noise and its origins
Several days ago, I wrote here about a pretty major decision I had made about my career, and life–in general. It was not exactly well-received by friends who know how hard I’ve worked for this path–and was not actually that difficult of a decision to make. But it was significant in that it meant a lot of what I’ve been doing could now evolve into something else.
A little backstory…
So, for most of my life, I’ve kind of been this lost soul when it came to my career. I’ve always been talented and smart and good at many things. I’ve always been highly motivated and curious about almost everything. But I also always put a lot of pressure on myself to do more with my life than just lead an ordinary existence. I sort of fell into my profession, did really well, hated it beyond comprehension, and then–at some point–decided I should be a teacher. That led me down a really exciting, sometimes wonderful road, that basically ended up gutting me. Deciding to leave and disappoint a lot of people was probably the hardest professional decision of my life. It sent me into this tailspin–mostly because teaching was the last thing my mother thought I would do–and she had been so proud of me. It was this thing everyone believed I could do since I was a child. And I was awesome at it. I was exactly what is needed in teachers.
I’ve never really fully written about the experience I had with TFA because it’s always been just so painful to me. But it was this immediate feeling that it was not mine. This immediate knowing that doing this thing would kill me. And for years and years, I didn’t understand what that feeling was about. I tried to analyze it, but at a gut level–it was just this incredible discomfort and wrongness that overwhelmed me so much that I felt almost panicked about getting away from it. The only time I’ve ever felt like that was when I was in grocery stores during the holidays after Mama died. These panic attacks would set in, and I had to get out.
This week, I got some insight into what that feeling was and where it came from and why it was so violently wrong. Why it forced me to move as far away as I could. I’ll talk about it more later. Hold tight. It’ll come eventually.
Anyway, after that experience with TFA, I was like this lost lamb…just sort of shell-shocked–not even knowing who I was supposed to be. Think about it–my mother had died less than five years before. I was still pretty young. I had spent my entire life feeling lost about my purpose and then I found this–and it seemed to be so perfect. Then, I get there and it’s so wrong–I can’t get away fast enough. It was like this huge identity crisis. If that’s wrong, “What the fuck am I supposed to do now?”
I had to work, so I got a job. And except for the selling people shit, indirectly, part–I bumped into things I loved. One was training. I went through this awesome training program, and that kinda sparked something in me. Because–make no mistake–I love teaching. I really, really do. And I have a knack for it. I do it all the time and have always done it. And training is really just teaching adults. The college where I worked offered free education to employees, so I enrolled in their Master’s program for Corporate Training & Knowledge Management. And I basically kicked ass….almost going for an Ed S degree. I actually loved all of it, and it came easy to me. The program was tough, but I really enjoyed it. Only when I was working for this school, I discovered a more profound love for me. Counseling. I really loved hearing people’s stories and sharing mine. And most of all, helping them progress with their dreams. So, it got my wheels turning. And eventually, I landed on this desire to be an art therapist. To work with really ill people and their families. To work with children. To start a nonprofit and lead group therapy programs. That evolved into starting a social enterprise. And that evolved into being the Brene Brown of grief…still doing all those things, but going for a PsyD and doing grief research. Writing books on grief and conducting workshops. Really making a dent in healing the shit we all go through, at some point.
And that felt right. So right. For years.
Until I got close to the end of my MNM program, that is. I had chosen to do the MNM program so I could work in nonprofits while I got my counseling degree. I figured it would be easier and maybe I could get some of the experiential shit out of the way. But I was naive about some things. The job market, for one, and two–the pay scale. Barely liveable. Okay–so that maybe wasn’t the best idea. I also discovered I did not like fundraising–which was the most viable job option and also a key part of being an ED. And then there was something else that started showing up as I was writing my thesis. A crippling self-doubt that came out of nowhere–that made zero sense–but literally paralyzed me. It was the first time in my life that I asked for extensions. It was the first time I ever took an incomplete. And it felt like I’d gone down the rabbit hole again. What the Hell was this?
I did get on with it. But my confidence was blown, and my enthusiasm for NPOs was nonexistent. As much as I loved the ideas I had, I didn’t want that to be my life. I know so many EDs who are trapped by that life, and it just didn’t gel. So, for a while, I thought–I’d start it and then get good people to run it for me–moving to a board position. But–all of it sort of fell apart in my brain. It felt overwhelming and, again, wrong.
But counseling still felt like mine. So, I decided to put the NPO ideas on backburner and focus on making that happen. But there’s so many things that go into that. The biggest being money–how to pay for it–and the other being how to live and work and afford life and manage the requirements. Most programs don’t allow you to do your experiential stuff after 5 pm or on weekends. Most require you to commit to daytime shit. Some require you to not work outside of school at all. As a working adult who had never not worked, this was a big hurdle. I worked to find weekend programs and part-time programs. But even those required Fridays at school. My job is flexible, so I could make it work–but it would involve a lot of less than ethical choices on my part. Things I didn’t want to do. And honestly–I didn’t love these programs. They fit as well as they could, but not really.
