I am not what I do, but rather what I bring to my work and my relationships is who I am. - Rick Parnell
I recall reading something while I was still an undergraduate lamenting that most graduates did not work in the field for which they were trained and suggesting that on average Canadians could expect three distinct careers over their adult lives. Change and transitions are part of the landscape and may be the only certainty in life.
I did eventually work in one of the fields for which I was trained, and trained in the fields I worked as my roles and opportunities expanded. As a forecaster and analyst, I learned to understand and anticipate trends and shifts. It wasn't long before I was asked to help set the direction to navigate those shifting tides.
However for me there also seemed to be a narrowing that came with success. The stereotypes and definitions that were identified with the work and my roles felt like an increasingly tightening knot on my intellect and my sense of self. Each step forward in my career felt increasingly removed from who I was and who I wanted to be. Any admiration for the people "above" me was dwarfed by the fear of becoming one of them. For a little longer than I should have, I waited for someone else to fix my dilemma for me or to force my hand.
Consciously or unconsciously I had prepared my parachute. From my early twenties and through the waves of lay-offs that were common experience for me and my peers, I had planned for a future that didn't depend on a pension or working wage. With the combination of luck and thoughtful action I was vastly more successful than I could have expected and much sooner than planned. My wife and I began to openly and calmly discuss what we needed to live comfortably in the context of what we really valued and wanted to do. When I hit that wall that I just didn't want to climb, the groundwork had already been covered, and like a beam of light coming through the window, I knew what I must do.
That's not to say that walking away from a "successful" career that had spanned more than a quarter century was easy. What about my friends, and those who might feel let down having hitched their wagons to my rising star? What about my education, training and knowledge? Was I really willing to squander all that value? I could and had planned for the loss of a comfortable living, but all those other aspects proved the greater challenge. I still get the odd panic attack when the "what if" question crosses my mind.
At first I thought I would consult part-time, but in the tense political environment of the time hunger was more valued than knowledge and the work felt even less interesting than what I'd left behind. I directed my energies back to our investments and to my love of music.
It was that love of music and my creative side that had suffered most over the years. With where the music industry had gone and where technology was taking it, was it possible that I could reawaken the creative muscle at this stage? People who retired much older than I had taken to painting or poetry or other artistic endeavours. Why not me and music?
When I decided to become a songwriter I also decided to work hard at it with measurable targets and goals. Right away I determined to create a library of songs. I told myself that if I couldn't produce a three minute song every month (12 songs a year) I wasn't really a songwriter. No one was going to hear those songs unless I sang them, so I became a singer and enlisted the support of musicians and technicians to self produce. With online distribution my songs have reached thousands of ears and eyes around the world, and there are many now who could not imagine me as businessman in a suit.
So then, who am I? Here's what I think: I am not what I do, but rather what I bring to my work and my relationships is who I am.
Rick Parnell (www.rickparnell.com, and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuRbgcYND78zhwniVym5TyVyzzmPoZj99) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, business consultant, husband, father, uncle, son, brother and friend. Rick holds an MBA, degrees in Economics and History, and has formal training in finance, investment and project management. Other interests include philosophy, theology, sociology math and physics.