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Monday, July 27, 2009

Crossroads

I am at a crossroads...well, kind of. Let me explain. After lots of time with no opportunities, I now have a few. Some are of my own creation. Some are more practical. None are absolutely certain (hence, the "kind of"). I applied to replace a friend of mine in a job he is leaving. After months of hearing "its all about who you know," I am finally in a position where I know someone on the inside and because of his reference, people are excited to meet me. Then, on Friday, I heard from a partner I used to work for. He talked with a recruiter who, like most recruiters, says he has lots of opportunities. The difference is that he has been given a briefing on me by a well respected senior partner. Ironically, I've dealt with this recruiter before but it was over a year ago when I wasn't thinking of finding a new job. I'm thinking its no accident that he has been steered back in my direction. Then, there is the stuff I am working on with regards to writing. I've started submitting to potential publishers. I've done extensive research and I've even started working on a marketing plan. In short, I'm deeply invested in the book deal process. So, what do I do? Do I go for the lower paying job that I will probably like more or the higher paying job that has the chance of spinning me back down into the corporate misery that I felt before? Was my firm experience unique or will it be the same roller coaster, different park? Where does my book fall in all of this? Will I have time for it or will I sweep my creative passions back under the rug for the pursuit of a paycheck? More importantly, if I sacrifice my passions for money, what was the point of this so-called cathartic period? I'm certainly going to interview for all that comes my way but if I'm honest, I want one thing (job fulfillment) and need another (money). I wonder if I can find both in one place. Today, someone said, "Don't be afraid of failure. Be afraid of success at the wrong thing." I am a chooser of stability but a lover of writing (among other creative pursuits). How am I going to make all of this work? I have already had success at the wrong thing. Maybe there is something to be said for taking the risk of failure at the right thing. Maybe the point of this was to take me through a time where I cultivated my creative talents to a point where they will forever be at the forefront...despite where my regular paycheck is coming from. I think I'll take a step back until I actually have some job offers to contend with. Right now, I'm at the crossroads alone, but I can make out a couple of opportune shadows just past the horizon. That's usually enough for me to start trying to figure out what to do if...and when. Oh, how I'm hoping for the WHEN!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Choosing Happiness


I woke up today with a smile on my face. My husband (who is always up hours before I am) was in his office working. I walked into the office still smiling and gave him a bear hug. His response was not "Good Morning,dear." It was "What are you so happy about?" I told him I didn't need a reason other than being alive. He smirked and said "You were alive yesterday, babe." That was his way of saying that I had woken up in a sour mood for many days (ok, weeks) in a row with few exceptions. I was either annoyed with the lawnmower interrupting my sleep, the tiny, bickering dogs beneath my bedroom window, or my cat firmly pressing her nose to mine in an effort to say, "Mom, I'm hungry!!! Get your lazy bones out of bed already!" It always seems to be something, which over the years has led many (myself included) to say that I am not a morning person. What it really means is that I, for years, have let the little things distract me from what's most important. Hello, my name is Nicole, and I often sweat the small stuff. Let's be serious, most of the annoying things in life are, in the grand scheme of things, small stuff. The rude person that bumped you out of the way in their effort to get on the subway before you, the screaming toddlers running through the grocery store pulling things off of shelves and throwing them at each other while their parents ignore the chaos and keep shopping, the taxi driver behind you that lays on his horn and yells out the window for you to go a full 30 seconds before the light turns green...even the co-worker who stabs you in the back to get ahead...all equally small. I guarantee that they won't get a moment's thought at the end of your life. I have spent years giving those people (or the stupid things like broken nails and lack of leg room on airplanes) the power to alter my mood. There is a silver lining though. I have been more mindful of that lately. I have been reading a lot of self help books and the common thread in all of them is the suggestion that you start the day by giving thanks. I have started to do my thank you's using my thank you beads (or sometimes just doing them in my head) before getting out of bed. I have found that it sheds a totally different light on my day. I wake up smiling despite worries because I am faithful that everything is going to be fine. It might not be my current definition of fine and it may not happen when or how I want it but, I will walk away from this transition period stronger and with quite a few lessons learned. I'm not saying I'll be a robot. I am sure I will get annoyed sometimes and sad about setbacks. But I can choose to be happy most of the time. Choice is a powerful tool. I'll be a better person because I am choosing to be grateful for what I have rather than freaking out about things I can't control. If that's not a reason to smile, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Legacy

