Friday, November 28, 2014


I've never had what people refer to as "a calling." What a great idea, right? As if someone just out of focus is beckoning to you: "Psst. Hey. Check this out." A vocation, if you will. I believe there are some careers that require that guiding spirit—teacher, doctor, spiritual guru—and some, such as office administrator, that do not. And as I was sitting in a Second Cup today, regretting my mid-afternoon treat (brownie + hot chocolate = so much sugar), it occurred to me that this might okay. I might be fine as I am.

I sometimes feel like there are not one but three new years in each year: the start of the calendar year, the back-to-school season, and one's birthday. These tend to bring on self-reflective moments: am I where I want to be? What should I change? What should I keep? The past nine months have been dramatic and emotional: friendships have ended, marriages have begun, work has been a disaster and I've felt my creativity strain at the confines of a 24-hour day. At the end of it, who am I? Who do I want to be?

Okay, I know this has been wishy-washy and a little self-indulgent so far, but bear with me. I am an overthinker; it's just how I roll. I keep thinking about my friend Liz and my aunt Barb, both of whom went back to school for thinks they wanted to do. Maybe even felt compelled to do, when it comes right down to it. And my own calling may not work the same way: it may be a magnet that repels instead of clicking close, where each day I stay in a place that doesn't feed me, I feel more and more ruined. It doesn't show me where I should go, but it teaches me where I can't stay.

It's my birthday on Sunday. In the spirit of a new year, here are three things I want to make happen for myself. To make that coffee shop revelation really hold true, to actually be fine where I am. 

1. To get a new job. I spent thirteen months unemployed, and in some ways, it was the greatest year of my life: I did freelance work, I made things, I saw friends and family, I had a good therapist. It was like being a student, but without having to be an alcoholic, bulimic 24 year old. I know work is work, and that it's not designed to make us feel good. But it shouldn't be making me feel bad. A new job, even a temporary one, might help fix that. It also might not, but there's no way of knowing until I try.

2. To get onto a new career path. After spending the last two years dancing around it in various forms—I'm going to be an HR manager! I'm going to be a life coach! I'm going to be a board trainer!—I realized that what I wanted to do was talk to people about their problems and help them fix 'em. I want to be a therapist.

Jeez, it feels weird even saying that out loud, you know? It's a ton of work, but I think I'd be good at it. And, as my mom pointed out, I can be five years older and be on this path, or I can be five years older and in the same career stream, just floating unhappily along. I'm trying so hard to avoid saying cliches like "You only get one shot at this," but seriously: I really do only get one shot at this. It's not like it's going to happen unless I make it happen.

3. To embrace all my feelings. I spent one afternoon this summer just bawling my eyes out in the office at this blog, which made me feel all kinds of complicity, guilt, and general grief at the world. After I was done, I just sort of stared blankly at the wall for a while. And feeling that sad was really uncomfortable. Unsurprisingly, I also hate being angry with my husband, I hate feeling anxious around my boss, and I hate worrying about my various family members.

But I also love spending time with my family, and feeling peaceful about the end of a friendship, and basking in the glow of M's love. I can be somewhat of a pessimist, and I often also try to avoid bummer feelings because, hey, they're bummers. But accepting the whole range of my emotional spectrum is such a key part of being a human. When I try to ignore the negative, or when my angry feelings threaten to block out all that joy, well, then, we have a problem.

So this year's to-do list for myself is a little different. It's not a lose-ten-pounds kind of deal; it's a get-going-girl exhortation. Some of it is trying to control for external forces, some of it is figuring out how to make a big change without psyching myself out, and some of it is just continuing to do work I already know how to do. So yeah: I see you, thirty-first birthday. I'm coming for you. Let's do this thing.