I graduated from law school in 2004. I had no interest in practicing law, so I moved to Japan and taught English there instead. Though I was supposedly the teacher, I learned a lot and had a blast.
I moved back to my hometown for family reasons and took a job temping in a small HR office. Job opportunities did not abound, so I was simply glad I could pay my bills. I felt the same when I took on a temporary administrative role at a larger company before long. I sucked at it, but did my best to find silver linings, of which there were many.
As my temporary admin gig neared its conclusion, a woman I’d met exactly once offered to take me onto her team as an admin. I sent her a copy of my resume; once she saw I’d gone to law school, she became determined to get me negotiating software contracts on her team. I rejected at first, saying I’d have taken the Bar if I wanted to do anything law-related.
She persisted, thank God. I soon began negotiating contracts, and felt (happily) challenged for the first time in years. I loved learning about hardware and software, which I had to do to be effective at negotiating. I enjoyed negotiating and was grateful to have an encouraging, supportive manager nudging me outside my comfort zone.
I worked on software contracts for a decade. Then, two years ago tomorrow, I began working as a software licensing contractor. My commute to a full-time job with great benefits was just too long. I accepted job uncertainty as a small cost compared to the benefit of not spending four hours in my car daily.
My first few months as a contractor were deeply uncomfortable. There was a lot of ambiguity, which frustrated me until I took it upon myself to lessen the ambiguity. If anyone didn’t like how I was doing that, I figured, they’d be sure to tell me.
Taking risks, I found myself growing. I found joy in that growing, though I’d started out discombobulated.
As that contract wound down, an opening came up for a software asset management position. I seized the opportunity. Sure, I’d never done it before and didn’t know a thing about helping ensure neither too many nor too few licenses were procured, but I knew I’d grow. I knew that any frustration I felt at being a noob the first few months would be counterbalanced by the ultimate joy of learning.
I “knew,” but I didn’t really know. ‘Cause, see, I had no idea how much I’d learn, nor how much I’d be encouraged to learn. I couldn’t have fathomed how much support I’d have, nor how mistakes would be treated as just a part of the journey of learning. I had no idea what it’d be like to feel genuine psychological safety for the first time in my life, among a team that makes me laugh while pushing me to do better every day.
I took a risk two years ago tomorrow, and another one fifteen months ago. Because of those risks, my whole life feels so much richer than it did two years ago. For how rough my life began, it’s pretty rad now.
This is all a necessary background for another story to come. For now, though, I want to say that I am more fortunate than I sometimes remember.
I’m thankful to be challenged to remember this.
About twenty years ago, I took Econ my first term at university. Since it was online, I could fit it in whenever I wanted from week to week.
I don’t remember much of what I studied in that University of Oregon basement Social Studies computer lab. My brain’s been filled with law, contracts, and IT knowledge that’s displaced much of what came before. And yet, reading a political text a couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered an economic concept that matters very much to my life right now: opportunity cost.
Before I read that, I’d understood I haven’t been using my time well recently. I just didn’t have a way to explain it clearly, not even to myself … until I saw the words “opportunity costs.”
When I spend hours on Twitter, when I have arguments not worth having, when I type long essays in states of dismay, I’ve wasted precious minutes much better spent elsewhere. In doing one thing impulsively (or compulsively), I’ve lost an opportunity to do something else that I genuinely wanted to do. Something that might power me through fights worth taking on.
I decided I need to be more conscientious about how I spend my time. I’m making better-for-me choices (virtually!) every day.
Today, home sick with an adverse reaction to something or other, I cheered at this post … and an exchange of comments below it. Athena’s words spoke to thoughts already on my mind, reminding me to actively choose my priorities.
Rather than regret opportunities squandered, I’m going to start saying, “It’s not a priority.” No one else gets to define mine or dictate them to me, though my husband, kids, and manager have some say!
Today, my priority is resting, followed by snuggling, reading, and reflecting. These things refuel me in ways that no amount of caffeine or sugar can.
I need the real stuff. The good fuel.
