Many years ago I came across a refrigerator magnet in a quirky gift shop that I have often recalled since. On it, a line-drawn skeleton lies in repose in an open coffin; a thought bubble rising from his skull asks: “I wonder what I’m going to be when I grow up?”
To say I’m a jack-of-all-trades is an understatement. I’ve been a business consultant and a professional weaver. I’ve sold cheese and paté in a European capital. I’ve been a project manager at a translation company and I’ve sold art and antiques on the nation’s largest public television auction. I was the office manager at a textile conservation center that worked on Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress and Babe Ruth’s baseball jersey and I conducted phone surveys of college students. The past twenty years of my professional life have been circuitous path.
While I am grateful for my broad range of marketable skills and my uncanny luck finding fascinating jobs, I’ve envied folks with a laser-like professional focus, able to immerse themselves in a body of knowledge and become a leader in an industry or organization. Most of all, I’ve envied those with a calling, with a joyful sense that their professional lives and personal interests are perfectly entwined.
Lately though I’m noticing that even in my own life, the lines between the personal and the professional — and even the political — are becoming blurred. My experience advocating for my son’s medical, behavioral and cognitive needs have actual street value, and I’m being paid to pull up a seat to the table and share what I know. The work, although not directly, is funded by policy which I in some insignificant way have tried to help sustain. Through this work, I learn of resources which will directly benefit my son and family. Suddenly, it’s all of a piece. And I like this feeling.
I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t set out to do this. I don’t think most disability advocates did. We were all just out there, doing our thing, being a waitress or a salesperson or a book keeper, when along comes this wonderful child that changes everything. And suddenly, the Personal is Political is Professional.