To do lists, deliverables, timelines to meet. A job, family, friends, bills to pay, events to attend. When do we have time to stop? So many of us stop ourselves in front of the television, inside a book, or participate in a physical activity with our head phones in, iPod turned up. Keep moving, don’t stop, so much to accomplish today before we do it all over again.
Not a single person who knows me would disagree that I live a Type A life. In my line of work (event management) you are on from the moment your event begins load in until the second you load out of the venue. On your feet, on for your client, paying attention to the big picture (attendee numbers, Executive participation) as well as the smallest details — does our AV Lead know how to NAT between the session rooms, is the security guard in front of the Exhibit Floor reading emails on his phone? You are so busy being busy that when you have down time between events you don’t know how to relax.
So what happens when you stop long enough to admit to yourself, to your spouse that all of this busyness that made you feel so special, so needed actually isn’t satisfying at all? Eight years ago I remember loving to work. My husband was getting his PhD at Harvard and I was in charge of “bringing home the bacon.” I loved events, the long hours, on site changes, client created fires, reassuring a client that the rooms would be set on time while throwing off my suit jacket and striking tables and chairs with the set-up crew with 5 minutes to go before the next sessions started. Oh! the insanity of the 2004 Democratic National Convention — 3:00 am calls into work, so many messages on my BlackBerry that I handed it to an Intern and told her to type them all out. When did my love start wavering?
It wasn’t one defining moment that did me in. From a very young age I had an idea of the woman I would be, I clung to that image and eventually I became that person. I would be a “career woman” able to take care of myself, successful and of course wearing a suit everyday! My calendar would be packed, I’d travel as my father always had and I would be happy. Happy being busy. Happy responding to emails, multi-tasking, keeping projects on schedule. Happy on my own, happy because of the choices I made, not relying on anyone else. Unlike my father, I never believed that “only you can make yourself unhappy.”
I had wonderfully supportive parents who constantly told me “Go to college, get a degree, then a job and get married (if you want). ” My parents were (and still are) fabulously supportive, but not so wonderfully in love (don’t worry, they divorced). So when at the young age of 24 I met the man who I would marry three years later my plan began to change. The changes weren’t noticeable for the first seven years of our life. We were young (so young!), still trying to figure out who we wanted to be and it worked for us, him going after a PhD from Harvard (so impressed) me taking jobs with companies that had household names (Democratic National Convention, Microsoft, Harvard). Because for longer than I like to admit, I felt inadequate being his fiance and then wife. There we were living in Boston, hanging out with people who went to Harvard and what had I ever done? Sure being a PA on the TV show Angel sounds impressive to someone who doesn’t know that my job description was coffee getter, Mercedes parker, script deliverer, lunch orderer, tea maker (PG Tips only!) and so many more non-glamorous responsibilities.
We’d been solely focused on one goal for so long: PhD from Harvard. So when after 4.5 years he finished and we found ourselves living back in Seattle (where we wanted to be) both of us with great jobs I became lost. Push it under the rug, hide it under the bed, pull out the duct tape – quick fixes. Change jobs, change apartments, move across country (I did them all). I had this image of the woman I was supposed to be and I wasn’t prepared to admit that it didn’t fit anymore.
I never knew that I could be loved as much as I am by my husband nor did I know I could ever love someone as much as I love him. And this changed everything. I went from loving my work, being insanely busy, 14+ hour days prepping for a show and then on site. Travel, meetings, craziness. I thrived in crazy. Exhaustion – only if I slowed down! And I loved it. I felt needed, good at what I did. But when the reason for working was no longer because someone had to pay the bills (husband had/has a great job), when I could no longer cling to “I’m working so hard so that he can live his dreams (he had completed that Harvard PhD) what I had once loved, had given me so much satisfaction…no longer did.
Two 6-month stints of not working I would find myself running back to events. We are now living in San Francisco and on Monday it will have been two months since I left my last job. Officially it’s been two weeks since I finished unpacking, and establishing ourselves in California. I started applying for event jobs last Friday :(.
In the hope of saving myself from playing it safe, staying with the familiar I am forcing myself to write an entry each day of what I might want my life to look like/be made up of. Change isn’t easy, but what choice do I have when settling for anything less than amazing isn’t an option?