Wednesday, February 14, 2007

~ Repurpose Me ~

I read that word the other day: re-purpose

It was used in a decorating magazine - you know - one of those witty new word-of-the-moment-words, in the context of repurposing a piece of furniture for an originally unintended use.

It struck me like a hammer over the head that this is precisely what I need to do with my life: re-purpose it.

I don't feel like I have much of a purpose these days. I haven't for years. You see - my confession is that being an engineer is not my first love, and we all know how much of our identities are wrapped up in what we "do". Okay, so I will admit that I love engineering sometimes, just not all the time. It can be *fun* in a drab beige sort of way and always challenging and all that, but mostly it's quite dry and many of my colleagues are tiresome and there are other lovely, pretty things that I could be doing with my life. For so long, I have been dying to do something lovely every day, not something spiritually-depleting.

Lately I've been thinking about who I am without engineering. It's all I seem to be. Of course, I think I am a spectacular, interesting Renaissance-type girl who is good at practically everything she tries and does. I have loads of hobbies and skills but nothing I can put on a resume. And that's the hitch - I am a jack of all trades and master of nothing besides engineering. Even there I feel semi-incompetent half the time. Nothing is ever the same and there is always something new and confusing you haven't done before and it can be hard and complicated and tedious.

I am wholly unemployable in any field besides engineering. Hell, from the point of view of sheer interest I could: run a bookshop, an art gallery, make documentary films. I would probably make a great accountant, photography editor (i have a good eye), freelance writer about god knows what. I'd make a great detective as I'm hyper-detail-oriented and intuitive and observant. I'd also make a great interior designer or clothing designer, or novel-writer. Or research assistant (I'm resourceful and studious). Or sous-chef. Mostly, I love photography and writing and interior design! But the reality is, as much as I might be good at and love to do these sorts of things, I have no credentials. And I am probably full of passion but missing a lot of the skills!! Heck, CBC isn't going to hire me for $20k a year (much less $100k a year) researching stories when I don't have an English lit/Arts/theatre/Media degree and no experience in anything. So I can't just jump ship. People would laugh me out the door. Do you know how many aspiring interior decorators are out there? And I can't even sew...yet!

That isn't the problem, really. The skills part is totally fixable. The trouble is to DECIDE what I REALLY really, pretty please, want to do with my life. Then I could take that sewing class or another photoshop course or that environmental management course or whatever.

I can't decide. I want to do everything all at once. Have you ever felt that way? Scattered to the wind...that was half the reason I chose the name of my blog "WindLost", by the way. It was because I often felt like a lost, wandering, lonely soul, someone who no one ever fully "gets". I've felt that way all my life, really. But now it is overwhelming and I need to harness it soon and deal with it or else I shall promptly go mad.

I want to be a photographer, a poet, a writer. I want to be a potter. I want to design interiors or clothing. I want to build a better bra and make pants for women with an ass. I want to cook, build furniture, make little whatnots with my hands. I want to be a journalist or film editor or photo editor or curator or something that, unfortunately requires years of education and cultivation and study. I know lots about lots but not enough to "qualify". And sadly, in those artsy fields you compete with every Tom, Dick, and Harry idiot out there who doesn't have the brains for a real job. Or worse...people with talent! I might be gifted in a creative field, but I won't know until I really try, and it is scary (and expensive) to drop everything and try. But I have the sneaking suspicion you need to be really gifted to do really well. And maybe I am not really gifted. Maybe I am just average creative. And it is easier being an average engineer than an average decorator. It pays much, much more.

I even wish I'd gone to medical school like I'd planned. I had the grades and I did all the pre-requisite courses. I would make a good doctor. People say so. I love medical stuff and talking about ailments and drugs and I read all those medical articles with intense interest. And at least there I'd get to be technical/scientific/smart AND human and "make a difference". But maybe I'd still be hankering for the creative writerly artsy life.

There are many reasons I got down the engineering path, and it is too late to address any of them. They were all practical reasons. I wouldn't have ended up here if I hadn't grown up in a working class, troubled famiy where I worried about everything way too young. I carried too much on my shoulders, took too careful a path. I didn't have the luxury of fucking up. So I didn't follow my heart, not to medicine, and not to something beautiful either. So I am lost. I lost my beautiful path.

Sure, lots of us are in the same boat. What feels like a small, sinking boat.

So back to my raison d'etre, my purpose.

I know my purpose doesn't just come from my work. All those self-helpers will say your purpose may come from outside things (non-work things involving people and hobbies generally) But I've been using placebos for years. Hobbies and outside interests and relationships are all ways to reveal your purpose, but those things aren't filling me up. I need to live my purpose 24/7, not do it on the side.

So that's my goal for 2007: to re-purpose my life.

I want to figure out what it is I want. And then I want to do something about it. Take small steps in its direction.

I will never drop everything and move to Nepal and shave my head and I can't sell my Ferrari (I don't have one). But I can make sensible, sound choices in the direction of my dreams. I just need to figure out what that is.


  1. Hi Terri -

    I understand that restless feeling. Last fall I joined an artist support group, I was require to invent a few goals based on nothing. To my shock they have started to happen. Not without bumps and bruises but definitely more forward progress than reverse. With all your talents, you can do anything you choose and be great!

  2. Right now all I can say to this is - you have no idea how much I wish we lived close enough to drink a three bottle of wine minimum and commiserate!

    It would seem in the context of life, we were not unlikely friends, at all! While in Halifax I struggled with career - I was so desperate for a change(!) but came up against the same problem of skill set - oh I had it in spades but not anything resume worthy. I need constant stimulation - and frankly, the world is full of bores and I seem to be piss and vinegar.

    I offer only my understanding.

  3. Dorothy- thanks for the encouragement. I need to get out and explore new things to find new opportunities. I have exhausted the current small rooms in my world. New people help fuel new ideas...a support group sounds great!

    Smarts- Ahh. I always knew we were kindred spirits. I can hear it in your writing and in the subtext even when you don't say it! You also are heard more than you know! P.S. Wine x3 sounds good.

  4. I can hear the tinkling of wine glasses! Let the party begin girls. You wrote my story, minus the degree! I have written poetry, played on painting, decorating all that you've mentioned! I guess we all share a bit of the same loss somewhere. Now we must reach the dream.

  5. Terri

    I am so sorry to learn about your chronic headaches. Your blog is acute, earnest, humorous and often very moving. I've enjoyed reading it immensely, and have no doubt that you could succeed at writing a novel if you can gather the necessary momentum.

    I'm gratified to learn through your blog that-- in addition to being in near-constant pain-- you are well-loved, generally happy and settled, and that you continue to be the perceptive, restless and inquisitive Renaissance Person I remember from almost 20 years ago. Reading it was like spending a lovely lost afternoon with you.

    Congratulations on your new house!

    I'll leave you to it-


  6. Jen - is that McGill Jen? The email you sent last fall - I did not reply as your note was somehow lost during the sudden death of my computer and transition of email service to the new house. Can you email me again at and I will reply forthwith! Love to you and so nice to hear from you again! P.S. Thank you for the lovely and encouraging note.

  7. David5:12 pm


    You can still invest your energies in art and writing without quitting your day job :-).

    I thought about becoming an electrician because I like the idea of helping people out and making a profit to support myself.

    I had my folks trying to drill into my head to reconsider my decision because I could be making $200,000 by being an engineer. To my folks they were speaking from an ego standpoint saying that if I am smart I should become an engineer and make more money.

    I see myself helping people, who knows if I will be applying to join the union.

    You could do whatever you want and assume whatever role you want. You are not confined to being an "engineer". :-)