I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written for you! Well…I can’t and I can.
Do you ever have those times when you avoid looking in a mirror because you feel like an absolute mess and can’t bear confronting your reflection? Or have you ever dodged seeing a friend because the last time you saw him/her you were yammering on and on about some new project or job and now that it didn’t end up panning out you are embarrassed to admit it to your friend? If you’ve ever done either of these things than you might understand why I’ve been avoiding my blog so much for so long.
The thing about writing about your life—especially when you’re an in-the-moment person like me who doesn’t always wait until something is certain or successful to share it—is that when you look back on what you’re written you can feel like a big, flaky failure. Every time you log into your blog you might think too much about all the projects you talked about starting but never finished, the dreams you shared that have gone unfulfilled, the jobs you were so excited to get but then quit, and the lessons you learned that you seem cursed to keep re-learning. All of that might make you feel like an embarrassing mess. You might decide that it’s more prudent to stop writing altogether. Especially when the last blog post you wrote is yet another example of something you didn’t follow through on. (Yep, I definitely didn’t focus on dating this fall. More on that later).
Holding myself back from writing, which is one of my favorite things, was foolish. Most of all, I was foolish for viewing myself so critically.
There is nothing wrong with the process of figuring things out that I’ve gone through during the last four years. There is no good reason to be ashamed of changing my mind or re-directing my energy. Most importantly, there is nothing wrong with me. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that most of my abandoned projects were attempts to turn myself into someone I’m not, most of my un-achieved dreams were tied to a life I don’t really want and am not suited for, and the jobs I’ve quit weren’t good fits for me. The only thing I’ve really failed at is being someone that I’m not. While that can feel like a bad thing, it actually isn’t.
If you’re thinking: What?! I thought you were more self-assured than this. And didn’t you make peace with having a non-storybook life back in August?
You would be right that I have made peace with the path that I’ve chosen. I no longer regret walking away from a potentially prestigious academic career and deciding to pursue a career in marketing instead. I love promoting products, interacting with people, managing my staff and coordinating events. I am very passionate about and feel very at home in the field of experiential marketing. Am I entirely comfortable with the fact that I don’t have complete narrative control of my life? Not exactly. It bothers me less than it used to and that’s progress.
I definitely am not as self-assured or self-aware as I can come across as. Accepting that I am not the character that I imagined I would become has been far harder than learning to appreciate the unpredictability of life.
I haven’t just wanted my life to be like a novel, I’ve wanted to be like a literary character. Not any old character either. There is a part of me that wanted to be like Dagny Taggart: rigidly disciplined, insanely decisive, and unstoppably confident. But rigid and disciplined are two words that will never aptly describe me. I think that is true of most people who are more relationally motivated than monetarily motivated. I achieve my goals through persistence, flexibility and charisma. I can be decisive but I’m also very adaptable and open to change. Though I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, I will always be my harshest critic. While these differences between Dagny and I might explain why I wasn’t at home in academia, they aren’t actually flaws. It’s a bit ridiculous how long it’s taken me to see that.
The most ridiculous thing is how much I struggle to forgive myself for being human. Of course, not all of the things I’ve been beating myself up about are strengths in disguise. I can’t say I’m perfectly happy with every decision that I’ve made but who can honestly say that? What sane person doesn’t have areas that they know they need to grow in? I’m sure you aren’t surprised to learn that I’m imperfect. It is about time that I stopped being so embarrassed by my non-humorous imperfections (I’m probably a little too comfortable with my foibles that are funny—like my satirical love life).
Right now we are in the midst of Lent. This season is when the new year begins in earnest for me. As I’ve said for years, January is the most illogical inaugural month—at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. By this time of year, the days are finally getting noticeably longer. You can feel the approach of spring in the growing warmth of the sun and hear it in the songs of the birds that have returned already. It’s when I begin seriously thinking about what I want to accomplish in this new year. One of my resolutions is to view myself with more grace.
I am not a flaky failure. I’m human. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Feature image by Chris Barbalis.