From the professor’s desk:

In our Intercultural Communication course, we explored the idea that in American (and much of Western) culture, we equate wellness with movement, both literal and figurative.

Sure, physical movement contributes to physical wellness – many of us try to move our bodies every day. But the metaphor of movement works in a number of other contexts, like work and spirituality.

Work-wise, we’ve been conditioned to think of our careers as “healthy” if we can map them on a linear, upward trajectory. We talk about “climbing the ladder” and “hitting the ceiling.” We judge ourselves, and each other, by vertical moves vs. horizontal ones, and often feel defeated if we have to make a lateral move or start over in a new line of work (thus “returning to the bottom”).

Climbing The Corporate Ladder stock photos and royalty-free images, vectors  and illustrations | Adobe Stock

This way of thinking is limiting. It prevents us from considering the personal growth enjoyed over a lifetime of work, regardless of job titles or “advancement” in the conventional sense. Not everyone can (or wants to) be in charge, be the leader, be at the top of the pyramid. But we’re told we’re supposed to aspire to that. I’m reminded of an episode of Ally McBeal where Ally (an attorney) assumes that Elaine (her secretary) must be dissatisfied with her job because it’s less socially prestigious. Elaine tells her, “Newsflash, Ally – I *like* being a secretary.” Elaine enjoys being the helper and organizer, and taking part in the world of the law firm – she doesn’t need to be a lawyer to do it.

I find it disheartening when friends, family, and students feel like they’ve failed if they get laid off, don’t get promoted, or if their career trajectory stalls.

I’ve started over SO many times. I’ve been a restaurant manager, a retail store manager, a banker, and a host of other things, and was in my 40s before I figured out “what I wanted to be when I grew up” (I’m doing it now). That’s ok. We all know people who’ve had definite career aspirations since they were small. That’s ok too. We all arrive by different roads.

Returning to this idea of wellness and movement, we also explore the idea of mental and spiritual health. What does it mean to move forward in those areas? Again, for many of us, it’s a long and winding road. We try to impose order on it, but it’s not always orderly. And it doesn’t have to be.

The bottom line: Life unfolds, and it can surprise you every day. Plans can get derailed in a second. Unexpected opportunities arise. If we want to find happiness along the way, we must sometimes detach from our planned trajectories and see what happens. And trust that we’ll be strong enough to weather it.

Ponder this: There are times when movement means being still.

How do you communicate about wellness of body, mind, and spirit? Are these messages helpful? How might you rethink the idea of total wellness?