Birthday Reflections: On Turning 100000

Yes, that’s binary.

This time last year, I could hardly believe how well things had worked out for me. A bold career move had paid off. I reaped the rewards celebrating my birthday at my new job. The people were both friendly and quirky and the position included constant learning – my number one happiness ingredient.

This position also involved getting to know the city. Though I live in the suburbs, I have a deep love of city neighborhoods. Even as a child, when we drove into the city, I noticed the changes in the rhythm of the streets, the people and the textures. Outside cities, everything has been smoothed down, its voice muted, with each brick the exact same color as the one next to it. The buildings don’t tell stories the same way. Don’t get me wrong, I like our neighborhood (which is also quirky). But I love urban communities.

As I drove to the office my first day, excitement overpowered nerves. They’d hired me after only one interview, but I knew success would follow me there. Within a week, the idea that I was just where I needed to be cemented itself in heart and mind. My boss once sent us a Stephen Colbert video and then visited to discuss it. Yes, that happens at work sometimes. And yes, that does make him a better leader.

Within a few weeks, the first inkling of trouble arrived. My boss held a meeting and explained that a major source of funding had become uncertain. He explained why he thought we were in a good position and how he planned to approach it. He offered transparency and optimism. Despite being the marketing person, my excitement still overpowered my fears.

Then my boss announced he was moving, for reasons unrelated to the funding. The care he took in explaining this decision and the circumstances was touching. It was too great an experience for him to pass up. When the new Executive Director came on board, uncertainty filled me. He didn’t have the same desire to talk openly with the staff. He mentioned keeping me around, but he was hard to read. I suddenly realized this job probably wouldn’t last as long as I wished.

Even though I knew it was a possibility, it happened much sooner than I anticipated. For about a week after, I had bricks in my stomach. We still had several months until we heard about our funding, and my new boss had talked about me in the future tense. Looking back, he probably felt pressured to put on that front. I’m still glad I stayed as long as possible. I want to be the kind of person who can weather storms. I want to always be stronger. I did that. I still think it was the right decision.

And it’s possible that I am, once again, in just the right place. Like many women, each birthday brings moments of judgment: have I accomplished enough to justify the passage through the calendar? Am I getting where I want to be fast enough? Am I working hard enough? Yes. To all of those.

Like many successful people, I’ve had to work very hard to get where I am. So last July when my job disappeared, and I hit interview after interview without landing a new one, it felt like it all was slipping away. With each holiday, I would hand out candy or light the tree and think, “I can’t believe it’s Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/St. Patrick’s Day/Vernal Equinox and I haven’t found a job yet.”

Today, when my annual moments of judgment came at me, I batted each one away.

I’ve been more successful in the months since July than ever before. I’ve met more wonderful people than I can count. I’ve worked in instructional design, copywriting for agencies, higher education and more. I even had a word file entitled “World Series Smack Talk” at a contract this fall. In addition to identifying key strengths in writing and strategy, I’m conquering cs50. It’s taking a lot of time and effort (and swearing), but I love it.

Like a shed skin, I’m leaving behind doubt and embracing my talents. A job is not the same as success. While I was busy looking for the former, I found the latter. I’m not through looking. But no longer will its absence loom over my holidays, a footnote on an otherwise fun occasion.

In previous years I would have been too self-conscious to write about failed interviews or worried that by admitting my new interest in computer science, you would think of me as less of a writer. Life is too short. Ain’t nobody got time for dat!

Now, I trust potential employers to see my ambition and never-quite-satisfied nature as the positive attribute it is. My curiosity is valuable, too. I’m already able to write about technology with more nuance and insight. As far as the interviews go, some of those jobs weren’t a good fit. It’s just another avenue for me to improve how I present myself and listen to others.

I’m able to do difficult things. Whenever I struggle with an elusive piece of code, I remember studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland for eight weeks and missing my husband terribly. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was also one of the most rewarding. When I find my next professional home, my boss and team will reap the benefits of this journey (which I once described as a march through hell) also. But until then, life is good and I’m enjoying every opportunity that comes my way.

Today, I’m 100000 years old.

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