Burn it Down

Bear with me…

When Stretch Guy told me that it would feel like a “miracle” when the therapies worked, I scoffed. I scoffed at my back getting better with the odd adjustments of network chiropractic work. I scoffed at the idea that I could know what I wanted out of my career. I scoffed at the idea of knowing what “happy” is.

Motherf*ker was right.

I’ve felt happy and content over the last 2 weeks. Like really for real happy. It’s not like all of the sudden my life got easier, because on a day-to-day basis it’s been more difficult. X had a rough re-entry into school, we changed Z’s daycare and that came with it’s own transition nightmare of pulling a screaming crying 4-year old off of us while we ran out the door, and work has not gotten better. So, to be able to say I’ve felt happy and content in the middle of all this means that I have finally had a massive breakthrough.

I realized my breakthrough when I rode the 100-mile bike ride I train for every year. I raised money for charity, I trained more consistently than I have in the past, and I was ready to tackle the ride….then the Tuesday before, I got shingles. What. The. Hell. Shingles! You’re not supposed to get shingles until you’re old! Luckily, I recognized the symptoms as soon as they started, which was a weird tingling/pain sensation on the right side of my face around my eyebrow and forehead. I got on medication within 48 hours and they never got as bad as I’ve heard. By Saturday, I was still ready to ride, my forehead was annoyingly itchy, but no nerve pain. What I didn’t think about was how the medication was upsetting my stomach, and right about mile 60 or so, I suddenly got a massive case of reflux. The biking position does not lend itself to being particularly conducive to combatting reflux, in fact it makes it worse. Ten miles later I knew I was not going to be able to finish and sadly took the bail out turn back to the start for a total of 73 miles while the rest of my group continued on. Here’s where the breakthrough realization comes in. I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t finish the last 27 miles after all the training and prep I had done. I had to hang at the finish for quite a while by myself waiting for S to show up with the kids and then for my friends to finish. Any other year and I would have been berating myself for not pushing harder, beating myself up left and right. This year, I shrugged it off. Yes, I was totally bummed out, but I realized that my body was fighting a major infection and my immune system was suppressed. It wasn’t my fault, it was bad timing. By the time my friends made it back to the finish, completing the full 100 miles, I was ok with what happened and genuinely proud and happy for them finishing. That couldn’t have happened even a few months ago. And it didn’t. When we were in France, I beat myself up for not skiing the glacier with S and our friends. I wasn’t happy for them, I was completely depressed that I was such a chicken. The change from March to now is staggering.

Having this newfound sense of self-esteem and worthiness has made me consider my career trajectory and the choices I’ve made. I’ve been working through my career trying to prove to myself and everyone around me (read: my mom) that I’m good enough. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do: Got the degree, got the second degree, found a career I don’t hate, found an organization that seems good enough, worked my way up in the organization, put myself on the management track aiming for the highest position I can achieve. I struggle to fit 40 hours plus hobbies plus school plus after school plus kids plus S into one week.

Things have happened at work that make it clear I’m in the wrong position. I’m good at my job, in fact I’m better than good, I’m great, one of the best. I have a forward thinking vision for how to get to the end of projects, I can see issues arising and try to do something about it before critical mass hits. I have the opposite personality from everyone I work with. All my forward thinking, critical thinking and technical skills come with a Compliant/Dominant personality and I struggle to connect with people. I struggle mightily with the politics of my position. I’m constantly getting negative feedback (I look angry in meetings, I’m too confrontational…blah blah blah) as I strive to move projects forward. They want all my strengths, but they don’t want to let me be me. I can work on my reactions in interacting with people and in meetings, but they are asking me to become someone I’m not. They are asking me to put on a mask at the same time I’m trying to break down all my armor. I used to buy into the idea of leaning in, except that leaning in up until now has gotten me to the point that every few months my body gives me a signal that I’m pushing too hard. In January I had strep. In August I had shingles. A couple of years ago I had influenza. I get several head colds a year. Sure all of this can be attributed to “I have kids in school!”, but it’s not just that. I know it’s not.

Burn it all down.

I went to my direct supervisor and gave him a proposal. I don’t want to continue in my current position, I want to work part-time and these are the things I want to do. For now, I’m done with the ladder. I need time and space to figure out where I want to take my career. I need to branch out to trying different things like being involved in my kids school and putting my skills to use in other areas. I'm doing this for me, not for my kids, not for S, and most certainly not because I feel like I should. I want to slow down my life and I feel confident in my current skill set that this won’t be a set-back. I like the people I work with and I want to stay in my group, just in a different capacity. For their parts, my supervisor and my superior (despite my difficulties with her) are supportive. They don’t want to lose me. So, fairly soon, although HR in the gov’t is maddeningly slow, I will be slowing it all down. Not as much travel, not as many projects, and the ability to make my position what I want.

This is a win.

I feel good.