Saturday, March 28, 2015

First, Know Yourself

I have spent a lot of time thinking about work in the past 8 months - about what I needed to work a life I can live, about what I wanted to be "when I grow up". It has been a difficult process - one that has made conversations about what I plan on doing with myself difficult ("I'm still thinking about that" seeming like a wholly inadequate, albeit very honest, answer) and as a result, I have been stuck in a bit of a transactional rut, work-wise. That rut where I do my job and I do it adequately but where work is not a source of incredible satisfaction in my life. That rut, that's actually very stressful for me (because of who I am) - where I really did not know what I wanted, or at least had no concrete ideas on how I would get there. That rut that even made doing an adequate job of my resume difficult if not impossible. That rut that made it next to impossible to plan or work towards something without some more concrete kind of idea about what that something is. That rut that is wholly unproductive and uninspired. That rut where I worried that the activities that actually were bringing me a great deal of satisfaction and enabling me to cope would result in either discipline or termination. I had some ideas that I wanted to align who I was, with what I do; I wanted to be fully present in my work and I wanted some larger things to work towards - but those ideas had not crystallized in a way that I could effectively communicate to others - others I would need to bring onboard with any plans.

I needed to know myself, I needed to reflect on the conditions that would drive a productive and satisfying work life for me and I needed to go about finding or creating those conditions.

I know I do not want to live a life of leisure - having the day at my command would not be enough. I need my days to not only be under my own control, but I also need them to be productive. I also know that being an economist is part of who I am - not practicing economics, remains unfathomable, it needs to be part of what I do. Equally, I know I am a writer - writing needs to be a part of what I do. Further, I know I need variety and I need to be creative in the work I do. I like work that I have not done before - I like applying my skills in new areas and perpetually growing the things I know about. I particularly like developing ideas and fostering communities - I like engaging others, "I think out loud" and thrive on respectful discussion. I find hierarchy soul crushing - the relationships with my supervisors or those I work with or for need to be collegial and constructive - I need to work in an environment where there are ideas about what needs to be accomplished (and ideally where I have helped to shape what those things are) - but where I am largely left to explore how that is to be done. I need to be able to be innovative. I need deadlines - but little else, the less structure, the better. Work needs to reflect and be a part of who I am. That is now the direction I am going in.

In the last week, I have been able to do what I could not in the months before. I have been able to articulate what I want to be "when I grow up" - I have found the drive that has been absent for many years, and am making not just steps but strides in my life. To paraphrase an old song - life these last few months has not given me much of what I thought I wanted, but it has given me what I truly needed. Life finds a way - a way of slowly teaching a person that they can not change who they are, that sometimes even changing where you are is beyond your control, but that there is almost always a way forward.

Life in the next few months will be busy - busy preparing for the transition. Busy making plans. Busy getting things done. I'm a pretty happy person at this moment (despite what is a daunting workload in the months to come) - and am hopeful that if I just focus on doing good work, that the money will follow (after all, there are obligations to meet).

At this moment, I also have an incredible amount of gratitude - for those who have made where I am at now possible. You know who you are, and thanks.

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