I have not followed a predictable or traditional career trajectory, by most people’s standards. Certainly not by the standards of my mother, who, as an immigrant, possessed a starkly different set of expectations for me in this country. But this unique trajectory of mine has always been a source of pride—I’m immensely proud of the places I’ve gone, the experiences I’ve had—and a source of shame.
Can you feel both proud and ashamed of the same thing?
The shame gets triggered when people ask me certain questions or make certain observations:
You move around a lot.
You change jobs a lot.
What were you planning to do with that?
You’re changing jobs/apartments/cities again?
When will you settle down and grow up?
Or, when I tell people that I have degrees in Television & Radio, Spanish, Theology, and International Development, and a perplexed frown settles on their face as they try to find the logic in that. Where’s the pattern? What’s the point?
I can hear the shame in my voice, feel it all over my body—in my lowered eyes, shrugging shoulders, and diminished posture—when I attempt to explain my actions, my unorthodox choices. Somewhere underneath is usually a hidden plea for understanding and affirmation, for someone to tell me, “Don’t worry. You’re okay.”
Okay, you know what? The pity party’s over. It’s time to nix the shame.
My Career Intention for 2014? To reclaim my past and recreate my future.
My life to this point is a reflection of who I am: insatiably curious, always wanting to learn something new. Compassionate. Deeply concerned for the underdog and those who tend to live on the margins of society. Creative. Idealistic. But pragmatic and realistic when the situation calls for it. Always in pursuit of personal growth and development. And truth. Impatient with the status quo.
It’s in my nature to take the less-traveled road. To explore new places and new opportunities. To encounter new people and cultures, to absorb their worldviews and assumptions and allow them to enhance my own. I’m driven to make connections—between people, ideas, movements, opportunities—and bring our vast and deep (and often hidden) interconnectedness to light. I could not do this without a collection of experiences to draw from.
All the places I’ve gone, the jobs I’ve had, the places I’ve lived, the courses of study I’ve pursued, have given me a richness and depth of life experience, captured and recorded in every cell in my body, and beyond my ability to fully articulate. I am very, very grateful for these experiences, and for the person I’ve become as a result.
That’s not to say there isn’t more work to be done.
Even as I reclaim and embrace my past, it’s also time to recreate my future. To take the lessons learned, the successes and failures, triumphs and losses, and use them to reshape and even redirect my career trajectory.
I will make different choices now, choices aligned with who I know myself to be. I will allow myself to be led by my strengths, my inner wisdom, my curiosity, and my limitations. Yes, I look to my limitations with respect and high regard, much as you would look upon a childhood teacher whom you experienced as unbelievably hard-assed and mean, but whose acerbic words contained truth and wisdom only your adult mind could understand and appreciate.
I will take my inklings, instincts, and curiosities seriously, allow them to direct and guide me in my career choices. And I will trust them enough to risk going a little deeper, letting myself put down roots, so to speak, in those career areas I choose. And if I trust my instincts to guide me, I will also trust that I can develop levels of skill I never dared to imagine, and choose not to dash away too quickly for fear that I just won’t be good enough. I will, instead, allow myself to be seen.
There’s a lot more work to be done on this project called Me. Still more of this mountain to scale. But I think I’m off to a pretty good start so far; a good chunk of the work has already been done.