Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It comes and goes

Wow, yesterday was brutal. I felt like I was back in those terrible early months after T's death, where I couldn't think straight for the emotional pain I was feeling. It wasn't the same pain of loss, exactly; it was more like the hopelessness of seeing no way out of a nightmare. Of course, my job is nowhere near a real nightmare -- I have a wonderful supportive boss, all the flexibility and freedom I need, and the opportunity to use my brain every day. So what is so bad? What triggered yesterday's melt-down? (All is not exactly hunky-dory today, but I do feel much better, and capable of slogging through the work for at least a few more months.)

PMS aside, I think it might have been a combination of things. Last week I was given a new project to take on, ironically the type of project I've been asking for for a very long time (years!). But I was already so far gone in my disengagement that having to commit to something new, summoning all the needed energy, motivation and focus, felt beyond my abilities. I don't doubt my skills and capabilities to do the job, I told my boss, I doubt my motivation. (See? I am so fortunate to have a boss I can say that to, and not feel at risk for my job!) Committing to something that just doesn't feel in line with my life's purpose anymore felt so wrong. My essential self was screaming "NO!"

Of course, it probably didn't help to have spent so much time in spreadsheets, planning and plotting how I'll be able to afford not working. Knowing it's possible for some period of time makes it very seductive to imagine quitting when the going gets tough.

And on the "quitting, doing something new" side of the equation, I've been a software professional my whole career, pretty much all my adult life. That's more than 25 years of identity I'm considering stepping away from. What am I, if not a program manager? Will I be able to add enough value to the world if I don't leverage the experience and knowledge I've gained over these 25 years? Not knowing where I'm pointing yet, and contemplating jumping anyway, was really scary.

So I have reassured my essential self that I am serious about doing something different. I just need to get to know her better, to understand all of what is meaningful and energizing to me, before making any significant moves.

If you have gone through a career transition, what was it like for you? How did you know what the right next step was?


  1. I made the jump two years ago and retrained as a teacher (I have a PhD in science so only needed 1 extra year in order to teach). Greg was still alive when I did this and could financially support us all - it was more a plan for me to have a more family-friendly job for the kids .... but as its turned out, the career change has saved my life this year. I work at the same school as my kids and I love it (most of the time).

    PS - in my case, I can leverage plenty of experience from being an ecologist for 20 years and bring it to teaching.

  2. After 20 years at my job, I made the change this past spring. I had high expectations that were very difficult to overcome when I realized things were not going to be as I pictured. Things have been better recently, the job hasn't changed, but I am better at pushing aside my expectations and accepting it for what it is. I sometimes grieve for the comfort of the old place, but then I remember the people I had to work with, how tedious things had become and know I had to make a change. Still trying to decide if I am here for the long haul or if this is just a stepping stone.