career patienceI can sit through a three-hour class, in the evening, after working eight hours, and enjoy the experience.  I can sit through a six-hour class, when the weather is nice, on a Saturday (I’m not saying I enjoy six hour classes, but they are bearable).  I can easily endure conversations with long awkward silence.  I can even sit through academic conference presentations on the state budget preparation process of New York and the comparison of small population municipal sales tax in Georgia and Texas with ease.  How is it then that I cannot be patient when it comes to my career?

The above situations are short-term, and a career is, well, a career and lasts more than forty years.  I am not just struggling to stay positive about where I am professionally, but I am unsure of the relationship between my current choices and my future aspirations. Then I had a revelation.

Very recently, I took up running.  Here in Michigan, while there are opportunities to exercise during the long winters, it is just not the same as having fresh air fill stressed lungs.  In the process, I am learning a lot about long-term patience.  Running may be a perfect case study to learn principles applicable to my career.

Like any out-of-shape new runner, pacing myself and learning my limits are important.  Every day I am able to increase the distance I can run before my body pleads to slow to a walk.  Before I could learn that, I had to take that first stride – and run.

Equally recently, I found a real job.  Okay maybe not a real job (I fear I will continually redefine real job), but I have been working full-time.  I should be thankful to have something that gets me up in the morning, elated to be gaining real experience I can apply to the classroom, and hopeful about where this opportunity might lead, yet I cannot help but feeling something is missing.

The choices I am making regarding graduate school programs and job versus internship alternatives prove I am unsure of my present life, and I only have an outline where I would like to find my future self.  In the short-term, the choices I have made are economically correct.  The opportunity cost increases once aspirations are considered.  For a while, I saw winter maintenance budgeting research as a redeeming article that would be an important ticket to my sought future. I may have to reconsider multiple facets of my interests with recent disappointing test results.

Returning to running, what I can thus far apply to my life is quite simple.  Changes do not occur over night.  Yes, I can run farther every day.  Every day on the job, I learn something new, become a little more independent, and make additional synapsis.  To run a mile let alone a marathon will take time.  To become a Chief Financial Officer or Treasurer of a city no matter how small will take a lot of time.  The same applies to earning a Ph.D. particularly when I learn about programs and tailor what I would like to study.

I recognize this is a simple conclusion and it does not seem profound. Patience I have realized comes in two forms: short-term and long-term. Defining short- and long-term may differ by person, but in this context, short-term is under a day and long-term is over a day. I would like to think I am great with short-term, but I know I am terrible with long-term patience. I struggle to wait for something in the mail, for instance. Running works for me because I can set new goals daily.

Applying this personal revelation, a beginning realistic goal is to learn two new things about accounting daily at my job. A potential goal pertaining to winter maintenance budgeting research is to record the data of four city budgets and accompanying weather daily. For those that can relate, heed to suggestions; set short-term goals, however defined; and make the most of present conditions. With practice, one day soon I will revisit my definition of short-term patience and expand it beyond one day.

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