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Friday, October 21, 2011

When doors open, introspection begins

So I received a job offer of sorts today.  It's interesting.  Directing a very small advocacy organization committed to a democratic approach to developing renewable energy.  The mission is nearly indistinguishable from the place I work now.  The work would be a lot different.  Less typing and calculating, more talking and persuading.  Much more responsibility and pay, much less family time.

I'm nowhere near deciding if it's worthwhile.  But it has made me think hard about where I am and what I do, and for how long I should stay.

For starters, where I work now - there's hardly a better place to be if you have family.  Flexible hours, great benefits, good pay, wonderful people.  And the kind of loyalty to employees that has the upper ranks cutting salaries to save the rest of us.  And it's been a mind-opener, a place with enough guidance to hone my edges and enough freedom to make mistakes.  I'm still growing after five years on the job.  Good for home life and good for career.  Hard to beat.

If I knew I'd be happy doing research forever I doubt I'd even consider a change.  But it was freshman year of college when I decided to run for student senate that I realized how much it mattered whether or not I could make a difference - that life was not just about maximizing my happiness, but also about improving the world around me.  I've always felt the best way to do that is politics.

There's no higher calling than public service, no greater challenge than balancing the very different demands of your constituency with the demands of your own conscience.  And making laws has the potential to truly alter the lives of millions for good: Medicare, the Environmental Protection Agency, Health Care, renewable energy; or ill: massive tax cuts, wars, constraining civil liberties.

This new opportunity would run closer to politics.  And it would feel like politics, with more time spent raising money, schmoozing, and running around trying to build coalitions.  Some of that seems exciting and challenging; some of it seems really distasteful.

Ultimately, I feel like there will be a tradeoff at some point.  To put more energy into a career means less for home, and that should only happen if the potential to do good is significantly higher than my current role and if I'm uniquely suited to it.

Is it?  Am I?  Good questions.

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