to heck with career

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”
– Dalai Lama

When I lived in Brooklyn, I was a member of the Park Slope Food Coop. Each member is required to work a two hour and forty-five minute shift once a month. I signed up to be a cashier since I was good with numbers and enjoyed interacting with different people as they came through the line. I also had fun keeping an eye out for wheat pennies, two dollar bills, silver dimes, and quarters (minted before 1965), and weathered nickels. At the end of the shift, I’d buy any of those treasures from my drawer and shove them in my pocket with a grin.

Well, one day, a manager of the Coop told me that, since I was such a good cashier, they wanted to promote me to a cashier trainer. I know that sounds glamorous, but the promotion didn’t make me happy. My job became explaining the same thing over and over again instead of getting to do it myself. I noticed my energy drop right when the training shifts started, in a way it hadn’t dropped when I was just a plain ol’ cashier.

So you know what I did? I demoted myself at the Park Slope Food Coop. I told the managers that training wasn’t my thing but that I would happily resume my job as a good cashier for two hours and forty-five minutes a month.

An unfolding life is much more interesting than a career trajectory or a resume. Success and titles have value, sure, but do they trump the value of adventure, passion, feeling alive every day, time with loved ones, and creativity?

Have you ever willingly demoted yourself or turned down what others perceived to be an opportunity or honor?