The last few years have been a time for me to reconsider some of the myths and false truths about myself, a time to look at some of the narratives I’ve either been told, or have told myself, or both. It’s been a time for me to consider whether or not I actually am the person I told myself I was, and what my actual priorities should be. In some of these cases, this has led to me reclaiming parts of myself that I let go along the way. In others, it’s led to me challenging statements that I heard in childhood, and realizing the resulting narratives I created were false all along. It’s been an uncomfortable process in many ways, but one I’m grateful I had the catharsis to begin.
The most difficult parts of this process have been when I’ve challenged an assumption about myself, and taken a series of actions accordingly, only to find out what I believed about myself was actually the truth the whole time. This has been most evident in the case of my career. I challenged the assumption that I was a career driven person back in early 2017, when my career started floundering and going off course as I was assigned to role after role that was just not a fit for me or my skillset. I questioned whether or not the mis-matches mattered, because the disconnect resulted in a lot of free time for me. I was, after all, working from home, on clients where I wasn’t the right fit and wasn’t actually needed. This lack of work engagement gave me more time to do things like cook dinners for my men, or start entirely new Scout groups in Brooklyn. It was a shift in work/life balance that I would have thought I would actually welcome, until it made me miserable.
As that balance continued to shift in 2018, and I grew more miserable with my job, I questioned whether I even wanted a high pressure career. After all, I thought, maybe I only believed I was a career person because I had always believed it was the option with the most security for my adult life as an independent, single woman. Throughout my teens and twenties, I assumed I would not be capable of attracting a partner who could be relied on to support me financially, making a career a necessity. Therefore, was I career driven because I always thought I would be, or was I career driven because that’s actually who I am?
In a turn that will be surprising to absolutely no one, it’s the latter. I am career driven because I like being challenged. I am career driven because I need a place to put all my energy. I need that kind of week in, week out, year after year, life-long challenge. There are days when I question whether I am in the right career, but there is no question that I need a career.
So when my career started foundering, and I no longer had a direction to go in, it wasn’t an assumed identity that was hard-hit, it was actually part of my real personality that was suddenly aimless and drifting. And while I have thrived for years on a sense of being useful and necessary on any given team, realizing my sheer uselessness on client after client made me feel like a failure. My challenges in 2017 and 2018 weren’t about doing positive, valuable work, but were instead about proving any value for my paycheck, in a context where that was almost impossible. If I was less career driven, perhaps I would have been able to ignore those negatives and focus on the positive of my changing work/life balance. Instead, I became despondent and hopeless until finally, I realized I had to change jobs.
Now, a year later, I am back on a productive career track, an asset to the agency I work for, a valued part of the client-facing team. I am back on the life-long quest for more knowledge, more expertise, to be better at what I do. There will always be days when I question whether this is the right path for me, but sometimes, just being on a path is more than enough. And so, the assumption I challenged, and regained, is that I like to work, and I love that my work takes the form of a career in which I can continue to grow and evolve.
And so, when I look back at 2019, the theme that stands out the most is that I proved, to myself, that I am a career person. I am ambitious, although, as I said once, I am more ambitious for knowledge than power. Power is nice in that it represents security, as does money, but what I really want is learning, and given that my brain felt somewhat stretched out for most of 2019, I am getting plenty to learn. I took on this new job and met its challenges. I adapted to a new role, and in some ways, adapted the role to me and my skills. I leveraged all my expertise in new situations and was successful in many cases as a result. I can be proud of myself for not only the work I do, but also the context of the self-discovery that came with it.