I think what we’re all trying to find is some semblance of control in our lives. Control in relationships. Control at work. Control over the dog. Control among friends and family. Control over our coffee order at Starbucks (tall skim latte, please. Extra foam. 1.5 pumps of vanilla). Control of ourselves.
Depending on the day and the subject, I think I’m somewhat close to finding that “semblance:”
- J and I quite happily have joint control of our marriage. A perfect balance of democracy and autocracy. Jason is king of fun. I’m king of logistics. And we’re each very grateful to be ruled in those kingdoms.
- We have no dog – which I guess gives me absolute control of the animal in our lives: until we have a yard, negative on the canine, ghost rider.
- Control among friends and family is something I’ve come to enjoy having out of my control, most of the time. I take no credit or responsibility for the sibling debauchery at bat mitzvahs or friends “borrowing” the remaining bottles of wine at the end of a rehearsal dinner – but I support every moment of it, one glass at a time.
Marriage, friends, family (and pets & coffee…) – these are the important things in life. But as I stare down the big three-oh-shit, it’s my job that stares back at me, with those beady little eyes hissing you haven’t conquered me yet, my precious.
If I’m in a zen state of mind, that doesn’t necessarily drive me nuts and make me feel like a kid in adult’s clothing (aka blazers). But in my standard state of mind, that lingering mountain bothers the crap out of me. And the invisible check-point at 30 makes me care how far I’ve climbed and how far I have left to go.
[enter: “career as mountain” metaphor]
The key for me, if I’m being honest here, is that I haven’t defined my mountain yet.
I’m a competitive climber. I’ll conquer any mountain. I spent my life to this point getting to the top of every mountain put in front of me. But I left the comfort of academia and athletics, and now there’s just this vista of mountains with nobody telling me which one to tackle first. Which one do I want to climb? Which mountains am I okay not climbing – even if it means someone else will climb it, conquer it, own it? And I never will.
At some point I just started climbing the incline that felt kinda right. Sometimes I worry I’ve chosen the wrong peaks to tackle. And often times I worry those peaks aren’t even parts of the same mountain.
I know the yoga/Oprah/papa bear wisdom: life is about the journey, not the destination. But it would be much easier to embrace the journey if I knew it was leading me somewhere I wanted to be – even if I never got there.
There are countless articles, blog posts, books, and scientific studies about this issue, I know. I’ve read many of them. How do I figure out what I’m meant to do? How do I find my passion at work? How do I live up to my potential? And then there are also the justified smack-that-attitude-in-the-face articles about how we should all shut up and just be grateful to have a job in this economy. I’ve read those too. And have major inner conflict now as a result, thanksverymuch.
But getting back to the topic of this post – control – I want to stop thinking about mountains. And I want to start thinking about control.
If you have control of your job, you have control of what you do with it – and what you don’t do with it. You have control over how much or how little it defines your life. You can decide to be a digital marketing consultant from 10-4 three days a week, and a writer from 9-3 two days a week. You can decide to take vacation at the last minute and work on the weekends to make up for it – or not. You can decide to sleep in late, and you can decide to work a half day so you can be there to watch, not just Suzie’s soccer game, but the warm-up too.
Let’s imagine that life for a moment (or your much cooler version of it), imagine what that would feel like. Close your eyes. Think about and visualize that life.
That feeling right there? That pitter patter of my little heart and euphoric mix of excitement and calm. That’s what control feels like. And that’s what makes the blazer fit right.
Now that’s something worth climbing for.