Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Evolution of Stumbling

Today is my last day of work.

As I was driving here this morning, the phrase that kept coming to mind was that I "stumbled up the back steps and am walking gracefully out the front door." Not that I'm walking all that gracefully, necessarily, just, I look much less like a baby giraffe than I did upon my arrival.

I can't remember when I heard it first, specifically, but I know it was in the context of my sorority. So I went digging around online for the poem, or the story from which it came, and I don't know if this is the one I heard, but I thought it was beautiful.

I also think it's not confined to the experience of being in a sorority, but eloquently expresses the pains and trials of periods of growth in our lives.

"What is __(name of group or organization here)_? If its really anything at all, it is not entirely, a logo, national conventions, monogrammed rings, worn-out
songs, Bylaws, Membership Standards, or a badge. And it is not
entirely an institution, a creed, a legacy, an obligation, or a way of life.
If you're going to insist that it is something, it is only......
Moving in for the first time and slowly learning that all beautiful people have fat legs and use mouthwash and wear last year's coats.
...Long, tired eternities of black coffee and exam snacks when you can't remember the Renaissance architects or the stages of photosynthesis and respiration.
......Borrowing a skirt from Karen and a blouse from Amy, and shoes from Meredith, and a belt and a coat from Liz and passing it off as your own.
...Sitting on the back steps and listening with all your helplessness because she's lost and she's lonely and it seems the whole world just fell into ugly pieces
......And it's coming in very late one night and closing the door to tell someone who's seen you through the hardest years of your life that you're happy now, and you've found someone
...And this all is, I suppose, a kind of evaluation.
You grow up inside these elegant halls, and perhaps you do learn more of the
grizzly, ungrateful circus we call life than if you had lived it somewhere else.
You learn that a football player is sometimes just shoulder pads and that skinny arms sometimes hide a great man. You learn that some lecture halls are just
watery echoes and that there are silent rooms for deeper rivers of
self-reflection. You learn that no matter where you come from or who took you
there, you've still got to find that one small acre that belongs to you, by
You learn to wait, because change is slow and change isn't always
You learn that there's still a lot left to believe in and a whole lot more to hope for.
You learn that love has never been easy, and that it's a long time coming.
And if you're very smart, or very lucky, you learn that no matter how big or how messy the world becomes, what is precious and what is permanent is always the same.
And in the very end, you learn that this experience can only be a better way to stumble up the back steps and walk gracefully out the front door."
If you tweak just enough of the scenarios, it could very easily be a job, or a new city, or any of the other things that force us to learn about ourselves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kickin I.T. To. The. CURB

I’ve had this job for two years, two months, and 9 days.
I have complained about it for about two years, two months, and 8 days.

I have worked with some real characters, some cardboard cut-out imposters of people, some fun clients, and a lot of people whose names I cannot pronounce.

I think I have come to appreciate certain things about it, though: my schedule is flexible, my vacation package is fair, I can get away with pursuing other hobbies during the day, I can work from home, I have a steady paycheck, I have my own desk by a window, I rarely have to take work home with me after hours or on weekends.

But we all know my heart is somewhere else, my talents better used elsewhere, and my life not to be spent doing this, blogging furtively in between struggling to figure out how the hell to update a Use Case Document about whatever it was they were talking about in that one meeting.

So why haven’t I left? Why do I feel a choking, knotted sensation in my chest when I think about what it will take to look my team in the face and quit? Why is it that I sweat and inhale shallow, rapid, breaths when I get serious about making myself happy?

I think it has to come down to being more scared of the known than the unknown: the idea that once a decision is made, predictable consequences fall rapidly as paving stones and cement into a path.. a path that I actually set myself.

Which is why on Friday morning, at 9 AM, I am nervously fumbling with my coffee cup and suppressing intermittent spurts of nausea, because I am seated in a conference room with my boss, and I say,
“I’m going to cut right down to business and let you know that I am giving my notice of resignation.”
Without being terribly dramatic, it was more like I heard myself say the words rather than actually think to say them.

My boss Allen wastes no time. “When are you leaving?”
“Welllll-“ I glance at the calendar behind his head. “August 19th.”
“Ah, okay,” he says, looking at something on his computer. “You’re only required to give two weeks’ notice, so we really appreciate that extra week. So, let’s talk about the reasons why you’re leaving…”
I take a deep breath and launch into ALL the reasons.

Ba said later I should have just given him this blog address and walked out of the room, but, I tried to be tactful and articulate while also direct and honest:

That we all know I sort of fell into the job, that it was a steep learning curve for me, that my talents are likely better suited elsewhere.

And oh, that I am moving to New York City the first week of September.

“You’re moving WHERE?!” He laughs. “Do you have a job lined up?”
He laughs again. “Wow. Well what are you looking to get into?”I want to get into all kinds of things (trouble, my own place, a niche) but I only list a couple.
“Event planning and design, ideally nonprofit. Maybe work for a small media company.”

“Well,” he sighs, “I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve seen this coming for a while.”

I relax, and start to resume normal breathing patterns. We chat lightly for a few minutes and I am overjoyed by his supportive and encouraging response, so much so, that I float away from the conversation and am consumed by an adrenaline rush: the realization that I have the power to make decisions and create change for myself.

I head back to my office, and am greeted by the only co-worker in-the-know, to whom I confided my plans over three or four mojitos a few weeks ago.

“SO?!” she whispers hoarsely, a question in her grin.

We take a walk outside and I recount the conversation, aglow with triumph.

“That is just so cool,” she says smiling, shaking her head. “I am so excited for you, and sad that you’re leaving of course, but only for personal reasons. It is so rare that we advocate for ourselves proactively, you know? There’s a lot to be said for that. So often we respond to the flow, and we roll with punches, but it is a unique and defining experience to grab the reins and really make a decision – make a change like this – for yourself. I am proud of you!”

I’m proud of myself, too.

So it’s really happening: I finally quit my job. I am going to move to New York City with no job, and no family, and no place to live.

I am kickin’ I.T. to the curb, and will start kickin’ it in NYC in September.
I hope you stick around to hear how it goes (spoiler alert: it goes awesomely).