Tag Archives: job

If the blazer fits…

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.

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What would you say ya do here?

I’m a card-carrying member of the 20-something club. You know us – we’re the ones that want to change the world but aren’t sure in what way. We’re the over-educated who can’t get jobs but can travel. We’re the trophy-obsessed trying to “be real.” We’re the Facebook generation, the one-uppers, the pay-me-more-ers… The incredibly f-ing frustrated group that just wants to figure it out!

Did I mention we’re 20-something?

Every time I discuss this common frame of mind with “real” adults, I’m inclined to describe it as a generational difference. They quickly remind me that this isn’t a generational issue. This is an age issue.

Being 20-something is incredibly complicated. There are many, many ways to be 20-something. You could live on your parents’ couch or you could run a company. You could be taking orders from your mom or the president of the United States. You could be overseas in Afghanistan or down the block in a Bronx elementary school. You could be assembling meeting prep binders or you could be publishing books. You could think you’re way ahead or far behind. Whatever your situation, you don’t think you’re where everyone else is.

That said, whether you retire to your childhood bedroom or a penthouse suite every night, the one thing that I think virtually all of us have in common is the quiet voice nagging us late at night after a long day: What do I really want to do?

I’ve found that for many of us 20-somethings, a job isn’t so much about employment as it is about figuring out who we are, what we’re about and what we want to do. Turns out most of us have no idea who we are, what we’re about and what we want to do.

Are we smart, motivated, hardworking individuals willing to put in long hours, do the dirty work, to rise up the ranks? Yes, absolutely. Will we do that for just anyone? Nope. The job market has forced us to be a little less picky, but the truth remains that we’re holding out for something that aligns with our fundamental passion – if only we knew what that was.

I remember when I was looking for my first job out of college, by far the most common sentiment I heard was not I want to do X; it was I just want to be around smart people and work for a company I believe in. 

A few years and jobs later, I think we’re all lying to ourselves.

I think what we really want is the right answer when the person next to us at a bar or across from us at Thanksgiving dinner asks: So what do you do?

I HATE answering this question. I hate the judgment that I can sense in how they do or don’t nod their head in approval. I hate the way I need to defend my response, build it up or tone it down. I hate the disappointment of a sympathetic head-tilt or the flicker of excitement I feel when they’re impressed by the answer. I hate the fact that – whether they admit it or not – they are pigeon-holing me based on my response: you are what you do.

I think more than anything, I hate that I don’t feel proud of my answer.

And, if I can get over myself, I think that may not be a bad thing. There’s actually a lesson to be learned in there. What response would I be thrilled to share? What answer would I love to give and then be more than happy to discuss with and defend – in depth – to the most obnoxious man in the room?

Negative emotions (jealousy, frustration, envy, hatred) can be great teachers – showing us what we really want/wish we had – if we take the time to assess, reframe and look for solutions. Kind of like a masseuse working on a knot in your back. You gotta focus and push on the pain to get rid of it.

I think I’m getting closer to figuring out what I’m meant to do. In my happier moments, I try to think of my working life as a process of whittling down a block of wood. Slowly I’m chipping away at something massive, undefined and daunting – figuring out what I don’t like as much as what I do – until, some day (or year) I’m left with a beautiful… something.

In my more frustrated states, I enjoy commiserating (aka drinking) with others. And finding out that I’m not the only one who’s suffering from all this damn whittling and is tempted to break out the axe. (Who whittles anyway? Seriously.)

Somewhere in the middle I find a calm knowing that I’m blessed in many ways, and swimming in the unknown can be a glorious adventure if you have the right people to swim with you.

There are millions of articles out there about figuring out what the heck you want to do – but here are a few I’ve recently found and that manage to keep my attention. Enjoy and good luck!

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