What about you? Are you getting enough good fuel?
Reading an article on resilience recently, one particular paragraph struck me:
Academic research into resilience started about 40 years ago with pioneering studies by Norman Garmezy, now a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After studying why many children of schizophrenic parents did not suffer psychological illness as a result of growing up with them, he concluded that a certain quality of resilience played a greater role in mental health than anyone had previously suspected.
My mother, who was beautiful, vibrant, and offbeat through her 2010 death to cancer, had schizophrenia. I thought my husband understood the complexity of this until we had a startling conversation in 2015. Afterward, I wrote: Read more…
Many times, I’ve explained how the Democrats lost me.
No times, until this week, did I explain how Bernie Sanders won me.
Writing about my love instead of my earlier rage felt joyous. Right.
Something unexpected and beautiful happened even after I posted. Someone tweeted three magic words that made me cry: I believe you.
For years, my slogan has been, “your belief is irrelevant.”
All the same, seeing those three words opened the floodgates for me. Those words of support weren’t only about me, but my mom, who spent her whole life yearning for people to believe and lift (instead of castigating) her.
I’ll include some more tweets behind a cut below. One was retweeted more than 80 times, which meant I saw the hashtag #IBelieveYou every few minutes throughout Saturday. Each time, I said quiet thanks.
In ways I’ll have to explain later, the piece only happened because I got out to vote for California delegates last weekend. Actually stepping out into my community and interacting with people here changed everything for me.
If you’re yearning to do something but don’t know what to do, you might consider attending an Our First Stand: Save Health Care rally tomorrow. People will gather across the U.S. to demonstrate our commitment to health care as a human right.
By showing up, you have the power to help save lives … all while setting aside worrying in favor of acting, from love.
It may not be everything, but it’s a fine start.
More #IBelieveYou tweets below the cut
I was prepared to love Bernie Sanders almost thirty years ago.
I was barely a decade old when I testified against a pedophile. He sat only a few feet away from me as I described how he’d once placed a hand on my breast.
If you’re like me, you’re super uncomfortable talking about race and racism as a white person in the U.S.
If you’re like me, you’ll keep on talking–and, more importantly, listening!–anyway.
For more on this, please read “On Building Racial Stamina: the Journey Out of White Fragility.”
My older son spent his first three years in an apartment a few blocks from the ocean. We’d often walk to a nearby park just across the street from the ocean.
My husband, Anthony, and I took both our boys and their new digging toys to this park the day after Christmas.
Seven-year-old Li’l D had barely begun using his remote-controlled excavator when a slightly younger girl came up and asked him to use it. My shoulders stiffened a little and I held my breath, hoping no intervention would be required.
(I’m not usually an intervener. Kids learn these ropes by navigating them. Still, sugar coursed through both my boys’ veins and the toy was very new.)
“Sure!” he replied. “This is how you use it.” He gave her a 30-second crash course before scampering off to make friends.
Li’l D and his two-year-old brother, Littler J, spent an hour and a half roaming the playground and laughing with new friends.
Li’l D never did return to his excavator. His dad fetched it after the last kid using it walked away to join Littler with his tiny excavators and trucks.
As our trip wound down, I looked at Li’l D holding his own with a bunch of kids across the park at the see-saw.
“Wow,” I told Anthony. “We don’t need to watch him so close anymore, huh? Always hovering just a few steps away …”
“We don’t,” he agreed. “This is why I take him and let him run.”
I looked just past my feet to Littler, who was busy burying his tiny excavator beneath a mound of sand.
Someday soon, Littler will be big enough to roam further away from Anthony and me.
He’ll do this in preparation for The Big Roam many years ahead.
But for now? For now, with a few asides to chase after his big brother, he is happiest playing just a few feet from Mommy and Daddy.
I’ll savor his nearness now, but when it’s his time to run? I’ll savor that, too, as another part of this whole gorgeous, messy journey of loving little kids hard enough that they’ll someday feel me nearby even when we’re in very different somewheres, far beyond the sandbox.