Life Lesson: Finding Meaning

I often hear people talk about their jobs being rewarding or meaningful. Or more accurately they want jobs that are rewarding or meaningful. I, for some reason, have been equating doing work that feels important with having fun. But in the last several weeks I am starting to see it differently.

As a personal trainer and a yoga instructor, I meet a variety of people because, well, everyone wants to be in shape. The only real limiting factor for who I meet is income and even still group fitness is fairly economical so that broadens the range.

I am beginning to change my perspective on what I do thanks to some new people. In the last several months my weekly agenda of clients has changed rather dramatically and their motivations are equally striking.

It used to be that the majority of my clientele was looking to be in better health and that was great. But now I see clients who are battling the effects of trauma, long-ago brain injuries, grief, recovering from cancer treatment, and dealing with spinal issues.

In the most direct ways, I am not helping my clients deal with these challenges but, of course, these experiences affect our interactions as well. It colors their life, moment to moment. And many times I, accidentally, get a front-row seat.

I see their valiant efforts to persevere and go on after tremendous loss. I hold space for tears among the breaths, the bench press and the downward-facing dog. Sometimes, I cry too.

I witness the decades-long fatigue of working through deficits left by injury. The willingness to keep pushing forward in the face of an adversity that will never fully be overcome.

I am privileged to partner with clients who I can only consider friends after they show me their vulnerabilities and I am offered the chance to do my small part of helping.

Each day, I try to provide skills, exercises and repetitions that I think will draw them closer to their goals, closer to the change they want. But I am the one who’s really being changed.

And this is where my revelation occurred. I had some strange idea that my work being meaningful would also involve some sort of sweet spot; that I would feel like I had it figured out, that I would no longer suffer from self-doubt; that I would no longer feel the stress of serving those with heavy burdens. I was mistaken.

I am learning that having a career that is worthwhile innately needs to involve risk. As they say, you need to have some skin in the game. You have to incur the chance of making a wrong turn, saying the wrong thing, having it all go wrong.

I also need to know how to disconnect at the end of the day. I need to practice self-care knowing that I can only do my part. I need to be able to differentiate my own emotions and what I picked up from someone else. I need to not over-inflate my importance or undervalue it either.

Living a life that matters, it turns out, can be fun and rewarding but it’s also messy, stressful, heart-breaking, disappointing and unfair. You gotta give to get and on most days you hope that generally breaks even.

Sunshine & Sarcasm,

Lowi & G

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