When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up or what I want to do with my life and the only answer I ever have is, “uhhhh, I just wanna write and be a writer?”
Presumably, the unspoken clause included is that in addition to writing, I also factor food, family, friends, travel, laughter, and music into the mix, but I assume that all goes without saying. I’m very curious about how other people respond to this kind of question, seeing as my plan for a structured, scheduled life pretty much ended the moment I accepted my diploma.
Does it really warrant a long pause afterward when people hear about my semi-lackadaisical in appearance but wholly driven and motivated in my head and actions future life? I just want to write about a little bit o’ everything under the sun. Do people seriously expect to work in the same field their entire life? Or do I just get really bored, really fast and want all the jobs dot com all the time? I’m still in the lower portion of my 20’s. Let me just have this.
Somebody I follow on Twitter just tweeted "when you’re not working, you should be networking!" with an exclamation point included and maybe that’s sound advice to some but when I’m not working I just want to be doing nothing on top of nothing. You gotta make time for you and by you, I obviously mean you with a wine bottle and friends and maybe some family members if y’all are close like that sitting together on somebody’s patio and shooting the shit over good eats on a warm summer’s night with a sweet playlist of music in the background.
I may be a boss lady but I’m not here for this “drive, drive drive! push, push, push! until! you! crack! up!” at the workplace mentality. Never not ever.
"Heather. Nothing lasts forever."
Four simple words but none I haven’t heard before. Yesterday, I was chatting with a former ad man on Twitter about McGarryBowen’s loss of the Marriott Hotel account (or a sizeable portion of it anyway) to Grey which delivered on what has to be the most direct someone has been with me in a long time. Direct in a way that is not painful or rude either, but a simple truth: nothing really does last forever.
I am often told how lucky I am. People will say things like "I wish I had your life!" but what they wish is for the easy, glamorous portion that looks practically handed to me. It’s not. Nothing is and nothing ever will be.
The portion of my life I am most grateful for is the side that is not seen publicly. It’s the side where I’m staying at the office during the holidays until 6 PM or later. When I’ve been up all night writing until 2 AM, tired but satisfied. When I take a day off from work, but continue to check in with all my emails and update the company Twitter account. It’s the blood, sweat, and tears of the operation that keeps me going and alert. Nobody writes tweets or statuses about that. A “status” indirectly refers to success on a constant loop and Facebook users prefer looking like kings as opposed to serfs.
I owe a lot of this to my father. When I was 13 years old, my Dad told me I didn’t have an edge in life. Not yet, at that age, but I would need to develop it quickly to beat out the competition and he would help me. I was so angry when he first said that to me. Angry because it was true. And because I was 13 and everything made me furious at that age but nothing made me more upset faster than the fact that my Dad was always right about everything - and aware of it.
Life doesn’t care about the vision you have in your head for it because it won’t ever move in that direction. Nor does anything, particularly in this economy, last forever. You can live for today and believe there isn’t a tomorrow coming which is exhilarating but steeped in problems, or you can acknowledge that you can lose everything in a moment’s notice and know how to either cash out before that or face that fear head on and deal with it as it comes.
I suppose the moral of this story is that we all have a whole lot of life ahead of us. Bad situations will not last forever and neither will hopeless ones, unless you are of a mindset that forces you to think they will. Hard work is a constant that will never go away. You will grieve and glow and grow and crash and burn with it. But it’s your ticket to these glittering moments, as well as the upsetting ones that come along for the ride. Work will change you, adapt you, make your skin tougher if you understand that it is indeed work. Don’t complain about having a good job on Facebook, don’t pontificate about escaping to Paris for what seems like greener grass on the other side. Do your job and do it well and continue to do it better and better. You can only ever go up when it comes to working if it’s within your field and even when it isn’t.
"You only live twice. Or so it seems."
Sometimes in life, we have moments where we truly feel like we’re growing up and finding out more about ourselves and others. These moments take place within ourselves and occasionally they’re out of body experiences, in which we step outside of who we are and quietly observe ourselves in third person action. My week was filled with these moments and realizations that were bigger than me in some forms but ultimately not too surprising in others.
