“Start over, my darling. Be brave enough to find the life you want and courageous enough to chase it. Then start over and love yourself the way you were always meant to.”
This quote is currently hanging up in my office. I am currently in the midst of doing just what it suggests – starting over, finding the life I want, and loving myself. It was a long road, and it’s still going on, but I feel like I found the GPS, and now I just have to pay attention to where it’s taking me.
If you read my post I am a divorced Christian, you know that I have recently undergone a major life change in the form of a divorce. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, and that is where one of the “start over” points has occurred. You can read about that renewal point in the aforementioned post, but there’s so much more. There’s also a new job, a new relationship, a new home… phew. That’s a lot of “starting over.” But I tell you, I’ve never felt better.
In the interest of not making the post a million words long, let’s focus on the job. Last year, I had the opportunity to feel a little bit like those main characters in all those underdog movies I love so much. I had been a secretary for 7 years – and loved every minute of it. Perhaps it wasn’t the job itself that I loved so much, but the position – the ability to be surrounded by faculty and students who made me want to be a better person from top to bottom. Or maybe it was the chance to return to school and redeem myself after such a pitiful performance the first time around. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it. I loved going to work every day, and that was a first for me.
Then I started getting restless. The same people that made me love the job also showed me that I was better than the job, that I could be better – work at a higher-level position. They made me see that I was more than I give myself credit for, and I needed to own it. I always took a look at the internal job postings to see if there was something open that might allow me to make a bit more money, but nothing really piqued my interest, or else it wasn’t in my skill set. Then, last July, a position opened in administration. I looked at all of the job duties and qualifications and thought, “I think I have all of those qualifications.” I then proceeded to print out the job description and show it to everyone at work and asked them if they thought I was qualified.
It seems silly, but you have to realize that this position is about 5 pay grades above my previous job, and I just couldn’t believe that I was qualified. I still didn’t see myself at that level. In my brain, I was a secretary. A smart secretary, maybe an executive assistant, but not an administrator. So, after a few weeks of everyone saying “YOU ARE QUALIFIED – GO GET THIS,” I decided to go for it.
I prepped my arse off for the phone interview – dissecting each part of the job description and figuring out how my current experiences would fit and transfer to the new job. I learned all about the mission of the institution and thought about how my work fits into the mission and would continue to do so.
I rocked it. That initial phone interview was a chance for me to shine, to get past the first hurdle, and I did it. My hard work paid off. I even made the hiring committee laugh with my slightly irreverent humor. It was an amazing feeling, but then, as I realized I really had a chance at this, things got real.
I was chosen for the next (and final) round of interviews. This included the preparation of a presentation about a data set I was given. I had to look at the data, identify trends and anything else important that I could report regarding the data, and then present it to a large group of people. I also had to meet with the two individuals who would be my new supervisors and have interviews one-on-one with them. The whole affair was about an 8-hour event. It was a long, nerve-wracking day.
So, I go through the second round of interviews and my presentation – which I ROCKED so hard even I was impressed with myself. I’m usually a very humble person – I never, ever, think I did that well, and I tend to dissect every minor flaw – but in this case, I just knew there was no way I wasn’t getting this job. I was right.
I started the job with an air of excitement and confidence, and then I crashed, hard. I was stressed out, working long hours, and got sick, which led to a vicious circle of recurring health problems and anxiety. It was NOT fun.
A friend of mine asked if I was possibly self-sabotaging. What does that mean, you ask? Well – things were going well. Despite some slip-ups, I was successful. Life was going well, overall. Was I, perhaps, waiting for the other shoe to drop? Turning small things into big worries because I was convinced that all these good things are going to be taken away from me? A case of imposter syndrome, maybe?
In fact, probably.
For so long I envisioned myself as nothing more than a secretary. Because I am intelligent and was holding the job I was, people were constantly “impressed” with me, telling me I should be doing bigger things. Then I was doing bigger things. Would people still be impressed? Would people think I am as smart? Would someone find out that I’m NOT THAT GREAT? OMG!!! Throw into the mix the fact that the same people FOR whom I was working – who were asking me to do things FOR them, became the same people who I would be asking to do things FOR ME! ACK!! Am I good enough? Will they think I have no idea what I’m doing? WHAT AM I DOING? OMG!!!!!!!!!
The initial onset of anxiety was the worst I have ever experienced IN. MY. LIFE. Almost unbearable. I wanted to crawl out of my skin on a daily basis. I worried constantly that each thing I did at work was wrong; that someone was going to “find me out” and realize I shouldn’t be in the job; that if I made a single mistake they were going to fire me; that every time someone even asked me to clarify they were “out to get me” and I had to defend myself. It was exhausting.
Yeah. Anxiety is a heartless bitch. She comes along and tricks you into thinking you don’t deserve all of the things that are going so awesomely well for you. She takes that one small failure or issue in your life and turns it into the dark cloud hanging over all the good stuff. Anxiety is from the devil – and the devil is a liar. I remember when I got the job, I was met with nothing but encouragement and congratulations – sometimes from people I didn’t even realize knew my name! That should have been my first clue. I quietly made a name for myself as I did my job, and people noticed. They noticed without me having to shout about it. They simply noticed because I was that good at my job. Why would this be different?
Here’s the thing I realized: It’s a new job. A job I’ve never done before. It’s a job in higher education. I am surrounded by people who TEACH for a living. I am surrounded by people who hired me for what I CAN do, not what I’m doing already! They are expecting me to not know what I should do in some circumstances. The important part is that I ask for help and info when I need it, and just keep learning and getting better. As long as I am not making intentionally bad decisions or not showing up for the job or mishandling information or anything that is grossly incompetent, I’m not likely to be fired. As long as I’m learning from any mistakes I do make, I’m growing and getting better. So no matter how much Satan tries to convince me that I have to defend every decision and worry that everyone is out to get me, it’s simply not true. I may take a while to make the same name for myself in this job, but it will happen. Of that, I am confident. I did it before, I will do it again. I just might need to speak a little less softly this time around.
A year has passed, and am finding my place here, and my strength. I feel like I am coming out of my shell and people are starting to realize what I have to offer. I am spearheading some research and taking part in some new projects that will hopefully make a difference. And I am respected. I was brave enough to get here and courageous enough to stay here, and I feel like I am doing what I was “meant to do,” as the quotation says. The best part is, that’s just in my career! The rest of my life has been equally as phoenix-like. The anxiety has lifted, I am feeling fresh and new, I am enjoying life and making new memories.
I’ll tell you all about it in an upcoming post. Be sure to stop back!