So I co-convened the Volunteer stream at the Unleashed summit this weekend. Brigid and I had arranged for everyone to be trained in Personal Narrative, a technique of using your personal story to unite the community around an issue. Here's Barack Obama using it:
Even as we were preparing the content for the event, I was having trouble developing my personal narrative... I couldn't stick to the structure, which asked me to describe a challenge, choice and outcome. Every time I told it, the story became a little difficult.
It was only after we had packed up for the day, and I was talking to our guest facilitator Nina O'Connor, that I realised I had been telling the wrong story. I had picked a random moment in my life to explain why I do what I do in the community, but it wasn't actually the turning point for me. It made me understand that for a personal narrative to be compelling and effective, it has to be sincere.
My real story?
I had been working for a sexual health organisation for over a year, finally fulfilling my dream of being a sex educator. I had always valued the power of having frank, open and meaningful conversations about sex, so being able to do that as my job was incredible. I felt like I had finally found my passion, and was doing amazing work. I know that teaching people to use condoms and lube isn't everyone's idea of a terrific job, but I loved it!
The challenge for me was, even though I loved the work, I was very unhappy in the organisation. There was a dysfunctional culture, and people were miserable. I started to become anxious, and would dread going to the office in the morning.
I had a choice to make. Would I stay, and continue to work on the thing that I loved? Or would I move to another workplace that might be more supportive, but with the trade off that I would be working on something I didn't care about as much? Eventually, things became too much, and I decided to leave that workplace.
I realised that I am more good to the world if I am supported and happy. I also realised that my own health and wellbeing was more important than being a martyr to the cause.
I ended up working on Young People Without Borders and, even though I didn't initially feel a burning desire to work in the volunteering space, moving has actually allowed me to discover a new passion. It wasn't a quick burst of inspiration - more like a slow burn - but now I feel like the work I am doing is equally as important as what I was doing before, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.