The Hierophant: How to Reconcile Your Career, Identity, and Civic Responsibility

Photography by Mike O'Shea, one of my talented best bros. 

Photography by Mike O'Shea, one of my talented best bros. 

I have as of late, been really digging into myself and asking what I want. 

I think for most young people, especially in New York, owning your own business, especially if the business has a physical reality, is a dream. It's a privilege, a creative outlet, and for sure a test of accountability. The part of you that always thought you could creatively direct, financially steer, and of course, have an inner compass and light to be a good team creator as well as a team leader, when you open your own business, all these parts of you puff out and say, Yes! It's my turn. 

As employees we all let this part of us talk shit; as employees we are more in the position of the critic than we are of the creator. We all did it/do it. The IT to which I refer is the sometimes-silent criticizing of business owners. We always think there's something that can be done better. If we are trusted and responsible enough, and/or liked enough, and if we work for owners who have the courageous power to let go a little bit, then we become managers. But for the most part, none of us will ever know what it was like to be the person who we are criticizing. I for my own part, when I managed a bar, found that the owners with whom I worked most were so quiet about all the work they were doing that none of us ever even realized that certain things were being done, until I was doing it myself and making a point to always let people know wtf I was up to purposely debunk any myths of effortlessness or ease.

In any case, I can tell you now as a business owner with only a little over two years under my belt that this shit is fucking hard. I have worked for small businesses my entire adult life. It is not some purposeful decision I made (in fact, I would take the time now to confess that I haven't felt strong enough in my mental capacity, nor strongly enough in the knowledge base until very recently to develop any solid ethos beyond "Be Nice.") My education in small business was a 100% intuitive, which is to say, not-on-purpose. Things fell into my lap, and I always demonstrated a desire to learn, a sort of perfectionism that bordered on workaholism, and above all, a desire to be liked that at times became a need.

For all of the parts of my life that I have filed into the "distraction" or "failure" folders of my memory, there is one common thread it would be hard not to see. I have filled positions as a first-timer at least four times in my career. That is to say, I was a manager when one previously did not exist. I ran an office that was just born, was a Senior Fashion Writer at a magazine that never had a permanent employee. I was a person who struck out into territory for which there was no map. Repeatedly. I was often self-taught in the professional field I entered (I was hired off the sales floor during what I considered to be a temporary job to be a buyer at one of most industry-respected boutiques in New York), and I often had no idea how to measure my success, or in fact, what my goals were.

For all of my 'laid-backness', which I can tell you shows itself most in social situations, I still  have an Aries ego with a truly Gemini moon. What does that mean for those of you who hate or are not up on the more lofty topic of astrology? My mind never stops. I listen to media as I fall asleep. I wake up and open a window on my computer to a documentary and then start reading something. I am amped up 100% of the time until I literally almost fall apart at the seams. My capacity for intake is so high that it is exhausting just to be in a room with me while I passively consume things. 

So what that means for someone like me, is that if you hand me an opportunity, I will not only corral all of my will power for you, I will corral my physical might (lifting half kegs of beer using sheer will), my mind (I will try to better a system once a week, that needs no bettering), and my heart and soul (I will become my job.) Which is great for you. And is a total disaster for me. In every way.

Let's face it. We are not our jobs. We are not our houses. We are not our friends, or our families or even our spiritual practices. This is because of one simple thing. Words are a construct, as our these labels and roles. Careers are for sure a construct. And even for the most enlightened of us, it's rather hard to take power back from the society in which you find your purpose as a friend, as an active member in a relationship or organization, or in which you feel safe, or from the language in which you have expressed and learned and understood the worlds of the exterior as well as the interior.

