What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’ve been voluntold into this “womens leadership” program thing at work. I’ve done this type of thing at previous employers. It’s all the same rigamarole – do you know who you are, does your role align with your priorities and “purpose”, do you understand that most people are different at work and at home, do you understand you are a product of your upbringing – but you don’t have to keep that as you consciously go forward. 

The early daffodils at my house a few weeks back

Randomly pretty flowers

Now, I understand, in a vacuum, that if you’ve never done any kind of thought work, self reflection work, therapy etc., sure it might be an “oh” lightbulb sort of thing. But after the first month or two, they pivot to ok – now you must  convince yourself that your current role actually is a match for your “muchness” and if it isn’t well – you’re not trying to make it that hard enough. AND your reports are suffering because you aren’t owning your authentic leadership blah blah blah. Are you exhausted? Or at least wrinkling your nose at the pointlessness of that? Yeah.

That’s not to say that I don’t get a little something out of these things, occasionally. Self-relfection (when it’s without someone else’s agenda) is never a bad thing. This time I’m doing the hmmm… no wonder I’ve had a hard time in my life finding the kind of work that I love for longer than a few months and that is satisfying. This version of “your upbringing influences you” asked about both parents values and grandparent or whoever you were around values too. 

While I’ve always known that I’m as well-adjusted as I am because I spent summers with my grandparents, and that my parents were very different from my grandparents, I’ve never actually done a side by side values comparison. In my case, my dad-like figure grew up in abject poverty, so he worships money at any cost as though it will save him. My mother grew up spoiled, lazy and entitled, and has always been happy with someone else financing her life. So success for their child looks like a career that makes lots of $$. And that’s sort of it. That’s success. And that should make me happy.

My grandparents were also very poor for a long time and then… at some point all the jobs they’d had over time coalesced into having some savings at the right time for a good entrepreneurial sort of gig. And they lived in comfort the second half of their lives. I don’t know if it was the great depression childhood, living through WWII or just who they were, but the worst thing I could ever do is a job that makes money off of hurting others, ideally it at least nominally helps others. And while I think they would say “money helps” they’d just want me to have a job that makes me happy. Or that facilitates my happiness. 

I recently applied for a new job with a company with crazy interviewing practices. I struggled about applying because I just changed jobs beginning of last year. But I like the company, it’s mission, and what it produces, and the job sounded like brain candy for me (something my current job doesn’t have much of). Their interviewing is their attempt at trying to avoid implicit bias. Not sure it actually works, but I’ll give them a star for trying. I made it 3 rounds into a 5 round process — out of 1500 applicants. 

While all those things about them made me say, yes, apply. What really made me apply — knowing it was available as an opening, was how little I like my current job. Which. Is what I’ve said of nearly every job I’ve ever had, often within the first year of employment. I know that companies can’t be honest in interviewing and say “hi, everyone here is NOT the smartest person and you won’t work on complex legal issues — you’ll be babysitting people at levels who should know better”. I mean, if you know, you know. There’s honest and then there’s… that. So fine. Jobs are never what has been advertised. 

Gratuitous picture of my tulips. The ones the squirrels didn’t eat.

In my case, not getting the new job now I think was a gift? It reminded me that I’m halfway through some growth and change commitments I made to myself about 18 months ago. Step one – get a job that allows me to work wherever I want, at least stateside. Done. Step two – move somewhere wildly different. For so many reasons, it was time to make a big living change. Done. Step three – integrate and settle into new place. Mmm – still working on it. .Step four – figure out what I’d like to prioritize for this next third of my life. And I skipped that last step entirely. And it shows in my day to day life. 

So what does all that have to do with realizing that my parents and grandparents had very different values? That my inherent discomfort with realizing that the next chunk of life is that I don’t want to “achieve” like I have historically – to someone else’s metrics and values. And that taking myself off of a high-achiever mindset is actually not going to make me spontaneously combust. This reminds me a bit of when I left the law firm. It was SO SCARY. That was when Lean In was big (and still a crock of shit), and I described going to in-house counsel as “not just leaning out, but leaving the table, the conference room, and taking the elevator to the lobby and leaving the whole damned building.” And leaving big firm private practice – it’s easily one of the best professional and human being decisions I’ve ever made. But I couldn’t see that certainty when I did it.

So if I’m not trying to be an officer or GC somewhere, what do I want to do?  I’m not entirely sure yet,. But I want to follow my grandparents’ guidance that it shouldn’t hurt anyone else and ideally should make me happy or facilitate my happiness. So I’m reminding myself this is a goal to figure out. I want to try a few things, starting with finding a way to downshift a bit at current job just so that I don’t use up all of my mental & emotional energy at work. I need to have something left in me evenings and weekends sufficient to create, to interact, to think. To not jones for an abyss of numbness. Weekends, for the most part, I think I’m doing pretty good at. I’m currently sitting on my back patio on a gorgeous 70 degree day writing. And that feels fantastic. I woke up early and did a bunch of gardening and weeding, also feels pretty good. Went to brunch and had a bloody mary. Great. And here it is not even 1 o’clock yet. Work days… I’m not doing awesome at. *If* I have energy for anything, it’s a walk to the beach and back. The occasional knit nite or other social thing out. But by and large I just want to lay on the couch and read about some imaginary place or person and disappear. Working on that. But the important part is I’m remembering this last step of the promises I made myself that I would do. And I’m trying.

First glorious full weekend of beach weather.

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