BY BONNIE BLALOCK, R/W-RAC
How individual drive can help the Association as a whole
Purpose is what drives us. It is why we make each and every decision and ultimately, what gives
our life meaning. When I was asked to share my purpose at my recent Region Forum, I was
terrified. Partly because public speech is not my strong suit, but mostly because I didn’t think
I’d be able to present it in a way that was as monumental as the time I discovered my purpose.
A Career Change
At age 21, my entire identity was linked to my ability to help others. I was a certified nursing
assistant working my way through nursing school. I loved my work, but after several years of
very demanding, long and inconsistent hours, it started to take a toll on my mental and physical
health. I finally realized that it was time for a change.
Unexpectedly, someone offered me a full-time administrative position in their right of way
firm. Without even having a clue as to what right of way was, I accepted the opportunity
thinking it would be temporary and I’d be back to nursing before I knew it.
To my surprise, I discovered an
intense hunger to grow and the
desire to change. I went to real
estate school, started working as
an agent and decided to commit
to right of way for my career.
However, I struggled with the fact
that I was no longer directly helping
people the way I had as a nursing
assistant. At the time, I didn’t feel
that widening a road or relocating
a property owner was a positive.
This guilt inadvertently affected my
productivity and drive. I was ready to
give up on this career choice.
Embracing an Unexpected
One morning, everything changed.
On my way into work, I stopped at a
store to get some cereal and milk. I
was in a hurry and normally, I would
have been extremely annoyed with
how long it was taking the clerk to
ring up my two items, but something
seemed off. I decided to ask her if
she was okay and she responded
with a huge sigh and asked if I had
the time to listen. I stayed there and
listened as she confided in me. I left
wishing I could have done more. So
when I got back to the office, I wrote
her an encouraging note, and had
someone drop it off to her. I didn’t
see her again for a long time, but
when I finally did, she recognized me
immediately, hugged me and told me
how much I had helped her that day.
It was in that moment that I realized
my purpose as a professional lies
in how I approach my career. I
wondered if I could take what
I gained from that experience
and apply it to my job. The first
opportunity came when a property
owner began taking their anger out
on me about a project. Instead of
reacting, I let them vent. I listened.
In doing so, the conversation shifted
toward them expressing to me that
they were not actually angry with
me or with the project. Instead, they
were upset over something personal
going on in their life. It helped me
build a level of trust and rapport with
the property owner, and we were able
to properly address their concerns.