So if you're not Richard Branson, and you want to be a writer and a business owner, or spend a year writing a novel, or want to learn tarot, herbalism, ceramics and choreography, then you're going to be called a drifter, a hippie, a person with ADHD. You will be called unprofessional, directionless or worse, "not serious". Maybe someone will tell you you lost the plot. And I'm telling you as someone who has invested so much time in healing, from reiki to tarot, past life regression, meditation, buddhism, saging and who knows what else, the words that ring the truest are rather hard to swallow. They are often cliche. (I'll say this 1,000 times, cliches keep surviving for a reason.) They are open-ended, and they leave the brunt of the work on you. How to get in touch with you authentic self. "Get quiet and practice listening." How to find out your soul purpose. "Slow down often enough to ask yourself if you like what you're doing and then be compassionate enough to let yourself explore the things that feel the most 'you'." 

I keep getting the card the Hierophant in my tarot readings. What is this card about? In my tarot workshop with Lindsay Mack, as well as in my reading with one of her students Sarah M. Chappell, I learned this card is about institutions and belief systems. It asks you, Where do  your beliefs come from? Inventory them and ask. I know this is the next task for me and I am having a tremendously difficult time sitting down to do it. Oddly enough, my copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, has been missing for about a year and a half, and last night, I found it on the shelf where I thought it was, and have looked for it over five times, just sitting there in plain sight.

This book was recommended to me by my friend and favorite healer, Hank Hivnor. The book is about how every word is an agreement. I mean that in the most academic and objective way. I remember reading in a linguistics class many years ago that there are 50 words for snow in Eskimo language, because their survival and culture holds the snow to be of utmost importance. By knowing the words, those who speak that language are agreeing on their importance. In the political climate in which we live, I don't think there could be a better or more important time to inventory your belief systems. What does "conservative" mean to you. Or what does the word "highly-educated" make you feel when you hear it. There is so much stigma, so many falsities and sweeping feelings involved in words these days, that it seems like they mean everything but their definition as of late. We can not longer agree on what a "fact" is. We find the word "science" or the word "expert" divisive. 

This is a time when the moths are flying out of the closet and we are being forced as a society to say, wtf have we been locking away and repressing for all this time. And as any healer would tell you to an individual who is going through that same process on an individual level, the first misstep you could make to healing a wound, is to deny that the thing you would rather not see is there, and the second step away from healing you could make would be to demonize and "other" that shadowy part of yourself or your society, rather than compassionately attempt to understand it, so you can address and ultimately change it. 

Listen, I'm a fucking immigrant. I wasn't even born here. But I don't think that the people who have lost their manufacturing jobs or are afraid of Muslims and trans people are mean, evil or stupid. I think they are being manipulated in a truly unethical way by a media means that have no inner sense of responsibility for reporting the truth, and that their fears are being played to because they only know about the "idea" of something. They've never encountered the reality of that something, and so their minds are easily manipulated. They've never met a muslim. Maybe they've never talked to a moderate Democrat. It's a lot easier to say you hate or are scared of a word than it is to walk up to a human being who introduces themselves and picks their child up from school where you are also picking up your child, or patiently waits with you at a doctor's office, and say, "I hate you, I don't want you here. You scare me." 

A more whole representation of the groups of people the current president is attempting to other and fear monger around could change and shift the world. If I had the ability to produce my own television show, it would be about the realities of the middle class. What is it like to live in a suburb and never see a black person and then be called upon to talk about race? What is it like to teach at a public school in the Bronx and have your Muslim students in tears after being bullied and harassed? Or to be a regular citizen trying to understand all of these policies and the best course of action while taking your kids to school and going to work everyday. What about that story? What about our story? (For the record, the best work I have seen being done this way are the PBS series Frontline and the POV documentaries.)

A million digressions, but again, my whole manifesto in starting this piece of writing is that, I am not one thing. You are not one thing. No person is. I am not a label or a word. My mind is poetic and scientific and I am a business owner, a concerned citizen and a writer. I am here to share my story as often as I can and I really encourage you to share yours, too, because I"m listening.  Sifting out our individual identities will help transform our society. If we are to find out why we hate or fear or have knee-jerk reactions about certain people or subjects, then we can come clean with ourselves about the work we have to do as individuals and how that work could change the world. We need to proceed with great strength and caution, but first, clarity and knowledge of who we are and what it is we are fighting for.