“Career” is a nautical term. I never knew that. I do so love thesaurus.com…
Both careen and career are nautical terms. As nouns, they refer to the nature of a course moving forward. A careen is a course forward using a side-to-side trajectory, while a career is a course forward in a headlong and high-speed trajectory.
This really got me to thinking about my own “career”, and the careers of most folks I know.
It starts early, when we’re encouraged to define what we’re going to be when we “grow up”, as if knowing that destination is a critical element, and as if defining that defines us and who we become. As we mature, there’s a steady set of cultural expectations built on the assumption that we’re all on a “course forward in a headlong and high-speed trajectory.”
The noun in the equation is the name of what we become, not on the journey itself. The focus is on the title we acquire, not the life we live.
Most of us are on a broad path in life. We find lots to explore on the path, meandering a bit left or a bit right now and again, sometimes falling completely off the path we thought we were on, defining a new course altogether. Our path is a careen, and the jobs we have as we move down that path often reflect that careen. We always refer to it as a “career”, but really, not many of us can look back down the path we’ve traveled and call it a “course forward in a headlong and high-speed trajectory”. I know I can’t.
I sorta wanted to be a veterinarian when I was young, but decided to study architecture and design instead. I went to work for a structural engineering firm, and discovered I couldn’t live life from behind a drafting table. So I went to work for myself as a carpenter, then a truck driver. I’m sure I’m leaving out some eclectic stops along that early path. After trying my hand at sales, my path took me into senior executive positions. I got bored with that and it got bored with me, so I meandered deeper into software architecture, project management, garden design, and writing. Eclectic enough? Anybody got a challenge for that on the eclectic scale?
Some folks might have a more direct trajectory. One way isn’t always right, and the other wrong. There are times to lay a “career” instead of a “careen” as the course. Some circumstances demand a singular focus, a direct route, and all available speed.
But for most of us, our path through life – and the work we do as we make our way along that path through life – seem to be much better suited to a careen. How else can we develop the broad and deep perspective required to understand and apply well-rounded wisdom? How else can we discover the “whole” of the life we’re moving through?
So, next time you look back on the path you’ve taken through your work and professional life, and wonder at how much it wanders, just remember that both a career and a careen move us forward, One course discovers more and finds more territory along the way, the other arrives at a pre-defined destination more rapidly.
“He who neglects to drink of the spring of experience is likely to die of thirst in the desert of ignorance.” ~ Ling Po