Yards to meters

I remember when I was in elementary school and learning about the difference between yards and meters. I knew they were kinda similar, but so different that they weren’t interchangeable. I never understood why the United States used its system of measurement when most the world used metric. Illogical or not, I still understood “yards” and “pounds” much better than “meters” and “liters.”

Now that I’m an adult, I’m being required by life’s circumstances to re-evaluate how I measure something else, but it’s not about length or weight. It’s about my career, my life and how I measure success of both.

As most people in my life know by now, I was laid off from my job at a local newspaper as a result of a merger that happened in November 2009. I was two months short of being there eight years, making it the longest job I’ve ever had.

Even before I moved to Arkansas, I worked as a reporter at a small newspaper in Oklahoma. Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to be a reporter. I remember starting a neighborhood newspaper that we copied on my parents’ business copy machine. We charged a nickel.

Well now that I’ve been laid off, I have to face the fact that I can’t be a newspaper reporter any more. Sure, I can move to another area and hope to find a position at a publication in a new city. But I’m happily married to a man with a stable job right here in northwest Arkansas. We both love the area and have no desire to move. Even if we did move, I’m not sure if there would be any newspapers hiring in this economy!

So that leaves me looking for a new career. I’ve put my life in God’s hands and I firmly believe that he will lead me in the right direction. I asked him for a clear sign about when it was time to leave my job at the newspaper, and I think being told I no longer have a job is a pretty clear sign-don’t you? I firmly believe he will be just as apparent in my next adventure.

My hope and prayer is that Jamie’s Notebook will become a full-time company instead of the part-time freelance status it has now. But I’m still applying for jobs as part of my unemployment requirements as I continue to seek contracts through Jamie’s Notebook.

No matter where God leads me, however, it will be a drastic change. Each industry has its own standards, methods and ethics. I’ve only known the newspaper world so wherever God leads me will be a major adjustment. It’s already been an adjustment.

It’s already difficult for me to measure my own success. In the newspaper world, at least in the one where I lived for a decade, success is measured in terms of byline count. The more bylines (stories) one produced, the more valuable they were deemed.

But how will I be measured now? How do I know if I’m being productive? In the first couple of months since being laid off, I have struggled with feeling unproductive because I didn’t FINISH nearly as many projects each day as I’m used to completing. But when I would list all the projects I worked on or made great strides towards completing each day, I realized I was keeping pretty busy. In fact, my husband and I agree I’m busier now that I am starting my own business/looking for a new job than I ever was when I had a secure, full-time job. It’s just that the work I’m doing is incredibly different and should naturally have a different measure.

But what should that measure be? Should I measure it in how many clients it nets me? How much closer the work gets me to being considered employed again? Or should the measure be something else entirely?

All this pondering makes me wonder how we measure our personal success as people. Society tells us it should be based on how much money we earn and how much stuff we accumulate, or how many people know our name. Well if this recession (or some event in history called The Great Depression) teaches us anything, it should be that wealth can be here and gone in a moment. And basing our value or success on notoriety seems almost stupid to me; after all everyone knows who  Jack the Ripper was but I would hardly call him a successful person.

So my question to you is, how do you measure your success?

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