Back in the day I took a simple self-evaluation test. Basically it asked if you liked to plan ahead or go with the flow. I honestly had myself convinced that I wasn't sure which category I fell into. That's totally laughable now. Anyone who knows me can attest that I take planning VERY seriously. I hold tight to my physical paper planner (no, I don't use an e-calendar) and I basically wouldn't know how to function without a weekly and daily to-do list. Looking back I'm pretty sure what had me confused was determining who I was versus who I thought the "best" me should be.
This type-A planner mentality has served me mostly well in life. It's even allowed me to create a career out of my inherent abilities - wedding planners have got to have their ish together! But it has also made a prisoner to the course I've set out.
You see I'm a competitor. I do very well under pressure. And I perform best when facing a deadline. But when there's uncertainty or things don't go as planned, I have not always been so graceful.
I would say I've struggled with my own professional identity for the past five years or so. Once I decided I was going to grad school things changed. My friends and family didn't really understand what I was going to study and worried about how I would be able to take on loans and make a living in a field where I would be helping others...but not as a doctor. That decision set my course.
Those first few years after grad school were HARD. I came out thinking I would have these amazing opportunities that were everything my professors made them out to be. I'd be traveling and managing and really contributing to the solution. In actuality I was sitting behind a desk becoming real good at contracts but not so good at reaching the people most in need.
I needed a change. What stopped me is that if that job wasn't it - the one I thought was my dream job - where would I be happy? I spent so much time and money on my grad degrees that I had to stick with it. Changing my mind at this point would just mean giving up.
Fast forward a few years, many tears. I can finally understand (and attest) that changing course does not mean giving up! It doesn't mean failing! Staying put was taking so much energy that I didn't even have enough to imagine what else there could be...I could be.
Today I was listening to a podcast with Jason Zook and I think he said it perfectly. He said,
There's this idea that you are supposed to have one career in your life. This is just not true!
The truth is your path is going to change many times in throughout your life. Sometimes you're going to be the driving force behind this change and sometimes it's going to be an outcome of your circumstances. Either way, try to be open to it. Maybe it's the Washingtonian in me. Maybe it's the determination to be successful. I have spent so much time fearing failure that I have watched from the sidelines as others succeed. I've made excuses for why it could happen for them but not for me. The bottom line is that I wasn't willing to change my mind or my course.
I finally stepped away. I stopped caring about what I should do and started keeping in touch with what filled my soul. I paid attention to what was filling my free time and realized that a career could be shaped around that. I took a good hard look at the common thread among all of my professional endeavors and stopped being afraid of defining myself this way rather than by my degrees.
You can always change your mind. Don't miss out because you're afraid of what decision you made yesterday, or last month, or last year. Spend your time on things that fill you up, not things that meet the standards of others. For it matters little what others want you to do. You're the captain of the ship.