Pride

Okay, this is not going to be about what you think. But here goes, a kind of follow up to my post Do What You Love. I wanted to acknowledge my pride in my recent work, particularly the launching of a lengthy labor of love, the website I helped create for the Off the Derech community. If you haven’t seen it, and if you are OTD you probably already have, as it already has far, far more visitors and views than my little blog will probably ever have, check it out: offthederech.org

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Pride is an important motivator, of which I don’t often have enough. I am one of the those people that get overly optimistic about a project, and then after a little bit, start to question, second-guess, often giving up in the process. But a little pride can go a long way. I know because among other things, I struggle with my weight, and what gets me back on track is my pride in having persevered and maintained a significant, but healthy weight loss. When I start to lose control of my eating habits, start to feel like giving up, I have this image in my mind of the person that can do this, that I know I am.

The OTD website has been a long time in coming, and I almost did give up. I had never built my own website before, aside from starting this blog on wordpress.com, and you can see I’ve kept it pretty bare bones, nothing fancy. I knew a little bit about html coding, from an online course I took, but hardly enough to make a complicated, well-designed site.

The suggestion to use a wordpress platform came from a good friend of my husband’s, a can-do, jack of all trades guy, who had taught himself the skills needed to create a web design business. In fact, he was also the one who inspired me to try my hand at some other unusual activities for an urban-raised, academically-minded individual; he was my mentor in woodworking and gardening, even gave me the confidence to get under the sink and replace my own kitchen faucets.

It did take me several years to build enough confidence to finally launch the website. Along the way I had various collaborators, who were also willing to take time from other occupations to pursue this project. My OTD colleagues live across the globe, so we have held our meetings on conference calls and google hangout.

We started with a very basic wordpress platform and began writing pages. For a few bucks, I purchased a domain name and found a web-host. We wanted something that wasn’t static, that would provide up to date material. Achieving this wasn’t so simple for amateur web-designers. We experimented with various plug-ins and themes, but there were a lot of bugs that we couldn’t quite figure out. We were getting frustrated and the project began to stagnate.

Then, a professional  web developer offered to make a custom designed site in his spare time. He volunteered an enormous amount of time, did an amazing job, and the site was put up. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that without his continued support, which he was unable to sustain long-term, we were left with something that we had no idea how to maintain. We didn’t want to pull the plug, but after a few months with no new content, we took the site offline.

I still wanted to do this thing, so did my collaborator, but we needed time for other things;  I was busy advocating for my special needs child, who needed a more appropriate school placement; my friend was working a new job that needed his attention. We seemingly went our separate ways.

About a month or so ago, I started to get involved in a local political action group. I offered to help with their website. To my surprise and the delight of the professional web-designer, I  was quickly able to get in and start editing and uploading content to the wordpress based site. Then, in some serendipitous act, my OTD collaborator contacted me; it was time to get this site online already. He had purchased a new wordpress theme that had all the functionality we needed. With new found confidence in my understanding of how to work with a wordpress platform, I got to work rebuilding our site.

I know it is not perfect, but I have impressed my collaborators, my OTD community, and most importantly, myself, with the result. I am proud of my work and proud of what we accomplished. And that pride continues to motivate me, to keep learning and gaining skills, to persist in adding up-to-date content to the website, to never give up on my dreams.

 

Do What You Love

A very long time ago, I read a book entitled: Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. I’m a firm believer in following your passion, but practically speaking, I can’t say that I agreed that money will necessarily follow. Has my passion for dance, writing, or foreign languages led to a career? Okay, I have used my knowledge of Hebrew to make money teaching and tutoring. Perhaps, the problem is that I have too many interests (I haven’t actually listed all the things that spark me).

Due to some recent experiences, however, I am discovering how money might follow. If you follow your passion, you will want to spend a lot of time doing it. For the last few years, I have pursued my desire to create a website that fills a need for people who have left their orthodox religion (i.e. have gone Off the Derech). I jumped at the chance to work with other OTDers up the coast (in New York) and across the pond (in Europe) to make a professional looking site, despite the fact that none of us were web experts. With young kids and one with special needs, it was hard for me to find the time to contact and collaborate with my compatriots. Despite the length of time it has taken (and we have not yet reached our goal) we have persisted.  

That great cliche, practice makes perfect, is quite true, and in fact, despite a lack of formal education in the subject, I am starting to see myself as technologically adept. This improvement in my abilities has resulted in a certain pride in my work. Thanks to this growing confidence, when inevitably faced with new challenges, I was not afraid to try new tactics and seek out more information.

I can see how through multiple such experiences and expansion of one’s knowledge, one will start to identify oneself as an expert in an area. It might take years, but eventually, with that confidence and expertise one will be ready to market one’s skills, and yes, money might follow.

In the last few months, with my kids finally in school full-time [last year was hard because my son had to be home-schooled half the year, till we found a suitable educational environment; having a special needs child means that I am always on call, and I could go on, but that is for another post], I have been increasingly looking for fulfilling work outside the home. Money alone will never be the motivating factor, though, at least for me. Humans seek many things, and survival, attaining basic needs, is primal. But beyond that, motivation comes from the pride of a doing a job well, and the dignity of knowing our own self-worth. So yes, I have looked at job listings, in all sorts of fields, that I am somewhat qualified in, but finding that spark of motivation to pursue a job, that hasn’t been so easy. I did not feel the synergy of pride with the skills required to do a particular job.

[As an aside, money is in a sense a social representation of the value of your pursuits, and yet we can be paid far less than our labors’ real worth, and still feel fulfilled.  I won’t deny, though, that at some level, the lower wages of child-care workers, as opposed to a business executive, for example, can affect one’s own sense of value.]

A week or so ago, I decided to help out with a new organization’s website. I’ve written about attending the local meeting of this organization and my timid acknowledgement that I might like to run for office. Beyond that, however, I have become increasingly relied upon to edit and upload content for their very professionally done website. I had some self-doubt at first, but I was reassured that I knew more than enough to get started. Along with restarting this blog and maintaining my commitment to self-expression, I am starting to identify myself as a writer and web content editor. I am fascinated by this new perception of myself as a professional. It took many years, persistence, willingness to practice skills, but slowly, I see how at some point, yes, if I do what I love, the money will follow.