When I was a kid in the 1980s, I dreamed that I would grow up to be a reporter. We would pass the New York Times building on the way to my grandmother’s house and I would have detailed fantasies of my 20-something self clacking away on an old-fashioned (even for the 1980’s) typewriter. A pencil would hold my hair up in a sexy, loose bun which I would let down before racing down the hallway to present my editor with a freshly typed piece about women’s rights in the workplace.
Fast forward to high school. I was so jealous of my friends who knew early on exactly what they wanted to do for a living. In my heart I knew too, but I was terrified of saying it out loud. What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? I went to college and then worked at various jobs that led me to a deeply unsatisfying position where I stayed for seven long years. I found myself asking, what if I never try?
Two years ago, I learned that I would be having my first child, a girl. I was thrilled to become a mother, and honestly, even more thrilled to have a daughter. I thought of the women who I would want to tell my daughter about so that she would know that her gender would not stand in the way of her dreams. As I made a list of inspiring women to empower my daughter, I realized that I was not on my own list. At the age of 34, I was not where I wanted to be. Still struggling to accept my dreams, I wondered how I could teach my daughter to be fierce and bold when I was stuck in a job that made me miserable.
In April of 2014, I wrote a post titled, “Career Suicide” on my personal blog. This is when shit got real. Here’s a taste of the bitterness I felt after seven years of denying myself a chance at professional satisfaction.
For a long time, my only motivation was to not be hassled. The incredible micromanaging and favoritism in some departments makes employees feel belittled and untrustworthy. After years of feeling scrutinized for every misstep and feeling as though nothing is ever right, my meager motivation to just not be hassled has fallen away. I just don’t care anymore. My people-pleasing heart knows that there is nothing that I can do to simultaneously feel satisfied with my job and make my coworkers/supervisor happy. I no longer care about making them happy. My amiable spirit is broken.
I don’t care anymore. It is heartbreaking ambivalence. Like many working parents, I have a photo of my child on my laptop background. I used to look at that photo and think, I am going to try my best today, not for my boss, not for my coworkers, but for this little girl. I am going to focus and do my best until something better comes along. It kills me every time I look at my child’s beautiful face, to know that I am spending time away from her doing something that doesn’t matter to me or to anyone else. I do my job with a heavy heart because it isn’t making anyone happy.
I am not sure what I want to do for the rest of my working years, but I know that I want to put my heart into it. I know that I am capable of more. I want to use my brains and creativity in exchange for a proudly earned paycheck.
I will never quit my job. I can’t afford it. I will show up tomorrow. I will stare at my daughter’s picture and my heart will ache to be away from her joyful little spirit. How can I teach my daughter that she can be anything if I am nothing? I will look up graduate school programs. I will send an application or two. And then I will do my best until something better comes along.
Man.That’s depressing, right? After writing this post, I started taking things home from my office. Pictures that accumulated over the years. Bracelets that were stashed in my drawer when I remembered that I don’t like to type with bracelets on. All of those things that you just end up with after several years in a space. I knew that the end had to be coming soon, whether it was the result of me finding a job, getting fired, or finally letting the job take the best of me before being institutionalized.
One month later, I was offered a position as a part-time Communications and Content Administrator for a successful, locally owned e-commerce business. The job offer was in an email that I read in my car after parking in front of the consignment shop where I sell my child’s clothes as she grows out of them. I cried in my car. I cried as I walked into the store. I shopped for baby clothes while crying. I found a shirt in the women’s section that I could potentially wear to my new job. I cried in the dressing room. I cried and I cried and I cried when I realized that I would have to tell my very frugal husband that I was leaving my job for a dream. I cried one more time when I asked myself, what would Gloria Steinem do? What would I tell my daughter to do?
After going home, making dinner, and putting my girl in bed, I wrote some seriously heartfelt emails and handwritten notes on my prized stationery to friends who supported me and believed in me. They told me that I am a writer and I believed them. So here I am, the bold and fierce woman that I want my daughter to see, standing before you Internet, calling myself a writer.