Wednesday, March 28, 2007

what makes a good citizen?

I’ve been in a bad mood all week. Actually, if you were to look at a line graph of my attitude over the past few years, the most recent months in particular have been looking pretty bleak. It’s not that I’m pessimistic or that I’m not having a good time. And I’m pretty sure this isn’t my quarter life crisis. I already had that. I’m just in a rut. I feel like an ineffectual citizen. Unfulfilled. I really want to be effective and to feel good about what I’m doing, but I have no idea where to start or if I even have the ability to change.

In a brainstorming session today at work, we were trying to define and describe the life experiences that one must undertake in order to find a higher level of personal enrichment. Part of that, we decided, is taking responsibility as a good citizen.

But what does that mean? The Good Citizen’s Handbook defines a good citizen as someone who is clean, eats lots of meat, brushes his teeth, and arrives promptly at the dinner table, among other things.

That was fifty years ago. The expectations are a little different now and less measurable. A good citizen might be this: discovering your passion and using it to make a difference.

Discover, then take action.

You may not know what that passion is at first. But you will know that something is important to you when, as one person in the group described it, it makes your heart beat faster. And, she said, it’s important not to exclude that passion from your professional career. You should go to work thinking, “this is how I want to live my life.”

This is when I started to feel uncomfortable. We were talking about asking our students to do something so basic and elemental, while I’ve managed to live several complacent post-college years without fully addressing it.

It was an “Aha!” moment for me, as I immediately diverted my eyes to the floor and felt my heart beating faster. I guess my passion, at least for the moment, is going to have to be just that: finding my passion.

And I don’t think it will be so difficult. After all, I know what I love to do. I know what I’m good at. The challenge is to initiate that passion throughout my entire life: my job, my social interactions, my life pursuits. The challenge is going to be taking the time to reassess and reflect upon every aspect of my life. The challenge is going to be making some decisions and setting goals. And reaching them. Discover, then take action.

I think I’m up for the challenge. Finally.

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