Talk as little of yourself as possible or of any science or business in which you have acquired fame – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.
A couple of years ago, I went to see John Farnham in concert. For those who are unfamiliar with Mr Farnham’s work, he is an Australian legend singer whose biggest hit was a song called You’re the Voice from an album by the name of Whispering Jack. This particular concert tour was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the 1986 album. He sang the whole album track by track in order. As John (who has a wonderful sense of humour which comes through in the concert banter between songs) explained he had the idea of undertaking this concert tour in his kitchen one night and that unfortunately, he didn’t really think it through. For you see, his biggest song was track number 2 on the album which meant it was sung early on in the show.
I feel the same way about the letter C and the concept of perfection as applied to career. This is a real big one for me. And it has come earlier in the Challenge than I would have liked. So much for building to a crescendo.
For this post, I have no real wisdom to share other than my own experience.
Career has always been a big issue in our family. Being the child of immigrant parents it was drummed into me form an early age that education was a priority and that I should pursue a profession. My parents had sacrificed a lot in delivering to me a world of opportunity in this land called Australia. I just had to do my bit.
And I did. And it was good for about the first 20 years. My identity and much of my energy were firmly tied to my career. The one other thing I really wanted to be outside of career woman was a parent and thankfully, the Universe blessed me to have that experience twice.
But one day, I woke and it was good no more. Every job has its ups and downs, stresses and strains, wins and losses. Mine was no different. Every other time though the feeling of malaise lasted a matter of days or weeks. This time was different. This was a lingering, confusing doubt that had me thinking “what if” and what really was on the other side of that office divide. I remember leaving every office at lunch time and breathing some real air and watching people having a life and feeling very disconnected.
For the next seven months I tried everything to push through the feelings as I had always done in the past. And with every passing day, I sank deeper and deeper into despair and confusion. Tasks that had been easy and second nature seemed insurmountable and I had lost my will to learn. My thoughts swirled round and round in my head in ever-increasing circles, the answer was there somewhere but it was just beyond reach.
It was dumb I suppose, but the thought of changing careers was impossible. Based on the remuneration and status I had achieved, by earning and being anything less I felt I was letting both myself and my family down. How could I possibly justify such a radical change given the sacrifices my parents had made, given how much I had invested in my career? How could I justify having to spend money on being retrained and reskilled whilst not bringing in an income and how could I justify being so selfish? How could I do any of it at my age?
The perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter and the perfect income earner all were at stake.
So I quit. I quit so I could think and strategize and I firmly believed that when I walked out the door, I never wanted to work again. Everything that I held certain was up for grabs. It literally felt like I had walked off a cliff and had no idea whether the landing would be painful. I had never, ever just walked away from anything before.
During my time away from work, I explored that non-office life and provided for my family in a non-monetary way. I walked and thought and thought and walked and came to the realisation that priorities can and do change in life and that it was quite acceptable to change track to give effect to this new world order. That was my light bulb moment, career perfection blown away by the wind that was enveloping me on the cliff tops which formed my favourite walking path.
I had been stuck in a prison of my own making and at last I found the key.
What then transpired was that I went back into the workforce in a similar, but not the same area. What I lost in income, I gained tenfold in motivation, focus and learning.
Career perfection or career satisfaction, the choice was always mine to make and I didn’t even know it.
In the words of John Farnham, from You’re the Voice”
We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older
14 thoughts on “The C of Living Imperfectly: Choice and Career #atozchallenge”
You were so right about how much I would relate to this post, and you explained your feelings very well and coherently (not sure I could). I read an article recently about the number of Asian-heritage 20-somethings who have gone to the “right” grad schools and gotten the “right” banking/investment/consulting positions, and are either bored out of their minds or hate going to work every day. They know they are fulfilling their parents’ wishes, but they are lost as to what they are passionate about or what direction they truly want for their careers. I never thought about the struggle you and I had in “mid-life” and whether there were correlations for others like these 20-year-olds.
I love this story. I’m curious about what you do now that is different in the same field/career but new focus/jobs.
This piece definitely speaks to me as I’m still making that journey myself. Glad you’ve settled into something more comfortable.
PS I have the same angst about peaking early in the alphabet and losing readers in the boring G,H,I part. But I also know from co-hosts that readership waxes and wanes throughout the month so I’m reminding myself it’s not all about me!! And I know I will benefit from every one of your alphas.
Judy, I love the ending. We all have a key, we just need to use it and open a door. I am glad you did. Take care, BTG
Love the song You’re the voice. I just played it. Thanks for the reminder.
I had the perfect career for 25 years as well! I do note that the younger people don’t seem to know what they want to do.
Paula at /Smidgen,Snippets,&Bits
Wow, just wow. Well done, you. I’m enjoying what I’m doing, but I have never, ever, had a career. Impressed as hell that you’ve managed two already!
Yes – it will be difficult to top that 🙂 Superb writing – I can so relate to it! In case you still accept suggestions for the rest of the series I agree with nancygoodman – I would also be curious about your feelings about your current job: in which respect the job is different… or if the change has been “just” about changing attitude.
I have often found (and was surprised by it) that sometimes you need to change (a lot actually) in order to keep or regain the precious aspects of the status quo.
A great post! although I’m now retired there is much that resonates for me. Glad you found a revised path and feel revitalised.
That my darling could. It be ignored, even though I am taking a hiatus from WP, I read this last night, this is superbly, articulated. You know how I changed my path and so it can be done. It is how much we are prepared to forgo in the process. You must tell me what door you have opened with that key…and of course you had me at John 🙂 excellent post lovely. xx
And I hate my IPad for that was meant to read, that my darling could not be ignored! 😦 x
Great post. Thanks for sharing your story Judy. I can identify with much of it. When I was 12 I committed myself to a career in agriculture. I know the exact time and place when the decision was made. I’ve never been able to substantially deviate from this decision over the subsequent 50 years for it would have been a betrayal of that commitment, but along the way I’ve been forced to disruptively resign from jobs which were no longer giving me satisfaction or contentment.
That was so courageous of you Judy. I wonder when our identity as a member of the work force becomes the most important identity we have. Nothing else is half as important as that. In a way, it is understandable yet there is something not quite right with it.
You put more than your income at risk. You risked your very identity. And now you’ve found better, more satisfying identities! 😀