(Note: Upon rereading this, I realize that the week that was is basically just two days written about here. So there’s that.)
Monday: My Lightbulb Bathroom Moment
I came to a conclusion on Monday when I was in the bathroom at work that I kind of already knew about myself. Like a small lightbulb lighting up in my head. Ready?
I am at my very best whenever I’m working constantly.
Wow, I’m so surprised! -says nobody who has known me since the age of 11 (when I first started working). But really now, this is important to me. There was an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie quit her columnist job to move to Paris with the Russian and Miranda is horrified, saying that she can’t quit her job because it’s who she is. “No it’s not who I am, it’s what I do.” Carrie snaps back. The reality of course is that Miranda is right because Carrie is what she does.
"We are what we repeatedly do" is one of my favorite quotes from Aristotle and both in the case of Carrie and myself, it couldn’t be more true. I write constantly, but last month I burned out for a moment there. I am of the belief that you write when you’re passionate and if you don’t have the passion working as your drive, then don’t write. Trust that the passion will return when it does and it will.
What brought me around was the death of Nora Ephron whom I’ve always had tremendous respect and fangirlish admiration for. A friend of mine pointed out to me that both Ephron and Jennifer Weiner, a great chick lit author, had gotten their start early on by attending and covering the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Which I did too!
Knowing that these great women’s minds had thought so much alike motivated me back into the game. I checked out a pile of books from the library, started reading, emailed all of my closest PR contacts (uh, there’s like 60+ on that list) and before long I was back where I felt at my strongest: in a sea of words and sentences and press releases asking me to try new mascaras. Later this month I’ll be North Carolina bound for a few days for a big surprise that only a slim handful of people know about. I don’t plan on discussing it outside of that slim few either. My dad has already described the impending visit to be “another feather for your cap” which is a perfect description of what’s to come.
When I’m working all of the time, everything feels right. I am whole. I am what I repeatedly do and what I repeatedly do (work and writing) fulfills both me and hopefully the people who read what I have to say.
Tuesday: Passing the Torch
I am particularly proud of the events that occurred on Tuesday because they had been in the making for some time. In my head, I had known I would make this proposal and after discussing it with my boss briefly and receiving her blessing, I knew there was no day like Tuesday to go ahead and offer it.
On Tuesday, I sat privately with my intern Kelsey and offered her the chance to come on full-time at the company after she graduates from college this year.
She said yes! It was a beautiful moment. I felt massively grown up all of a sudden. We both started crying almost immediately. Moments before the offer was made, we had both been discussing the senior year of college and she asked me if it goes by as fast as it looks.
"Well, not the first semester. But the second semester does. There’s a slow moment in January and then it takes off and doesn’t stop and all of a sudden it’s May." And that was the moment where it hit me. I remembered my own graduation two years ago and how when I graduated, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a job interview lined up but that was it. No future career in place to jump into, no home post-dorm established. I’d like to be able to tell you that not having all of these security blankets made for an exciting adventure to come, that I was free to pursue whatever I wanted, but that’s not how it feels, not at all. You’ve read my Monday realization: I like working and need it to be myself. I also really like money and being able to pay my student loans and afford Starbucks lattes. Most of all, after all of the exams and studying and ceremonies and tearful farewells to best friends, I really wanted to be able to take a nap and you kind of need to live somewhere in order to do that.
I had always known I would ask Kelsey to stay on within the department if she wanted, but in that moment, that flashback to my own life, I saw that this question meant more than just keeping on a great employee. For the first time, I had the power to take a person’s future, uncertain as it may be, and erase the question mark and replace it with an exclamation point. The offer was bigger than me. I was both inside and outside of myself in asking the question. And when you see yourself on the outside is when you see just how far you’ve come from where you started, some 13 years ago when I was 11 and my job was assisting with Avon orders.
"Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit" is the other portion of the same quote from Aristotle. We never know where our lives will take us or the bigger plans in store. To practice excellence in what we are gifted at, to be thankful in the good things that come our way, and to continually pass that torch onward and upward to those that we meet and know is what we should do.
It’s what we are.