The Porcupine Story
(Originally published as a newsletter on November 1, 2022)
It was a warm October night. The kids and I were outside savoring the last bits of daylight. I was in our chicken yard hanging with my favorite feathered friends. As dusk set in, the chickens were starting to put themselves to bed in their houses and I knew it was time to get my kiddos toward bed as well. I walked out of the chicken yard to see our cats staring warily at something. I waited a second for my eyes to adjust and then started cussing like a sailor.
Porcupines. Two of them, ten feet from me, one trying to “hug” the other from behind. I started yelling at the cats to get away, the kids came running, and all chaos ensued. The porcupines, who had been momentarily stunned by all of the noise, snapped out of it. The female scampered into one of our apple trees. The larger one, presumably the male by his position in the “hug,” started chasing me.
WHAT WAS THIS SPIKEY MONSTER DOING!?!
I ran around our lawn, jumped onto our porch, and ran toward the garage to close the door. The noise of the garage door and continued yelling seemed to have snapped the porcupine back into reality. He realized he wasn’t chasing his prospective mate anymore. He was pursuing a two-legged, mostly smooth (I think I had shaved my legs recently-ish), screaming human. He quickly changed directions, made porcupine noises, and followed his beloved (or, at least, much sought after) into the apple tree.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but eventually the cats got into the house, the female porcupine climbed the fence to the neighbor's yard, and the male paced the wire fence contemplating what to do next.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve been guilty of blindly chasing things, finding myself walking the fence wondering what the heck I was doing. And most of the time, I had lost myself along the way.
There was a time five years ago or so when I applied to be a director of an early learning center. I had interacted with the principal who ran the attached school and she said, “My boss wants me to encourage you to apply for the director position.”
Let’s be clear about two things: 1. My career for the previous decade had been in higher education, working with college students who were very well potty-trained when sober. 2. That comment should have told me that she had no interest in me applying. In fact, had I been less desperate to find an exit from the career I was quickly falling out of love with, I would have interpreted that comment as, “I’m doing fake niceties. I’ve already got someone else in mind who I want for that job.”
But apply I did. And interviewed. I even got excited as I convinced myself I could learn how to do the job. And then I was politely rejected for someone with “more experience” who the principal had “known forever and worked with in the past.” Duh.
If I had stepped back from my desperation for a easy way to a new career path, I would have realized that I didn't have a passion to work in early childhood education. Kids are great. I had many a stint as a camp counselor in my high school years. And I switched my college major from education to communications after a full summer of camp counselor-ing and realizing I didn’t want to deal with other people’s kids my whole life. So rather than step back and think about all the things I had already learned about myself, I blindly and desperately ran toward a seemingly easy exit strategy, not toward a passion.
Like a stunned porcupine in a chaotic environment.
If you’re the porcupine chasing the wrong thing, I’m the coach to provide your reality check. Schedule a complimentary session below.