The long term…

In Buddhism and Zen, in particular, we're trained to live in the moment. To make each and every moment the best it can be as it's all you've got.

However, it would be an extreme view and not of the Middle Way to completely disregard planning for the future.

I've been confused most of my life. I've always wanted to help people but I've never been sure how best to do that. 

I've waffled between three basic career options for years:

1. Educator

2. Cleric

3. Attorney

I have never worked as any of these on a career path. I have substitute taught and I'm a NALA certified paralegal. 

As for the the Cleric…well I've finally found a religious path that appeals to me and feels right. Unitarian Universalism always sounded like where I belong and now it feels like we've finally come home.

So at 31, I'm college educated, but my Interdisciplinary Studies Liberal Arts degree isn't worth the price I paid for it. I make less that $15 an hour at a job that is stressful and unfulfilling. I don't even consider my job as any sort of career. It's just a job. A low-paying one at that. I'm one of the "under-employed." Did I mention that I have an alternative certification under the W. Bush-era "No Child Left Behind." As it turns out, there was no shortage of high school social studies teachers.

I pursued the attorney thing a bit I went to night school to get a paralegal certification as a stepping stone to a career as a paralegal. What they don't tell you is that all paralegals start out as $9 an hour file clerks or receptionists and work their way up to paralegal, regardless of education. I can't afford a cut in pay, so, no. In order to go to law school that would put us another 40-50K (conservatively) in debt. I don't have the temperament for personal injury, criminal defense, or family law, either. So that leaves me to what?? Legal aid? Procedural law? Environmental Law? None of these is very lucrative and that means my wife would shoulder even more of my debt that she already has. 

I would love to teach. I like anything to do with knowledge. I love to write (obviously). I really enjoy pedagogy. There's really nothing wrong with teaching. However, I would need to go back and get a standard high school certification, or a masters and possibly a PhD to teach at the college level. While neither of these would be particularly arduous, Is it worth it financially? I mean you can't put a price on doing what you love, but I don't know if I'm ready to put us another 20-30K in debt for PhD and then try to find a local job. My wife will be a ChemE in two years (hopefully). A ChemE's best job market in the US (possibly the world) is right here in Houston, TX. 

So…we come to the least explored..Cleric. My earliest career suggestion came from my much beloved Senior minister growing up. He was certain I destined for ministry. I have the skill set for it. I'm a good speaker. I can write. I'm out-going and friendly and I love scholarly writing and critical analysis of literature. 

Unfortunately, God never spoke tome and he still doesn't. If he's out there, we aren't confidants. Moreover, I've come to believe that He's irrelevant to our own spiritual growth and development. God may or may not be there to to help out in some far distant magical/mystical way that we don't understand (not likely) but we have to do all the driving, regardless. 

That's why Buddhism speaks to me and why I chose it as a framework for my Spiritual Path. Unfortunately, the organizational forms that Buddhism has taken the west are not conducive to raising a child/family life and INTEGRATION into your life. I understand that Zen/Buddhism is a path of renunciation, but in the modern sense I don't think this is true. The Middle Way means, tome, fully integrating Practice in your lief and that means Life as it is, not going to live on a mountaintop or even doing a sesshin every month. An occasional retreat or Sesshin is fine but 2-3 a year?? Comeon who has the vacation time for that? Unless you're a Cleric then it's part of your job to be the best _________ you can be.

So I'm a Buddhist. I'm still not sure where I want to go with that. Soto Zen, organizationally, is austere and adult oriented. It's not a place for kids. It could be, but it would take offering other programs and most Soto centers are too focused on the Path and the practices prescribed by Sotoshu to walk the path to offer those. HZC is trying but once a month doesn't cut it.

Unitarian Universalism is the first religion I have encountered that resonates with me whole-heartedly (like Zen) and also appeals to my needs as father. Also, I'm really not a quiet introspective person and Zen Practice tends to infuse everything else that happens at the Zen Center with a sense of solemnity that seems almost fake. I'll never quit zazen or give up my Buddhist understanding in how the Universe works and the UU doesn't ask me to.

So this has become a TLDR post and I'm sorry, Shane.

My point is that every option available to me seems like another mountain to climb and right now I'm already climbing the mountain to good health….

One could visualize life as a mountain to climb with no top.

Ever onward and upward! Excelsior!

Sorry I channeled Stan Lee for a minute there.

This post was more about my lief than Buddhism but it informs everything I do and my decision making is based on Buddhist principles and ideals. 

Have advice?? Leave a Comment.

Gassho.
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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Adam
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 12:34:34

    Okay, so you want to help others, and you’re already climbing a hill. Why not make that hill a benefit to others?

    How much more school would you need to complete a degree in nutritional counseling or something along those lines? You could use your own story to help others, and it might make the hill a little easier to climb once you’re going through school.

    Could you use some of the credits already earned and do something like this:

    http://www.shsu.edu/catalog/fcs.html

    ?

    Reply

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