So, then, I tried to change my work to fit these programs. Okay–I need a job I can do at night and on weekends. Well, all of those suck–unless you’re a freelancer–and those pay nothing. Unless you’re in tech. So, I got the bright idea of doing UX/UI–something I actually care about and like doing. But it was hard to teach myself such things in a disciplined manner–and it takes time to make that happen. And in addition to all the shit I already do, I’d have to do lots of volunteering and would have to take undergrad classes just to get admitted.
You see why it felt like this neverending bullshit train?
The bottom line? These programs are not designed for career changers. Or people who need to work. They are designed for young people with parents footing the bill. AKA not me, ever in my life.
So, I’ve kind of been less motivated to make that whole thing happen–though I never really admitted I gave up on it. Because what would that mean?
But then, the other day, I started thinking about it. And that’s when I came to the conclusion I did. That I should just stop banging my head against that wall. And that felt right–for a while.
So this whole week has been really rough. Busy as Hell. On one hand, I’m back with my old team part-time. Which is like putting on an old sweater. On the other hand, I’m on our internal recruiting team–hiring my future teammates–with my hiring manager as my future boss–managed by our VP with every senior leader in the company seeing my work every single day. This is a recipe for all bad things, y’all. And, of course, this is what it’s been.
I am hustling so hard, I make Kim Kardashian look like a boring housewife. I am outperforming as always, but worse–I’m making the full-time veterans look bad. I am in that perfectionist mode that got me that company trip. And while the senior leaders love it, it’s a recipe for my own breakdown.
So, I’ve been trying to keep up with myself and not drop anything and working late. And I just wanting to fucking exhale.
This is exactly why I quit my last job to escape.
But this is exactly the opportunity I need and want if that new goal is going to happen. And it highlights exactly what that decision was about. I love this work. Minus the pressure. Minus the crazy pace. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s mine.
So, yes–managing teams and training and all that shit makes sense. And this IS the place to do it. And this work I’m doing now is what will get me that spot.
But it’s hard. SO hard. And if I keep doing it at this rate, it won’t be pretty. But I have a deadline. 3 weeks till new client launch. Just 1 job to do. Back to the old life I had 2 months ago. So, I deal–but maybe badly.
Given all the crap, weeks ago, I signed up for Unplug with Kelly Carlin. You may still be able to sign up…not sure…but maybe do it if this feels like something you need.
Anyway, I’ve been on a big self-care kick for a while now, but most especially since moving to CA because it’s been rough on my soul. I’ve been struggling with a lot of bullshit. So, the idea of meditating and taking some time for me during my day was pretty appealing. Plus, I’m a big ole hippie beginner Buddhist anyway.
I somehow made it for the first session, having kicked my cats’ water bowl over two seconds before. I won’t go into all of it because you should experience yourself, but I had some pretty life changing things spark for me that I will likely write about more later, as I continue with the course.
- Something Kelly said about losing her mother sparked something BIG. She mentioned how losing her mother opened up a whole new world for her. And while I consider myself an enlightened, hopeful being, I’ve never ever thought of it that way. As grateful as I am for the bad things that happened (no, really), I have always seen death as losing parts of myself–not having parts of myself be born. But that is such a motherfucker. Because–whoa–she’s so right. It’s this self-pitying perspective that I’ve sorta held onto for years–without meaning to.
- And that really sparked something that is deeply connected–a realization that I look at the world through a lens of lack. There’s this core belief that life is hard, and I don’t have enough of anything. I am not good enough. I don’t deserve anything. And that came from my childhood. And it colors everything. It is the source of my self-worth issues. All of them.
- And this shit leads to the hustling. I don’t trust easy. I don’t trust the Universe. I don’t believe in goodness. I believe in hard work and struggle. I don’t accept anything else. Which is why my career always felt wrong. It was too easy.
- And this mindset is just so fucking ungrateful and unkind. To me. Here–I have these gifts that really do help people and because they don’t rip my heart out, they can’t be mine. I don’t accept what is. I struggle with what is not. And that’s how I numb out, reject, and disconnect.
- I also felt very conflicted about my recent career choice because this is the shit I want to do all day every day.
- And also, the self-sabotaging shit I do is because I’m not living mindfully. Because if I did, I just couldn’t do it.
So what does all of that mean? A whole lot. I need to embrace ease. I need to be more kind to myself. I need to work on accepting what is. I need to examine the ways I choose to suffer and how it allows me to justify disconnection. And I need to practice mindfulness all the time. Luckily, Kelly gave me great tools to start all of this shit.
And I think I have a new career aspiration. What if I don’t have to throw out my current path or that other path? What if I honored both? I have a really great idea for what I should work to do. But I’m going to work on these things I’ve uncovered and see where I am in a few months.
Anyway, this whole thing is hard for me to even write about–so this is not my normal introspective post. But, look for more unraveling as I process this in the days to come.