I had been working in a big corporation in Switzerland for six months when I decided to leave that lifestyle behind. It was not easy, as a 23 year-old Spanish kid, I had a very comfortable salary with expectations of career improvement; refusing to stay in that job simply because I did not feel like being a part of that system might have seemed pretentious. There are still people that don’t understand why I left that life in order to come to Chile as a volunteer, without earnings nor much opportunity for “professional development” (I may have no earnings, but professionally I have learned a lot, in large part because I have changed the way that I think of my professional life).
I have to admit that sometimes I’ve doubted if this was the right choice. Why was I so different? If there are lots of people not only doing what I did, but many others who would have jumped at the chance to be in my position, how could I refuse this opportunity? Was I being pretentious for thinking that I deserved something more fulfilling?
And I should admit that I still don’t know the answer to all these questions. However, I have realized that sometimes we have to do things that we believe are right, even if we can’t justify them… yet.
I believe that somehow we can connect our moments looking backwards, and, thus, understand how good or bad our decision was. I like to think that we don’t make bad decisions, since we will never know where the other paths might have taken us.
Now, after ten months in Santiago de Chile I can connect a couple of the moments in my personal story. I had been working until June as a full time volunteer in a temporary shelter for children that had been abused, molested or whose parents simply can’t afford to have them at home. And now I am working as the head of marketing and community relations of VEGlobal, and participating in the activities of a shelter of teenage girls once a week.
I have looked into the eyes of a girl who was telling me that she knew that it wasn’t her fault that she did not have a family. I have laughed with children while playing cards. I have been frustrated with children that were so violent and angry that they would try to run away, and do whatever they wanted, even if in the attempt they had to physically fight with me. I have hugged children that told me that they felt alone in the world. I have cried after visiting a girl who was in the hospital because she decided this life was too much for her.
After all of this I have discovered that I may not know where my path is leading me, but I know that if I wake up in the morning and am not happy with what I am doing, then I have to change things. That is, I believe that every action has to resonate with the deeper sense of meaning in our own lives. It’s not that doing budgets, or contracts, or market analysis are not fulfilling activities or professions in themselves, so long as you as an individual can enjoy your life while doing them.
I know that I can’t be a volunteer forever, that I’m an economist. But now I know that I want to be an economist helping develop the social aspects of organizations. I don’t know where this path is heading, but I’m enjoying the trip. Maybe that’s the sum up of everything I just wrote, if you don’t enjoy your trip through life, you may want to change something.