There are days when I think I’m crazy for trying to do too much. I don’t usually get to everything that I’d like to do in any given week (close enough, however) and this is almost always a set up for failure, yet I can’t help myself. Maybe it’s a great quality to have – ambition and drive, blind faith that it will all get done – or maybe it’ll be my greatest downfall. Overcommitment. Crash and burn. I haven’t yet and this fuels the perception that it can always be done, so I push on a little more; pile more things on to the list; say yes to everything.
I will say that even though this has been a year like no other, I did accomplish a goal I set out to do, or at least the start of one. Back when I wrote this post about career change, I didn’t have a plan or vision aside from a sense that for the first time, I could make out a foggy path. Sometimes the universe does orchestrate things to open doors that were previously unknown. Or maybe I was fed up enough with stagnation that I willed things to happen. It could be a little of both.
So in addition to running our business and freelance designing, this part time summer job thing got a little more permanent (though what job is secure these days, right? I’m still a little cautious, I guess). This means that I’ll be spending more time at this job, and less time freelancing while I finally attempt to steer my career into a different direction.
The thoughts that sometimes keep me up at night? That I’m crazy to take all of this on. Managing our business while freelancing often pulls me in different directions because I’m essentially running 2 businesses that consist of multiple clients, customers and accounts, so am I crazy to add a third in the mix? Maybe! But I also don’t want to walk away from an opportunity to create something with a smart team of people. With all the risks involved in an early-stage tech startup, I know that there are no guarantees for anything and the likelihood to crash and burn is high if you pay close attention to statistics. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but one that I apparently want to be on.
So why would I want to join another company when I should probably focus on growing my own business rather than someone else’s? I ask myself this all the time, especially since I had all but made up my mind to do just that earlier on in the year. I can’t say that I know the answer, but sometimes you have to go with a gut feeling and trust that it doesn’t let you down when something else crosses your path that compels you to make a decision. Our business is such that it runs fairly smoothly and we know what to expect every year. What we’re not really doing is growing or expanding and we probably won’t unless I turn more of my attention towards helping to make that happen. I’m fairly sure I will at some point in the future, but for now, this other thing feels right. I don’t know if the events this summer steered me towards this decision because I badly needed a change; it was symbolic of how I viewed life now – before and after my brother. I certainly wasn’t looking for a job that I had to commute to (and indeed, the commute a few times a week is the worst part. Getting dressed for work, on the other hand, doesn’t suck despite the fact that the incubator space we share with other startups is mostly guys in hoodies), but I’m enjoying being part of a team that is sort of like family now. This dynamic is something I haven’t experienced in a while. The next 6 or so months should be interesting. I really have no idea what the picture looks like for the first time in a long time. But that is sort of exciting, is it not?
Posted by Jenna | 8 Comments
Nothing like getting knocked back a few pegs in the last week to remind you that you’re on a long road toward any kind of normalcy. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m feeling totally lost. I’m trying not to hold in so much anger at the world either, but this year has totally knocked the wind out of me and it started months before it culminated in our loss. I don’t really know who I am right now; I don’t even know what identity the business is anymore. We’re barely keeping afloat.
Can I tell you a little story? A few weeks before our trip in early August, the girls and I were doing errands in the neighborhood. As we were walking on the sidewalk down our block, I saw a tiny fuzzy green line on the street close to the curb. I looked closely again and realized that the fuzzy green line was moving and that it was actually a caterpillar. Have you ever seen a caterpillar cross a busy intersection? Because I haven’t! I pointed the caterpillar out to the kids and we watched for a minute as it inched its way across. We kept our eye on him as we crossed the street from the other side of the intersection and was surprised that the caterpillar was still visible to us. Incredibly, we could still see the fuzzy green line move from several dozen feet away. As it inched its tiny body halfway across the street (the caterpillar could crawl faster that you’d think) we saw a car rambling towards us right on the street that the caterpillar was crossing and we squealed, hoping that it wouldn’t get crushed. We held our breath as the car passed the light. Was the caterpillar still alive? Oh wait, there was the tiny green line…and yes! It was still moving! But, oh no! Another car was coming down the street. We held our breath again and when it passed, we waited to see if the caterpillar was still there and we cheered when we saw it moving again.
