Thoughts On the Moment and Declarations of Purpose

Comfort: coming home after dark and settling onto the couch to the feel of warmth that was created by sleeping cats.

Anticipation: wandering through the library book stacks knowing that every single one is mine to borrow and read, thousands and thousands of potential journeys.

Joy: singing silly songs, telling puns, and generally being weird with Husband in a way that only he is privileged to know, and making him laugh.


Night arrives fully by 7:00 p.m. these days. Dawn is gray and cool, sometimes foggy here in the South Bay. We’ve turned the corner of a season. This change is gradual, but there is always one day in each season that the realization is palpable and prominent to me.


In the next week or so I’ll get a blood test that will assess my hormone levels (FSH, Estradiol). On October 18 we’ll visit the doctor to discuss whatever the results are. What we decide to do will be based on this and further conversations between us, so there’s no more to say on that topic at the moment.

I’ve been feeling sad about my imminent departure from the agency. Three of my four fellow AmeriCorps are renewing, and four new AmeriCorps have been hired (the team increased from five to seven). Soon I will be training my replacement and letting go of my tasks and duties. I’ll cherish the relaxation that follows, but I’m also anxious about becoming bored and lonely. Without a schedule or purpose, without being required by someone somewhere, I tend to get lost in my head. The more alone I am the more unsocial I feel as well as lonely, and then my lethargy increases. This is not the life I want.

I recently had an epiphany about my direction after the service term ends October 31. You see, all my life I’ve felt plagued by the fact that I’m interested in so much and want to advance so many causes. It really has made it difficult for me to define and articulate what I want to do and to search for work. And there were many times that I took work I didn’t want because I just needed an income. Eventually I clarified my goals and became a psychotherapist, but the move to California required sacrificing this.

My year at Hands On Bay Area has given me connections, and it also created my little epiphany, which is this:

The overarching theme throughout my life, the one thread of interest woven through the years, is a devotion to formal and informal education – primarily reading, writing, and soaking up knowledge. The causes I donate the most money to are literacy and libraries. I’m a seeker and an information hound. I am pained to know that so many people do not find pleasure in reading. The average adult native English speaker reads at the sixth grade level. Non-native English speakers average at the fourth grade level. While these next words may seem extreme (it’s an indicator of the passion I feel), I would dare to say that learning – in all its facets, with all it entails – is the most important human pursuit after survival needs are met (note: I consider affectional bonds part of survival). I want my next phase employment to be in the education sector. (My Dad would be proud.)

Even as stated, this is still a broad canvas. It could mean a job in a government education office creating policy, work in a social service agency providing job search or computer training, being a teacher’s aid in an elementary school, working for a public library. But the bottom line, for me, is that I want to devote my efforts to igniting curiosity, promoting creative and critical thinking, and helping people to acquire that most essential key to success, literacy. If I’m lucky, I’ll inspire a passion for reading as well. As I ponder this more, I feel I will want to work in direct service rather than administration. I don’t want to become a school teacher, which requires yet more costly education. There are other ways to promote the life of the mind, and I intend to find them.

As much as my kids tested me to the limit when I worked as an education coach in an after school program, I adored them too. As a treat I read aloud The Phantom Tollbooth (and gave each student a copy as a reward for trying). Whenever I finished a chapter, I was bathed in a chorus of, “Read more, teacher! Please read us some more!” It made me happy to give this pleasure, and I felt sad knowing how uncommon an experience this was for them.

How does this coincide with the efforts to start a family? Well, at the very least I can explore volunteering at several non-profits. So far what has caught my attention are a read-to-children volunteer program at San Jose Public Library, and conversation ESL group work through the Santa Clara City Library. I may also become a literacy tutor. Lastly, Hands On Bay Area offers several projects that contribute to literacy: ESL conversation, organizing a children’s library, story hour with kids at a library. There’s a way to keep my hand in the game. Out of this, perhaps a job will arise. Meanwhile we’ll keep exploring the fertility/family planning issues.

Here’s another way I can keep myself engaged with life. I recently attended service at the Palo Alto UU Church and liked it. I’ve been on their community mailing list for over a year. When the call came to help by baking cookies for The Opportunity Center, I eagerly answered. There are many needs that I could assist with in the church. They also don’t have a program that I would be interested in developing (offered at other churches) – a lay listening ministry. Also (but wait, there’s more!), one of the adult religious education classes starting soon caught my attention, and I decided to register*. I feel ready to delve into this community.

*Class description follows:

From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity (Part 1)
In a world where Christianity has been, in the words of Professor Bart D. Ehrman, “the most powerful religious, political, social, cultural, economic, and intellectual institution in the history of Western Civilization,” most of us have grown up believing we know the answers to certain questions:

  • Were the early Christians really hunted down and martyred, with repeated persecutions for an “illegal” religion forcing them to hide in the catacombs of Rome?
  • Did the ancient Jews of Jesus’ time always believe in a single, all-powerful God?
  • How did breaking away from their Jewish roots make Christians more vulnerable in the Roman world?
  • What were the actual roots of what we now think of as the distinctively Christian liturgical practices of baptism and the Eucharist?

But do we? As this course shows, the answers are, in fact, quite surprising. The course takes you back to Christianity’s first three centuries to explain its transition from the religion of Jesus to a religion about Jesus. It introduces you to lost Christianities and their sacred writings. And it shows how many of those writings were originally proscribed or destroyed, only to be rediscovered in modern times.

This sounded juicy to me!

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4 Comments on “Thoughts On the Moment and Declarations of Purpose”

  1. William Sackinger Says:

    Bravo! Life is a sequence, you are walking through a doorway from the room of the past year, to a new room…which will only become known and appreciated after you are into it. I know that it will be a positive experience, intellectually, for you.

  2. Shirl Says:

    great post, Kathryn, and if you get bogged down, just come back and refer to this. Good luck to you, sweetie!

  3. Winston Says:

    You have so well thought this through and have defined the canvas on which you wish to paint. That has to be at least 90% of the task. Be patient with yourself. Take appropriate time and it will all unfold for you.

  4. Kathryn Says:

    Thank you, everyone! The encouragement adds strength.