Unfortunately, I ended last week by attending a funeral. My husband's friend lost his mother. As I sat there listening to all that she accomplished in her life, I began to think of what really matters. People remembered her unpaid service to others, her easy laughter and her positive attitude. It made me realize that I have spent a lot of time over the course of my life worrying about what people think and other things I can't control. I rarely give thought to what I want to be remembered for. What is it about me that outside forces can't control or influence? What stands out despite my law degree, my big fancy job or my quaint townhouse? Now that all of those things (save my law degree) have been or might be stripped away, who am I?

I think we all theoretically want to make a difference in the world. Yet, we spend a lot of time focused on the pursuit of the paycheck and worried about what our boss, our neighbor, the cashier at our grocery store, our doctor, and so on think of us. Most of us tailor what we say or how we express our feelings based on what people will think of us. Its only our true essence that will be a treasured legacy for those who survive us. The freedom of our belly laughs, the meals prepared and occasionally burnt, the willingness to admit and comeback from failures, the real love we gave. It will not be in the stylishly appointed outfit or the biting your tongue to spare another's feelings while trampling on your own. At the end of your life, it will not be about the people who thought you were a little uncouth. It will be about those who loved you most and their appreciation for knowing someone who lived in free pursuit of their best life. That's the real difference we make in the world. Its what we remember most about those we love and what they will remember about us.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Battlefield

My favorite song as of late is Battlefield by Jordin Sparks. The song is about love always feeling like a battlefield and the line "Get your armor" is repeated throughout the song. The reason I love this song is not for the reasons that you may think. My marriage isn't on the rocks. If anything, its less like a battlefield and more like a big open field of wildflowers straight out of some cheesy dream sequence from a movie. Inside our little world, things are peaceful, warm, funny, tender and supportive most of the time. Yet, there I am every time I hear that song on the radio singing at the top of my lungs telling myself (and everyone in earshot) to "Get your armor!!" I was singing just that on my way home from a pre-4th of July party at a friend's house this weekend when I felt a lump in my throat. At first, I was confused. I was having a great weekend. My husband was away for work but I had spent some quality time with friends and escaped my jobless reality for a while. For me, that is usually enough to be in a good mental space for a while. As tears welled up in my eyes, I realized that I love the song because its a battle cry for survival. In writing, praying, planning and searching for my next opportunity, I am strapping on my battle gear and pushing myself to fight for my comeback. Satisfied that I had sorted through my emotions, I pulled my car into the driveway and headed into the house to relax. I spent the day hanging out with Storm (my cat), watching TV and doing some clean-up on my book. Honestly, I didn't give much more thought to the battlefield epiphany because its been a continuing theme since I lost my job. I'm always giving myself a pep talk about pushing forward towards my new life. Then today, after watching hours of coverage on Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Steve McNair, I needed a break from death and media scrutiny so I started flipping the channels. I came across a show called I Survived on the Biography channel. It is about people who have faced everything from brutal stabbings to animal attacks and lived to tell the story. Whether they had to play dead or literally fight, they all lived to tell the story. The message in each of their stories is the same: Its your life. If you want it, fight for it. It was the same message from the song I had been belting out in the car. In life, we're all going to find ourselves on a battlefield at one point or another. You can either lay down and be defeated or get your armor. At least at the end of the battle, even if it doesn't turn out how you'd hoped, you can look in the mirror and see a warrior with a story rather than a victim hanging her head in defeat. I hear chainmail is the new black. Get your armor!