We couldn’t take the stress anymore after the 4th car had passed, so we crossed the street where the caterpillar was headed and I looked for a twig. At that point the caterpillar had crossed two-thirds of the street by itself, but I just wanted to scoop him up and carry him the rest of the way. I walked off the curb and approached the caterpillar with the twig. After a bit of finessing and a fall from the twig where he curled himself up in a little ball, he climbed and stayed on. I carefully walked toward the sidewalk with the caterpillar on the twig and found a leafy place under a tree on someone’s front yard. We named him “Furbert” and nudged him off the stick and watched him crawl away under the leaves.
As we went about doing our errands that day, the girls would ask me why the caterpillar decided to cross the street. Did he know he was entering a dangerous and hostile environment? Was there something on the other side that he was looking for? Or maybe he was a brave caterpillar just looking for an adventure! I think you may know where this is headed, and as cheesy as it may be to completely spin this story into a “fable” of sorts, I’m totally going there because I’m sure we can all relate to that little caterpillar at certain points in our lives. Because that’s kind of how I’m feeling like my year has been, exposed in the wide open dodging bullets that seemingly come out of nowhere. In my case, I got steam rolled by one of those bullets and I’ve been down for the count, but I’m slowly inching my way to the other side. I wouldn’t mind a little help sometimes. My family could use a dose of luck or good fortune, but I know ultimately this work needs to come from myself. Who knows what the other side looks like? I suppose that’s the beauty and mystery of it all.
Posted by Jenna | 46 Comments
This is my view 2 days a week. You’ve probably seen it on Instagram if you follow me there.
So this office thing…was something that was loosely in the works for a few months now, but still a bit unexpected when it happened. Earlier in the year I’d been contemplating some moves that would potentially be a transition away from what I’ve been doing career-wise for the past 18 years. Nothing that was definitive or that held any answers to what I was going to do with my life, but enough of a shift to feel like I was finally doing something about it after years of feeling stuck.
I’m one of those people who can work perfectly fine at home, so I never thought that I would want to work in an office again. I dislike the commute and I don’t (usually) struggle with some of the issues that some freelancers have expressed can be difficult at times to deal with – namely the isolation and the lack of human interaction. I would have never thought that going to an office a few times a week would have been just the thing that I needed while dealing with my brother’s death, but I showed up 2 days after I got back from California and have been going twice a week since. It provided structure and a routine at a time when I was feeling lost and disconnected from everyone in my life, and it helped with this new anxiety of being around other people. I belonged somewhere, I had somewhere to go, and for the first time in a really long time, made me feel like I was part of a team. Although I’ve been on project teams while freelancing, I’ve been working on my own for such a long time that this was the thing I missed most. All of the newness of working in an office – the indecision of what to wear in the mornings, the commute, the lunches, sitting at a desk again, getting acclimated to excessive office AC – all of it felt fitting. I don’t feel like the same person anymore, and life without my brother is new so maybe this is why this feels right for now.
In a way I’m going back to my tech start up roots, and indeed it does sort of feel like 1999 again as far as the industry is concerned. It’s also nice to be doing something other than design, as well as working in a different industry and this is what I’ve been positioning hard for this year. I still have most of my design clients, however, and this has been the busiest 12 month stretch that I’ve ever had as a freelancer, but I’m letting go of some of the work that I don’t want to do anymore. Also, I’m a workaholic and it’s hard for me to say no, but this also means that certain plans and ideas that I’ve had for the year–personal and for the business–have been pushed aside for now and that is ok. I always seem to carry this weird guilt when I can’t get everything done. Self pressure, unrealistic expectations – whatever it is, it’s nothing new, but I’m also trying to learn from things that have happened this year. I don’t know how long the office thing or this job is going to last – another month, the rest of the year…I don’t know, but I’m just going with it for now. Nothing about this year has been predictable, but sometimes the universe does provide you with what you need. Sometimes.
