Monday, January 26, 2009

The Fool's Journey

So I guess it's time to talk about why I'm really blogging again, and why December 2008 will live in my memory for a very long time.

Like many professional women of my generation, I've been a hard-working career girl who allowed herself to be deeply defined by her day job. My mother gave up her nursing career to be a stay-at-home-mom. Growing up in the 80s, I saw her life as old-fashioned, and swore my life would be different. I would be a "feminist", and feminists didn't stay home with the kids. So a few years out of college I wormed my way into a career job and worked my way up. I worked overtime, stayed awake nights worrying about deadlines, and carried the stress in every fiber of my being.

Somewhere in there, I also managed to build a rich and busy personal life too, but my job still defined a huge part of who I was. I did that for more than eleven years. That is, I did that until I became a statistic, and was laid off like many other very talented people.

Now I know you're not supposed to let a job define who you are. But I'm a type-A personality in a lot of ways. I obsess. And it wasn't like I was just making widgets. OK, so it wasn't life or death, either, but I felt that what I did had importance and was worth putting in the extra effort to make sure it was done right. I let my job define a very large chunk of who I thought I was, even though I knew somewhere deep down inside that I shouldn't, that I was asking for trouble. So, when the pink slip came, whoa girl, identity crisis!

The first thing I noticed was that the work stress evaporated in a flash. I instantly became a much nicer person to live with. But I'm still working my way through the rest of the acceptance and moving-on process. It would be one thing if I could find a job similar to my last one and just move into the next phase of my career, but my job was pretty unique, and having a very young child and living where we do limits my options for the moment. That means I'm also in the midst of a career change, and, with this economy, probably going the consultant/freelance route.

The prospect of going freelance is both freeing and mind-blowing at the same time. At first, I just couldn't think of a project I should work on. If I did come up with an original idea, the critic in my brain instantly shut it down. I had to break free of my old ways of doing things, of relying on a third party to determine which ideas were worthy of my time, and sometimes even coming up with the new ideas themselves. But eventually the ideas started to flow. Time wore a hole through my old ways of thinking. But then the opposite was true -- I had too many ideas, and I was The Fool stuck at the intersection of a million crossroads, unable to pick a path and move forward.

In many ways, I'm still that Fool, with society and the economy playing the role of the little white dog barking at my heels, urging me to just pick a direction, any direction, and move forward with all haste. Well, I'm here to say that I've picked a path, and if Fate agrees with me you'll see it evolve here over time. But you're also going to have to be patient, because I'm on an uncharted dirt road with a kid in the back seat. We're probably going to have to make a few side trips for crackers and to smell the roses. That's just what you have to do when you're traveling with a toddler, and this time his travel experience is as much a concern to me as mine is.

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