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.
Yesterday, I told two coworkers how much I appreciate them and what they do.
“Write that down so you remember it when you’re asked about our performance later!” said one.
“Naw,” I replied. “I don’t need to write it down to remember it. It’s already written in my heart.”
“Welcome to the team!” your new manager exclaims after HR finishes its work with you.
“Here’s your office, your computer, and information about logging in for–”
“Oh, no,” you interrupt. “I have my own computing environment and email already set up. I’ll just use those.”
i was prompted
to provide written feedback
on a colleague
have so many words,
struggled to find
i finally concluded
that i have
anyone so safe
the absence of harm,
but the presence of
of care as
not by doing,
but by being
in the goodness
of getting to
(with my childhood,
this was not
then i saw news
of another shooting,
and i thought
these frail human bodies
can never be safe.
thank god our hearts
can be sheltered
by the care of
those around us
can be safe
i cherish those
who work to safekeep my heart,
and dream of a world
where all may
As an introvert, meetings often exhaust me.
Today I attended a rare meeting that invigorated me without the corresponding exhaustion.
The meeting was only five minutes, which helped, but my joy was about more than un-meeting minutes.
One colleague explained what he’d accomplished since our last meeting. He expressed regret that he hadn’t finished everything yet.
A teammate I greatly admire, C, countered that with a simple upbeat statement that blew me away: “What I’m hearing is progress–it’s all good stuff!”
Recently, I’ve been making huge lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety and physical symptoms–each of which feeds the other–that have assailed me for the last few months. With every passing week, I’ve become more frustrated how much work there is ahead:
Shouldn’t I be healed already? I’m failing. I’m a failure.
Hearing C’s optimism and warmth inspired me to look at my situation in a different light, as I imagined he might. Instead of focusing on all the progress I have yet to make, I sought signs of progress I have already made … and found a great many.
I am doing good work.
The facts are all the same as they were before that morning meeting, but my perspective now isn’t even on the same continent as it was then.
‘Cause what I’m seeing is progress–and it’s all good stuff!
If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you how glad I am to be meeting in a coffee shop for the first time in months. It’s so good for me to spend time here, at a place that reminds me how it feels to be Deborah-as-Deborah, taking a break from being Deborah-as-mom, Deborah-as-wife, Deborah-as-worker, Deborah-as-commuter, or any of the other roles I play. Here at the coffee shop, I get to just be for a while. I like coffee, but this is way better than coffee.
That’s enough about me for now. What have you been up to? What’s been on your mind?
After listening and interjecting questions, I’d tell you that I thought I had nothing to say when I climbed into my car this morning. My week was fairly quiet. I’d tell you how I realized as I drove that plenty has transpired–much of it in my internal world–since we last met. Read more…
If we were having coffee, I’d pass on the coffee and have some minty tea instead.
I’d explain that I spent the last several days in San Antonio, Texas for work, and that I drank at least twice as much coffee as usual to rouse myself after awakening so early each morning. There’s still so much surplus caffeine coursing through my veins that I need to back away from it today for any chance of decent sleep tonight.
I had this funny idea as I departed for Texas that I’d have tons of quiet time to soak in the tidiness and space of my hotel room. I’d get the kind of I’m-an-introvert dream break that I’ve been craving since I learned firsthand–almost two years ago–that finding a little breathing room is about a million times harder with two young kids than one.
I’d shake my head with a rueful grin. I could not have been further off! For starters, being away from my kids was more physically and emotionally exhausting than I’d realized it would be. After the stress of flight, the working hours were longish and heavily interactive. Then, after each workday was over, more discussion ensued over long dinners. I experienced approximately none of the introvert wind-down I’d envisioned as I packed dreamily early in the week. Read more…