It’s been a long and arduous 3 day wait, but I’m thrilled to let you know that you need not wait any longer… Part 2 of our interview with the very first featured Crazy Person That Just Might Inspire You (CPTJMIY) is here.
I’m sure you all read part 1 of our interview with Dave Kovac which focused mainly on his inspiring involvement in Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village international trip program (if not, you should!). While reading it, you may have wondered how he possibly manages to spend 2-8+ weeks a year out of the country building houses and making a true difference for people in remote parts of the world. It’s one thing to go on a trip every once in a while, but how has he managed to balance it with the rest of his life/career/family for several years now? We’re glad you asked. That’s what part 2 is all about. Let’s find out:
Dave Kovac – The interview (part 2)
Ok, a little more about you…
We hear you actually have a “real job”. When you’re not leading trips, what do you do with your time?
I split between a couple of things. I teach at Oregon State University, I own/manage some rental properties, I do a little consulting, and I’m easing out of my 12-year tenure as a house-dad.
Did you intentionally choose a career that would allow you the kind of flexibility you currently have? If so, how? And if not, how did you end up this way?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t see myself as having a “career.” I had one. I prepared for it and I worked for it and I followed a well-worn path that was to put me in a career position as a college administrator, but I found that the deeper I got into the career, the less time I spent doing what I initially intended on doing. It’s a fairly common occurrence — people join a profession because they enjoy the work and then move up the administrative ladder moving further and further from the work that they enjoyed so much in the first place. Our reward for doing a good job is oftentimes being given extra jobs for which we have little preparation or interest (or even skill). That produces ambiguity, loss of confidence, stress… In education, at least, good teachers are often promoted to administrative positions which require a completely different skill set. One goes from displaying the ability to connect with students and impart knowledge to balancing budgets and making personnel decisions. That’s not what most teachers are either trained for or want to do.
Now back to your question. When I stopped my career I thought it would be temporary but “knew” that it necessitated a change of some kind. I stopped in order to be a “house-dad” for our three growing children. My wife was in a position/career that she was devoted to and our kids needed the time and attention. It was weird and scary and oddly threatening — to me and to people in our community. A lot of people — including myself — seemed very uncomfortable with the notion of purposely jumping off of the career track. Some were disappointed, many were confused, and a lot, I discovered, were envious of me doing what they secretly hoped to do. So I added the title “consultant” to my name plate and shopped that around for a bit. It was easier than trying to explain what I was doing, an understandable “career-move” (if it brought in the bucks), and wasn’t untrue: I did a lot of consulting — I consulted with the family on what we should have for dinner, I consulted with the kids on when their soccer practices were, I consulted with my wife on what needed to be done around the house…
I began reconstructing my interests, skills, and priorities — not necessarily in any planned sort of way — in order to feel better about what I was doing. What I’ve come to is not a career, really. It’s a mix of commitments, responsibilities, interests, and involvements. I’m much busier now. I’m pretty scattered. I am crazy. But that’s my life — the one I’ve defined, and not the one defined by my “career.”
How do you balance being on the road for extended periods of time with work, family, other responsibilities at home?
I don’t know if I balance it. It doesn’t feel balanced. But it doesn’t feel chaotic or stressful, either. I’ve been able to incorporate family into the trips by taking each of my children, separately, on a Habitat build. My wife will tell you that she counts on me being gone a few weeks out of the year so that she can have some alone time with the kids or visit relatives that we just haven’t had the time to see together. I do think that my teaching suffers when classes are interrupted by me being gone, so I’m trying to work on that. But that’s just a matter of me being more conscious of my schedule.
Do you feel you’ve had to make any major sacrifices to find this balance?
Not really. This is more of who I am. I’m following my interests, I feel I’m making a difference, and I believe that the good I do in one area of my life seeps through to other areas. I do miss having spending money, but that never worked out so well for me anyway.
What are the biggest challenges? Biggest rewards?
The biggest challenge is packing. Oh, and completing expense reports. As for the rewards…they are plentiful, my son.
Any advice for people trying to create a better balance in their life (for instance, people who work crazy hours in jobs they don’t love)?
The easiest advice that someone could give is, “hey, if you don’t like what you’re doing, stop.” But that’s not very realistic. When we’re talking about achieving balance we’re really talking about developing our own identity. Who am I? What am I good at? What inspires me? What do I like to do? Seek out those activities that help answer those questions and reinforce what you’ve discovered. It’s funny, but I’ve found that during those times I’ve been completely stressed and anxious, instead of subtracting from my list of commitments, I ended up adding to them so that the sum of those commitments held meaning. “Who am I?” is not a question that can or should have one answer — it’s a compilation of many things.
Anything else to add?
If this makes me crazy, then yeah, I’m nuts.
One last thing…
When/where is your next trip? How do you sign up?
Thanks for mentioning that. We are still looking for participants in my next Global Village adventure to Udon Thani, Thailand in November. After that, it looks like I’ll be heading back to Macedonia in June. Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program maintains a constantly updated trip schedule at http://www.habitat.org/cd/gv/schedule.aspx . Look at when and were trips are being scheduled throughout the world and if my name’s in the trip leader column — bonus!
Thanks Dave!! We definitely think that you are Crazy–and to us, that is high praise. We are inspired and we’re hoping that this interview will inspire others as well.
You can get more info about Dave’s upcoming trip to Udon Thani, Thailand in this brochure. Also, check out the Global Village website for info about this and other trips; they are happening all the time, all over the world and they are 100% worth checking out.