Posted by Jenna | 14 Comments
I don’t want to turn this into a grief blog, but then again, if I’m not writing about what I’m feeling, what am I writing about instead? The way I see it, it can go one of two ways. I can understand how some people might want to alienate themselves from everything and everyone they know after a loss like this. Sometimes the only thing that makes sense is retreating into your own world and starting over. It feels completely fake to put on a “normal” front every day for the benefit of your children, your family, your neighbors, your friends and clients. It’s like you do this so they can feel comfortable in your presence. You know, avoid the awkward. Meanwhile, most things feel trivial and you start feeling like you can’t relate to people anymore because everything takes on a new meaning. That view of the water on a perfect summer day, the pretty bouquet of flowers, the sun that filters through the leaves, a child’s hug…all things that he will never see or experience again. So you keep it to yourself because who wants to be burdened with someone else’s grief. That feeling of being out of sync with the world just grows deeper.
I’ve considered shutting the blog down and starting a tumblr for our business. Photos of cookies, pretty food and business news; normal stuff like most businesses post, not this. But then again, it wouldn’t feel real – more of that “putting up a front” thing that I’m doing every day, everywhere else. So maybe this is turning into a grief blog, I don’t know. What other place do I have?
Posted by Jenna | 59 Comments
I was presented with an interesting question on two separate occasions recently which really made me stop and think about my perception of myself. “What do you want?” In the context of jobs, deals or my career, it’s not exactly a question that I get asked since it’s usually about the needs of the client or the project. Usually it’s something along the lines of “what can you bring to the table? What can you do for this project?” But what do I want? It’s such a simple question, but a deceptively hard one to answer.
My particular issue has always been that I don’t really know what I want (well I kind of do in a big dream sort of way, but that involves some serious random luck with a lottery ticket. Yeah I know, happiness isn’t about money, but I wouldn’t object if it started there). While it’s been a painfully slow process, I’m finally getting closer to focusing in on what I want by identifying what I don’t want to do. More importantly, however, I’ve come to realize that I’m not allowing myself to acknowledge the things that I want because I don’t believe in myself enough.
Yeah. That’s a big one. It’s really easy to brush things off by saying, “oh, I’m not an artist, I’m not a writer, I don’t feel like an entrepreneur.” I do it all the time. I did it just an hour ago on a phone conversation I was having with a friend. I have no idea why it’s easier to discredit myself than it is to own up to my skills and accomplishments, but it is. It’s been pointed out enough times in articles that this can be a gender thing, that women aren’t confident enough, but I also keep having conversations with people about the difference between my generation (I guess that would be X) and the generations younger than us. I believe we might be the last generation to have this mentality that accomplishments and accolades are earned and the only way to get there is to work your way up and “pay your dues”. I’m certainly old enough to have earned confidence in my field, but it’s been hard for some reason to shake off the grips of perpetual self doubt. It gets even further complicated when you’re raising girls and trying to nurture their own self confidence. The irony at play here isn’t lost on me.
As you know, a career change has been on my mind for a long time (are you tired of hearing about it? Because sometimes I am). My own mom did it around this age, partially to leave a demanding physical job and partially because she didn’t know how she was going to send 2 kids to college on a nurse’s salary. It worked out really well for her and she tapped into a business side of herself that she never even knew existed. Even though I have a great role model in her, a career change is daunting for a lot of reasons. Logistically, the process of getting there can be challenging and time consuming and this is *after* you figure out what you want to do. But it’s also daunting because our identity is so tied to our jobs and careers (at least here in the US) and for me, personally, my sense of self worth is often tied to my ability to bring in a paycheck. We always get asked the question, “what do you do?”, so if we strip ourselves from our jobs, what’s left? A lot, obviously; we aren’t one dimensional, but sometimes it’s hard to see who we are without the filter of our careers.
This year feels different though. Entertaining a few recent opportunities has made me take a look at what I’ve done and what I can do. Not surprisingly, it’s more than I give myself credit for. It’s long overdue, but it’s time take ownership of what I’ve done with my career in the past so that I can define what I want in the future. It’s not validation from others that I need, it’s validation from myself. And if you’ve gone through a career change and reinvented yourself, I would love to hear your experiences too.
Posted by Jenna | 32 Comments