Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 20's in 20/20

I feel like I'm twenty again.

Only now I don't recover as quickly from hangovers (or french fries). 

It's the first day of the New Year and while I do my best not to buy into the anxiety of new year resolutions and the limited window of NYE opportunity, I can't help but feel I should have at least figured out what I want to do for the rest of my life before the ball dropped last night.

That sensation - the gnawing feeling that I should know what I want to do with my life - was the hallmark feeling of my 20's. I resolved every year to get my act together and to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I tried college (multiple times) and failed. I tried Army life (Lieutenant Prospect Pollock is still M.I.A). I spent a year as a stay-at-home girlfriend. I tried my hand at being a famous singer. 

The only thing I knew for sure in my 20's was that I didn't want an office job. I assumed the only way someone like me (a person with no degree and no real work experience) could avoid an office job long term was to be a waitress. And so I waitressed, and waitressed and waitressed. While my peers were graduating, getting promotions, and buying boats, I was... that's right...still waitressing. 

Finally well into my 30's, I decided it was time to throw in the proverbial towel and get a "real job".

And a real job I got (see how here).

At first I was hired to organize their stock room. 3 months later, I was hired full time with a 3-part title: Executive Assistant, Office Manager, and Project Manager.

When I read the New Hire Organization Announcement, I ran to the bathroom to cry.  They must have made a mistake. There was no way this College-Dropout-Forever-Waitressing-F*ck up could be lucky enough to be trusted with so much responsibility. I felt like a liability.

I spent my first year and a half at the company trying to prove I was worth keeping. I was the first to get to the office and the last to leave. I spent my weekends in fear, feeling that I didn't accomplish enough during the work-week. To fix the anxiety, I started to work weekends too. When that wasn't enough, I worked in the shower, when I was with friends, and while I worked out. I was absolutely consumed and my brain was crowded with a to-do list so long that I couldn't see straight.

I bet you can guess what happened. 

That's right...burnout. 

I ended up quitting my job and going on tour for a month as a Merch Girl  (see more here). The travel and time away proved to be enough to replenish my creative resources and I was able to go back to the company - this time as an Independent Contractor. I also started to take on side projects and consulting for other companies. 

I've been working in this capacity as an Independent Contractor for over a year. I report to 3 different bosses at 3 different companies. I do an assortment of things and on any given day I can be a Recruiter, an HR Developer, a Project Manager, an Accountant, a Productivity Specialist, a Supply Chain Project Manager. 

I am grateful. In my life after waitressing, I have been thrown into the deep end and given opportunities to do things I was totally unqualified to do. I have virtually earned an MBA through all I have learned. I no longer feel like a loser because I didn't finish college. I now know the value I can bring to a company and I have a much better sense of what my strengths are and where my talents really lie. As a 34 year old woman, I finally know I am not a liability. 

AND YET, I want more.

Now, I want mastery in a subject and industry of my choosing

The people I admire the most have dedicated themselves to one thing and have become masters of their respective subjects. I find them to be the most generous givers of all because they share their expertise in a highly concentrated form. My heroes - Krista Tippet (Master of spacious conversations), Jean Vanier (Master of compassion), Marva Collins (Master Teacher), James Altucher (Master of ideation), Wendell Berry (Master poet) have all worked in their respective fields for decades.

And this brings me back my 20's where I had to ask the questions: What do I want to be when I grow up? What field do I want explore? What industry do I want to enter? I'm right back there.

I don't have the answer today. Only some clues. But I guess I needed to remind myself on this New Year's Day: I may be back in the questions of my twenties, but at least now (with the great support I have in my life) I can look at these questions with 20/20 vision. The 34 year old me has mentors, extremely wise friends and family members, and the light of experience to help see me through.

I resolve to keep experimenting, to keep searching, and to keep asking for help.

Happy New Year's all!

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