No matter how many ridiculous dates I went on in my twenties (ask me about the guy who fell asleep during dinner on a first date), I swore I would never use an online dating site. In May, my eHarmony-matched husband and I celebrated our 11th anniversary with tapas and sangria.
In high school I confessed to my mother that I never, ever wanted to have a baby. Never. Adopt, maybe. But pregnancy? Childbirth? Absolutely not. Don’t tell the daughter that I labored for 30 hours to deliver into this world. She’s starting first grade in a couple of weeks.
When my husband and I were newlyweds and started looking for a dog to adopt together, we agreed to rule out yappy, high-maintenance dogs and anything smaller than a cocker spaniel, and then we devoted the next ten years to the adoration and medical care of an epileptic chihuahua who hated nearly every person and animal he ever met.
I was living on the north side of Chicago when I met my now husband, Les, and I distinctly remember a conversation early in our dating life where I told him that I would live in the city, or I would live in the boonies, but I would never, ever live in the suburbs. “I need either the walkable, anonymous, buzz of the city or a sprawling green privacy of rural life. I can’t live in the soulless suburbs”. Now, of course, I live in the western suburbs and play pickleball with my neighbors and drive a crossover SUV.
All I’m saying is that when I finally write my memoir, the subtitle is going to be “All the things I swore I’d never do”.
When I started looking for a job in June, I sat down and wrote out a list of my “must haves” and used that list of non-negotiables to set my job search engine parameters:
- The job must be in the suburbs with no more than 20 minutes commute time.
- Ideally 25-29 hours per week.
- The job could be full time if it had a flexible schedule and was 100% remote.
- No required travel.
- And I didn’t want to work for a religious nonprofit anymore.
The job market is bananas right now, so these criteria pulled pages upon pages of job openings. I have over twenty years of nonprofit experience, including seven years doing the one thing that makes nonprofit hiring managers salivate all over their laptops – writing government grants.
I sent some resumes. I applied for some part-time and some remote full-time jobs. I had some interviews. After each encounter with a recruiter, I had to unclench my jaw just to describe the job to Les. It became clear very quickly that I really REALLY did not want to be a grant writer anymore. The deadlines and the policies and the budgets and the reporting. Gag.
The problem was that none of the resumes I sent out for other types of nonprofit jobs got any nibbles. I didn’t want to be a grant writer anymore, but the nonprofit job world very much wanted me to be a grant writer.
Then one day I got a LinkedIn message from a recruiter at an executive search firm asking me if I would like to talk with him about an Executive Director job. His email was very light on details, but I admit I was flattered that someone would think I could be qualified to be an Executive anything, so I agreed to talk with him.
And that was the first step of the month-long process that led to me accepting the Executive Director position for Hopebound Ministries with Felician Services in Chicago.
If that sounds like a full time job with a religious organization that will require an hour commute each way and cross-country travel, you would be correct.
The Felician Sisters are a Catholic order of nuns with convents around the US. Sisters at several of these convents have established smallish-scale social service programs in their communities to meet the needs of their neighbors; things like food pantries, services to people experiencing homelessness, and after-school programs. Right now, these sisters are operating these services at a very grass-roots level. As ED, I’ll be helping the nuns assess community needs and determine how best to make their programs sustainable and more accessible. I’ll need to do a bit of traveling, a bit of coaching, and a lot of relational, community-building work. And maybe a little grant writing.
Much to my surprise and delight, Felician Services (the social service arm of the order) only requires that its employees “affirm the dignity of all people” – the HR director assured me that I need not be Catholic – or anything else – to work with them. No doctrinal statement to sign, no particular worldview to espouse, other than affirming the dignity of people. I can do that!
This job is nothing at all what I was looking for, and would have been filtered out in any of the CareerBuilder/Indeed/NPO.Net job search parameters I had set up. I still don’t know how this recruiter found me or what it was about my LinkedIn page that made him send that message, but here we are. The job fell out of the sky, and I grabbed it.
So of course I am throbbing with anxiety and excitement and imposter syndrome. Am I thrilled to have landed an intellectually challenging job that allows me to dig into the skills and expertise I’ve fought for over the last two decades of work? Yes. Am I happy to take on a role that pulls together some of my favorite pieces of all my previous jobs, and leaves my least favorite pieces to collect dust on my CV? Also, a big Yes.
But am I prepared to miss out on the after school debriefs where I get to take little peeks into my daughter’s inner life and social ecosystem? Am I ready to go back to being busy every single day? Am I finally going to learn to like podcasts and audiobooks for my commute? Am I really going to flop out of bed before sunrise and remain a functional human being? I don’t know.
For this job to work for our family, we need an after-school nanny who we’ll trust to shuttle our daughter from school to home and then chill with her until one of us wraps for the day. And we need a dog walker for our hound dog. And I’ll need to be up by 5:30 a.m. to get myself and then my kid ready to leave the house by 7:45 every morning. And then I’ll need to scream through my teeth into the windshield in rush hour traffic for at least an hour twice a day, three days a week. I get to have two days to work from home in a hybrid work model (a daily commute to the city would have been an actual deal breaker for me).
After almost two years of very part-time remote work and soft clothes and ease in our family routine, I’m nervous about adding that much hustle into my daily life. As I explained to my friend on the phone tonight, I’m not used to being places at “times” or doing things by “dates”. I’m definitely rusty at the social interaction and the hair styling and the outfit choosing. And the lunch packing and logistics coordination and the managing household support professionals.
It’s a lot. I’m still a little stunned, and totally thankful, for this new adventure. A friend who encouraged me to accept the job, even with all the stressful bits and imposter syndrome, reminded me not just to ask “What’s the worst that could happen?” but also “What’s the best that could happen?”.
Of course both of those questions feel like they require a COVID asterisk. I haven’t even allowed my brain to start What Iffing around COVID. One day at a time.
So here we go! Full time work for the first time in over eight years. Let’s hope it’s like riding a bike.