A career that engenders flow, focus, intensity
December 16, 2011 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Hey everybody, it's another question in my never-ending search for a career I might enjoy! I'm an avid whitewater kayaker. I love just about everything about it, but I think the thing that makes it most addictive is that the intensity, the problem solving, the physicality, the threat of consequences all come together to put me in a state of flow. Are there careers that could give me some of that?

This is not, by the way, about fear - which I don't enjoy. It's about "the healthy middle ground that exists between boredom and fear," as it was expressed in a Rapid Magazine article I read recently.

Also, somewhat relevant: I'm male, 37, have ADHD.
posted by SampleSize to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Kayaking guide.
posted by blargerz at 8:35 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Paramedic. Paramedics are cool!
posted by mochapickle at 8:38 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks blargerz. Very good point and, in fact, I'm a certified instructor and have considered it pretty seriously. The main problem is that you don't make any money; secondary problem is it's seasonal.
posted by SampleSize at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2011

I'm a firefighter and paramedic, and that describes my job pretty well.
posted by itstheclamsname at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

First responder? That tends to be sporadic work and I don't know that it pays well but probably somewhere in the ranks of First Responders is a paid position.

Could you make enough money in the on-season guiding to support yourself in the off? I also know a lot is sport guides travel. Half a year in one locale, the other half in another.
posted by amanda at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2011

Sounds like firefighting would be a good fit, but I don't know if you're too old to start that as a career.
posted by Jahaza at 9:30 AM on December 16, 2011

Could you make enough money in the on-season guiding to support yourself in the off? I also know a lot is sport guides travel. Half a year in one locale, the other half in another.

Some folks also are dual-sport. Is there a winter sport you're involved in? Could you be a kayak guide half the year and a ski instructor or ski patrol the other half?

You've missed your chance to enlist in the Army. They dropped the maximum age at enlistment below your age in April 2011.
posted by Jahaza at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2011

There are probably civilian contracting opportunities in Afghanistan and other sandy locales where being in the edge is just part of the job. Those jobs tend to pay well too.
posted by COD at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2011

Yup, too old to be a firefighter or join the military.
posted by SampleSize at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2011

Park ranger? Forest service?
posted by motsque at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2011

We float with an outfit on the Middlefork of the Salmon, and, from talking with their guides, many of them move around the world following the seasons. Additionally, some of them work their off season as paramedics, which makes them much more desireable as river guides, in case of a medical emergency.
posted by blurker at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2011

Awesome question! I wish I had the answer for myself :)

It's probably a bit late for this as well, but a number of very good kayakers that I know are ER physicians.

If you're not averse to pushing rubber, that might be better than kayak instructing/guiding. The kayak instructors I know spend almost all their time on Class II, while at least with rafting (or video boating) you'll get to do harder whitewater and be part of a team that knows exactly what to do to make a trip run smoothly (or clean up carnage, as the case may be).

I've found that glassblowing gives me a similar flow, but that's hardly more lucrative than kayaking.

If you make it out to western PA/MD/northern WV and want to boat, memail me!
posted by Metasyntactic at 11:40 AM on December 16, 2011

Not too old to work as a wildland firefighter. Not too late to apply for the summer season (with no experience, it is virtually a lock that you'd get a seasonal position). I know people who make enough each summer to bum around and ski/snowboard all winter (on a budget).
posted by arnicae at 11:55 AM on December 16, 2011

Air traffic control? No personal experience but the consequences seem high.
posted by lakeroon at 12:02 PM on December 16, 2011

Too old for air traffic control in the US.

I have a friend with these characteristics who is pretty happy working as an EMT.
posted by exogenous at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2011

You're not too old to be a firefighter or paramedic. I entered fire academy almost at your age. The class before mine had a guy who was 54 (admittedly, in great shape). While some departments have age cutoffs, many are more interested in whether you have the physical capacity and the temperament to deal with the job.

I've worked internationally, been part of the DC nonprofit world, and run my own business, but I'd never experienced as meaningful and high-stakes a sense of "flow" as I have when working with a tightly integrated, highly trained team of professionals on a complex emergency scene in which someone's life was at stake.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:58 PM on December 16, 2011

I had some friends with your skillset who mostly worked as adventure guides on youth camps. But when the Lord of the Rings series started filiming nearby, they made good money doing water safety work for film crews on the river. Basically it was their job to make sure the actors and crew were safe, to 'read' the river, to tell the director that the cameras would be underwater by 4pm so he needed to finish by 3, up that kind of thing. Not quite a career, but an interesting sideline that seems to fit your requirements.
posted by embrangled at 3:00 PM on December 16, 2011

Also ... The signal to noise ratio is a lot worse there, but you might want to try posting this on boatertalk.
posted by Metasyntactic at 8:50 PM on December 16, 2011

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