Thursday, January 21, 2016

Changing My Story: My Job

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in my post-grad life has been surrounding the topic of my job and career. I didn’t get a full-time job until I was three years out of college; I should specify that I also didn’t pursue much in those three years. A large part of it had to do with newly-diagnosed health issues and anxiety surrounding those issues, but I was also completely directionless.

I was left paralyzed by the career choices (or, lack thereof) presented to me in college. I studied accounting and, at my college, that meant getting on the track to get your CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification, work in public accounting for a number of years, and then settle into a private company if you so decided. If there were other options, I wasn't well enough informed about them, and the discomfort kept creeping up around me.

The worst part was deciding internally that I didn’t have the drive or the interest in studying for and completing my CPA certification, which is a five-part, extremely difficult exam. As everyone prepped to take these exams just after college - when the information was still fresh and before they changed the methodology of accounting - I learned to keep quiet and under the radar, lest anyone find out that, no, I wasn’t planning to do the one thing that seemed integral to everyone else’s career track.

Because I didn’t want my certification - and because my grades slipped as I grew anxious and disinterested by the field of accounting - none of the companies who did on-campus interviews were interested in me. Mainly, they were public accounting firms, so I knew I was out automatically because my certification wasn’t forthcoming. That added to my stress, obviously. Disinterest + lack of options + rejection from the few places I interviewed = feeling pretty shitty about my career outlook.

Once I graduated, I stalled. Plain and simple. And it lasted three full years.

I finally got a job in April of 2012. It’s the job I still have now, which means I’ve been there for just under four years. From the moment I got the job until now, my family disapproved. Why? For dozens of reasons, but mostly because I’m not living up to my potential (and oh, how I have learned to LOATHE that phrase). I had already accepted that I had fallen far from the student I was in elementary, middle, and high school - and that my family was already disappointed by that. But after I finally graduated college with a sad-but-manageable GPA and a diploma, and after I finally got a job, it still wasn’t enough.

(Side note: that's also the major reason I wanted to needed to move out from my parents' house.)

So that’s the story I absorbed into my core: I had a job, but it wasn’t good enough.

That’s the story I told anyone and everyone. I answered the question, “so what do you do?” with the canned storyline of having a job, but needing to leave ASAP because of [insert logical reason - more money, better opportunities, etc. - here]. I told this not only to new acquaintances, but also repetitively to my friends and family members whenever I saw them. Nobody ends up in accounts payable and stays there; this was temporary, a stepping stone. It became the truth in my head.

Except, it’s not the truth. And slowly, I was starting to draw away from conversation about my career because I was stressed and ashamed. When I would see someone for the third or fourth time in the span of the year, I knew I was presenting the same storyline over and over, never making any progress. It felt so, so shitty. I would come away from hangouts with friends and holidays with family members with an emotional hangover, because I felt like the biggest failure compared to anyone else I knew.

There are parts of that canned story that are correct. All of the “reasons” for finding a new job are legitimate. However, I am comfortable there. It’s a small office, we have very few (if any) meetings, and my bosses are flexible. These factors benefit me right now with my health issues the way they are. The money is not good, but it’s not bad, and I can cover the living expenses that I share with Erik.

Understanding the source of my resistance has helped me lift this weight off of my shoulders. I keep trying to focus on all the things - finding a "legitimate" new job, researching how to start moving towards my dream profession/career, working on my physical and mental health - but with all of them demanding my attention, I was choosing none. This year is about me. My theme for 2016 is "nourish" and, abiding by that, finding a new job is not a priority. Maybe it's in the cards without me knowing it, but it's not my main focus.

This is my first real step in listening to my mind and my heart. It isn't glamorous. It doesn't subscribe to the whole comfort vs. change argument that insists that you should always! be! changing!, or else you're living some horrible, stagnant life. (Yes, this is how I interpret those messages sometimes, when I'm feeling extra snarky). But it's necessary, just based on how much relief I feel since admitting that I've been lying to myself. And that's all that really matters.