Wednesday, September 4, 2013
I'm not just remotely Type A. I am predominantly a Type A personality.
For those who don't know, Type As are known for being ambitious, organized, driven and, yes, even a bit competitive. We are proactive, hate indecision, despise wasting time and just want to get to the point, so we can get to the next thing on our to-do list.
So imagine, someone like me now living without days full of meetings, lists, tasks and action items. Well, it hasn't reached that point yet, but I am about to find out what that's like.
You see, soon I'll no longer be employed. It's not truly because I wanted to leave - indeed, I loved my work, really enjoyed most of my colleagues, and found meaning in my role and contributions. Instead, my decision arose out of combination of things both within and beyond my control.
For starters, my husband got a new job in a new city. While he relocated to the area and began working and embarked on the process of finding us a new house, I was still home back in the trenches - working, multi-taking, cooking, cleaning and child-rearing as usual. I learned how challenging it can be to serve as a one-woman band, and it gave me a wholly new reverence for single mothers who, too, go out every day and work full time while managing absolutely everything on the home front. My days began around 5 a.m. and concluded around 11 p.m. each night for practically three months straight.
Coincidentally, months before this was occurring, I had been in the throes of trying to advance a new project at work that focused on the feasibility and benefits of virtual work. I have long been an advocate of work-life balance for all people, particularly as technologies have blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives. For many working professionals, we are tied to smartphones around the clock, which means even when we're on vacation, we are still listening to the hum of e-mails and the ring of phone calls. Given these realities and intrusions, coupled with the demands of retaining and attracting talent from all walks of life, I proposed a special research project at my company. It would have assessed various remote work options, accountability measures and productivity metrics, in addition to fundamental resource concerns, such as technological investments and cost impact.
The project was officially presented and approved to proceed, but confined to corporate purgatory, with absolutely no movement whatsoever. In the meantime, my life was happening, and I was scrambling to come up with a way to preserve the position in which I was so invested while aligning it with the aspects in my personal life that were totally beyond my control (i.e. moving). So, I proposed an arrangement that would allow me to sustain my position on a remote basis - something that was already occurring in pockets throughout the organization but which was new to my department. My proposal was voluminous and detailed at the macro- and micro-level to the Nth extent.
It was approved, but with a share of conditions and stipulations that would make any reasonable person question their job security. I'll spare you specific details, but it became apparent to me that the arrangement just would not work long term. And after some thorough discussions with my husband, lots of prayer and wrestling with the numbers, the very difficult decision was made. Better for my mind, psyche and soul, I thought, to re-emerge with a new slate than to try to force an understanding of a culture change whose ship sailed a long time ago. After all, multi-national and national companies have been proponents of and participants in remote work options for practically the past two decades. I could not spend any more time explaining to people why I was not sitting down in an office at the company headquarters, why they needed to call my cell phone or why I had been granted what apparently seemed to be a perceived as a controversial arrangement by those who felt slighted or were old-school in how they felt business must be conducted.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King changed the world. But they didn't do so alone. Neither could I.
So what's next for me? I wish I knew, but I don't.
I've worked since I was 15, and I've never been without a gig from that time forward. As has been repeated ad nauseum on this blog, I've worked full-time since I became a mother almost 10 years ago. I know nothing but hustling, shuffling, stressing, striving and pushing myself to the outer limits of what seems practical and possible.
I don't know how to sleep in past 7 a.m. I don't know how not to be in motion doing something at practically every moment I'm awake. I am not fidgety and I don't have ADHD, but I never learned how to sit still. In fact, every personal, cultural, historical and social cue suggests that people like me are not entitled to that privilege anyway. After all, Zora Neale Hurston put it best when she said that the black woman is "de mule uh de world." But is that a healthy way to live? Is that the inheritance we should consciously pass down to our daughters?
So, realistically, what's next?
1. Pursue passions and professionalism. This is a prime moment for me to focus on areas that are both interests and enhancements. I plan on finally working toward my long-held goal of earning my personal trainer certification. On multiple occasions, I've been asked if I train clients, so that's a sign that perhaps I am squandering my potential in this area. Additionally, I plan to bolster my skill set in career-related competencies. In particular, I am looking at becoming a stronger technical writer. Opportunities are abundant in this area for a variety of industries and within many companies.
2. Teach. I am also very interested in considering opportunities to return to the classroom. I have taught creative writing and composition, in addition to leading all sorts of other training in professional and academic environments. I come alive and thrive in new, dynamic ways when I am leading a group of students, either virtually or in person. Learning is a life-long passion of mine, and it shows when I'm in those venues. I also derive an immense sense of purpose in helping people achieve their goals and showcasing the utility of new abilities in their everyday lives.
3. Scout out local opportunities. Now that we are here and moved in, I will practically seek out opportunities related to my experience, strengths and interests. Like I said, I loved the work I did. If a similar opportunity presents itself at an entity whose ideals, history and culture I believe in, I may jump in and begin swimming.
4. Spend more time with my daughters. I think it's rather amazing that I've been as present in my children's lives as I have. As mentioned, not only have I worked full-time since they've been born; I've also devoted a lot of time to other goals and interests, like earning my master's degree and assuming nonprofit Board posts. My little ladies constantly beg me to go eat lunch with them at school. Now I have some time to do it. While this lasts, it will be nice not to rush through dinner, homework and the nightly get-ready-for-tomorrow routine.
5. Let go. Being in a situation like this is by default uncertain and something precarious. I'm trying to become less of a controller and more of a co-pilot. That means having more faith - in God and my better half, my husband.
6. Visit Savannah. I just realized I'm only three hours or so away from Savannah, Ga. now. That said, you better believe I'll soon be paying a visit. If it's anything like my kindred-spirit city New Orleans, I may have found an easier commute to a place that speaks to my spirit and soul in that very ancestral sense.
So, how many of you have jumped ship, either by accident or on purpose, without a plan or with one? What did you flee from and what did you run to?