I’ve written before about the value of being at a phase in life when having good work, not a career, is what I value. And how lucky I am to have it right now, having landed in the frankly enviable position of a chance to do some of the service design and innovation world’s most exciting work – connecting user centred design, improving public services, and passing power to people and communities. I truly love my job. But…

I can only really commit to it because it isn’t a career. I am not spending all my time working out if doing x or y will be better for my career path. I don’t spend my weekends making sure my CV is shaping up for the next promotion. I don’t ask myself would doing this or saying that harm my chances of moving on to a permanent contract when the existing one is up. I just think about the work, do what I think is best for the work. It is just about the most liberating thing I have ever experienced, and I am all to conscious of how lucky I am to be in this position. It’s a rare gift.Truth be told I never was very good at the career thing, and more of my time in paid employment has been in ‘good work’ mode than not. But…

As you get older the siren call of the career can sometimes start to lure you dangerously close to the rocks of hubris and petard hoist. As a person of 50 with secondary progressive MS I am all too conscious that my ‘I feel pretty confident I can count on that’ working life expectation is in years not decades. The clear and present danger that the next ‘bad phase’ might be the one I don’t get back up and at ‘em from drives me ever closer to the job as work mode. I feel such an almost terrifyingly intense sense of the preciousness of this time. I likely won’t be working in 10 years, and I’ll be happy if I am 5 years but not unduly surprised if I am not. Every day, every task, every project, is precious beyond belief to me because any one of them could be the last. But…

Every now and again the temptations of a career, with all its comforting (illusion) of security starts to look more interesting than off putting. Just as the sword of Damocles that hangs over me focuses my mind on making the most of every moment, it also reminds me of how scary the time ahead will be. Suddenly that secure pension (the one I walked away from a year ago), those chances to top up the savings, look seriously tempting. The fearful voices can kick in, and when opportunity to land the (illusory of course) security of job = career, my head turns.

Now I am not much prone to mystical thinking, but I just love the way the universe so does not want me to go there. Every time my head turns, the universe snaps it round again and presents me with a visceral reminder of what awaits the foolish sailor lured by that siren call. It puts me in a situation or with people who instantly focus my fearless voice. “See… Look… This is what happens when you have a career, you worry about this, and that, you draw back from doing the other.” And then as if to ram home the message it puts me in a situation or with someone who reminds me “See – this is what loving the work, not the job, looks like. This is what being passionate and brave because you have no career to chip away at gets you”. Today was one of those days. Ah universe you are so good to me. Thank you.