NBC News recently published a story about the increasing and increasingly fragmented manner in which people fashion a career by piecing a number of part-time, moonlighting and contract positions together. These individuals either were downsized out of their traditional 9 - 5 careers, or deliberately chose the professional and personal flexibility that such arrangements afforded them. It was estimated that about 1/3 of US workers operate in these 'slasher' roles (chef/comedian, teacher/writer, or lawyer/custom cake baker). 42 million Americans shuttle between these often disparate jobs and roles to synthesize something amounting to a full-time job. Some do this out of necessity; other lucky souls have the lattitude to function in this way because a) their personal circumstances allow them the freedom to eshew the traditional full-time work load/path, or b) they are part of a multi-income family, or c) they find that the personal peril of a claustrophobic cubicle life to be too high a personal cost to pay.
I fall into the third category. I wish I didn't. I wish I didn't find sitting at a desk or chained to a workstation to be an overwhelmingly soul draining affair. But I do. So I express a sincere gratitude to the Army for the affording me the career wiggle room to pick and choose those projects to which I devote my time and effort. I teach and I write. I get to do what I love. I'm able to do things that truly reflect who I am. I make a pittance, but my wife, bless her soul, encourages this Peter Pan lifestyle. The military, whatever else you say about it, is about the most secure employment you'd hope to find in these perilous economic times. And the upside for us military spouses is that, at least for the time being, we have the discretion and opportunity to pursue those 'career' (ahem, cough) pursuits we truly want and enjoy. I know that people are hurting for employment. It hurts me to see all of those individuals struggling to provide for themselves and their families. I know full well that there are millions of people who would like nothing more that to sit in one of those soul-crushing cubicles and earn a living. And it's because of this that I know, with greater and greater clarity, that I live a charmed life. Our income stream is all but guaranteed. I am free to work. However, I am not free from work. Because I think, at its essence, a successful life involves a successful career, and one that reflects your inner priorities, abilities and aspirations. If in some way, 'you are what you do' (an old Italian saying), your self-concept is intimately related to how you live your days. Who you are is directly related to how you impact the world. But at its best, the work you do, and how you impact the world as a result, is a direct reflection of who you truly are.
One common difference between a 'career' or a 'profession' and a 'job' is that a professional's self-concept and identity are closely tied with what they do for a living. If you have a job, the story goes, you don't really see yourself as that job. Make no mistake, all work is noble if it is nobly done. But when someone has a 'job', they don't identify themselves by that job. It's just something they do. But I don't think a physician would ever say "I do doctor work". Rather, it would come much closer to "I am a physician." Identity and work...the same.
So I'd advise any military spouse: ask yourself what you love doing. Not just for money...what do you enjoy doing? Where are your talents best applied? What do you find most gratifying? Whatever it is, there is at least a slasher career out there for you. Child care? Gardening? Community organization? (Heck, you might even parlay that into becoming president...) Whatever it is, you too can find something that resonates with you. Some gig, some part-time work, some very small business owner (number of employees: 1). Because for all of its headaches, being a military spouse has, as its one big advantage, the opportunity to pursue employment wherein the paycheck is not the top priority for getting out of bed that day. Yes, I know that many, many families are utterly dependent on generating two full-time incomes. but if you're not a part of one of those families, give slasher work a try. It might not be part of a long-term and stable 'career', but it can be one of those opportunities to see yourself reflected in what you do, and what you love doing.
I am a slasher professional. And I recommend it to anyone.