When this picture was taken in 1991 I was three years into my career as an ‘international aid worker’. I had my arm around Kak Mohammad, a Kurdish peshmarga (lit. one who faces death) who was also a community leader in the Penjwin area of Iraqi Kurdistan where I was working.
If you had told me at that time that one day I would turn my back on my career and do so happily, I would not have laughed. I would have simply given you a pitying look and walked away. Why would I ever want to give up a meaningful, well paying career with the United Nations that allowed me to work in beautiful interesting places like Kurdistan or Pakistan (where I had just spent 3 years) and with such fascinating people such as Kak Mohammad?
My career had respect. I was doing something constructive. I travelled business class with a cool-blue UN passport. Even though I had a bit of paunch, I considered my career made me something of a chick magnet as well.
Turn my back on all this? For what? A life in the suburbs and kids’ sporting events? A job in the local bank? To drive a taxi? [Even back then the prospects for an averagely intelligent humanities graduate were nothing to write home about).
Many years, missions, countries and employers have come and gone since July 1991 when I posed with my peshmarga friend in that gorgeous ravined river valley between Penjwin and Chaklawa. For the most part I thoroughly enjoyed those years and the ‘journey’. I rose to pretty high positions in a number of organizations and was generally regarded as a good manager, thinker and problem solver by peers and superiors. Until relatively recently I never seriously considered changing my career. Humanitarian and development work was what I did. I was the sole source of income for my young family. After about 15 years I could do most of my jobs while half asleep. Why would I want to leave it behind?
This blog is where I will explore the answers to that question. I know some of the reasons I’ve made the decision but as a writer I know by writing I’ll understand my motivations in a deeper and more meaningful way. And by sharing my story and journey I hope that I can help others who are contemplating the same transition. It can be scary. But it can also be extremely rewarding.
So stay tuned for more. Please let me know your own thoughts and experiences.