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.
Last night I searched for a deleted post I couldn’t find.
I didn’t find that one, but I found another one that’s a perfect reminder for me this Mother’s Day.
To everyone out there ever, currently or someday to be a mother, in blood or in spirit, I wish a day that moves you a little closer to where you want to be.
I wish you at least a little letting go for the sake of at least a little letting in.
The imperfect art of letting go
Originally posted July 22, 2012
I gave up cleaning two years and a handful of months ago.
I was working full time, tending to my infant son when I wasn’t working, and adjusting to a commute that had doubled thanks to day care. I was writing or editing a little every day that I could muster the energy, which wasn’t often. My mom was dying, 1,000 gut-wrenching miles away.
Every evening, I’d lay my son down for his increasingly longer sleeping periods and I’d start cleaning. As I cleaned, I’d cry, and I’d cry, and I’d cry. No matter how much I did, there was always more to do. Always. I cursed myself for not having what it took to get on top of it.
One day I sat in front of my computer and thought, “This is what the beginning of a nervous breakdown must feel like.” That thought jarred me. Something had to change. But what?
- Caring for my dog
- Providing food for my family
To preserve what felt like an increasingly tenuous grip on sanity, at least one of these things had to go. Four of the six were essential; between the two that were not, writing and cleaning, there was no contest. Writing helped point me a direction I wanted to go. Cleaning had me running myself ragged for results I could barely even see, let alone feel any satisfaction from. Read more…
“We’ve all gotta start somewhere,” a bartender told my husband on Friday evening.
My husband had just named the show he’s assistant directing. It took him a moment to realize the bartender didn’t think working on a kids TV show–even an Emmy nominated one–was real directing work.
I’ve gotten the same comment from a couple of friends, who’ve said things like, “He went from The Big Bang Theory to that? Ouch!” Read more…
I shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s two and a half years ago.
“Don’t do that!” urged some folks around me. “Think about how you’ll look!”
“Eh, it’s just hair,” I’d reply. “It’ll grow back.” My husband agreed, and sent me off to Chicago with warm wishes.
One woman, knowing I’d recently converted to Judaism, explained why what I was doing felt “icky.” The highest level of giving, after all, is when neither the donor nor the recipient know each other. She felt the spectacle outshone the purpose, an assertion I didn’t bother responding to in substance. I shaved my head for the same reason I ran a half-marathon to raise money: People are so inundated with requests for money these days, they want to be inspired by someone’s conviction–not just told–to give.
Another handful of people told me I dishonored cancer patients by shaving my hair; I wouldn’t really understand what cancer patients endure, and would distract other people from understanding the terrible, total experience of cancer. I wasn’t striving to understand the totality of the experience, though. Having lost my mother to cancer, I wanted to do whatever small thing I could to ensure fewer people might say needless farewells … especially to their children.
Mostly, people were supportive. Mindful of both critics and supporters, I made the choice that made the most sense to me.
I wore a wig for about a week. It bugged the heck out of me, and beside, I liked how I looked bald. Even strangers’ open stares didn’t change that.
I liked how my hair looked as it grew. And, wouldn’t you know? Read more…