coach with young people who weren’t in education, employment or training. I loved this job. Seeing the young people realise their potential brought me life. I loved knowing I was able to make a difference.
The complication with this role was that you needed to be going to the church linked to the project you were a part of and when I got engaged my husband was working for another church. At the time it got messy. I always intended to keep going to the church so I could keep my job but no one asked me. I was simply told I would have to work somewhere else within the organisation. To say I was hurt would be an understatement. And, I was so much less able to speak up for myself then than I am now so I didn’t feel able to challenge it.
Moving into a different role broke my heart. Not being able to do the job I loved was really difficult. I remember vividly watching the student celebrations one evening and sobbing all the way home because I could not be a part of it.
Soon after this I moved on to work as a Children and Families Pastor – ironically at the same church I never intended to leave – and I loved the opportunity to connect with people again. To love families, and to love children and invest in their lives. At this point I knew this wouldn’t be my long-term career but I loved that my husband and I could work at the same place (he also got a job there at the same time I did). I loved that I could build deep relationships. And, I loved knowing I was a part of something bigger than me.
I was on maternity leave when my husband and I both decided to move on from our jobs. We’d longed for change for such a long time and it had become quite a difficult place to work. We left at the same time as a lot of other staff and it was the right time to move on.
My next role was working with a Christian organisation, again with children and families. During this role was probably the first time I really realised how much I love to create relationships and network in order to work towards a specific mission.
Baby number two came along and I moved on from this role. This is when I wrote my book, and I began to take funerals. After the book was finished I also began to work for a local charity.
Why am I writing out my CV?
The reason, I think, that I am detailing my work history is because I think to answer the question of why I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do enough I need to look at what I have done.
And over the last few weeks, as I’ve reflected back on the jobs I’ve done, I realise that it’s less a dissatisfaction with what I have done but more with what could have been. I could have carried on doing a job I absolutely loved but the organisation let me down. I had this crazy assumption that working for a church would be very different to how it was, and I left hurt and disappointed. And this doesn’t just apply to work. I have been a part of organisations and projects in various ways because I believed they were going to ‘change the world’ or at least try to and I have been left disappointed.
Maybe I did all I could have done within those places. Perhaps this deep desire to speak up against injustice, to make a difference, to connect deeply with community, is always going to leave me feeling disappointed in spaces that fall short. Maybe every space will always fall short. I will always fall short.
Enough is a never ending measurement.
If I measure what I am doing in ‘enoughs’ then I will never be doing well because there is always more that can be done. Enough is a never ending measurement.
And, the reality is, although I am desperately striving to find my purpose or to feel contentment, maybe I need to feel this deep dissatisfaction. Maybe I need to always know that I could be doing more because it is what drives me. It moves me on from places where I know I have done all I can do. Moves me on to places where I can join with others who also want to do more. Stops me from becoming complacent.
Inventing something miraculous, setting-up a worldwide mission charity, or writing a best-selling self-help book which changes people’s lives are not goals which drive me. Maybe I will do those things but I’m not aiming for them! I don’t know what I’m striving for but I know I want to change the world.
I ❤️️ Mother Teresa
Connection, building community and creating space for honest conversation have become passions of mine. Those things seep into my work and my life and I know that when I do those things I am being more the person I was designed to be. Sometimes I feel stuck, I feel powerless, like I don’t have a platform to lead from but (and I could quote Mother Teresa all day long) I remind myself of this wisdom from Mother Teresa, “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Person to person. Connection. I look at Mother Teresa as someone who changed the world and she was all about connection and just loving the person in front of her.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”Mother Teresa
She didn’t believe she alone could change the world but that didn’t stop her from doing what she could.
I will never be able to change the whole world.
Changing the world is a pretty huge ambition. I will never be able to do ‘enough’. It’s important that I realise that so I don’t do too much, so that I remember to pause, be still and focus on the present. But, it’s also important that I remember that, whilst I may not ever be able to do enough, I can do something. I do not want to lose my dissatisfaction or my anger over injustice, racism, poverty, all that is wrong in the world. It’s like trying to change a part of who I am. I do not want to feel content because it is not possible to be content whilst there is so much wrong with the world.
Whilst I will never be able to do enough, I can look back at what I have done and choose to pause and recognise it as a lot. I can see the stones I have cast. I can choose that response rather than asking ‘Is it enough?’ because ultimately I don’t need to ask that question any more. It never will be. But it is something.
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