Let’s cut to the chase: I’m quitting my job and moving to Hawaii to pursue my MBA and to live with my fiancé.
It was not an easy decision. There were many nights I would be in tears over the ordeal, wondering if it was really the right choice. Would I be jeopardizing my career? Is it really necessary to do this now? Can I wait a couple years? Pah! Love should never be the deciding vote, CAREER ALL THE WAY.
Honestly, growing up surrounded by the fiercest women–and I say this in both the coy, modern way as well as in the scary way–has raised my expectations of myself. For better and for worse. I cannot see myself being a housewife, and I truly couldn’t ever see myself moving for a loved one. THEY would have to move for ME. (In retrospect, this was an extremely selfish way to look at life, but worked to the satisfaction of my family.)
In the hustle for the prize of a successful career, it’s easy to focus on the short term.
What can I do to be good, now?
How do I become a manager, now?
How do I stand out from my peers, now?
What is immediately in my power to create a situation where I am benefiting, right now?
And if I were to follow that logic, focused purely on my career, objectively, the right decision would be to stay with arguably the best technology company in the world, and what I am doing is the absolute worst thing I could do.
That may be objective, but it is not realistic. Often times, we give so much credit to the pursuit of career success that when something as intangible as “love” comes into play, it’s easy to play it off as folly. Which, objectively, makes sense. After all, there is no logic in love.
This is how I thought, until I took a moment, lying awake around midnight in the comfort of a sleepy town’s silence, and confined to my own thoughts. I did the usual exercise we’re all taught to do as young adults — picture what life will be like in 5 years. As long as I can remember, this vision has been a singular one, involving no other person but myself. I would only focus on my job and on my physical state of health, to the point that the only thing that mattered was “Would I be healthy… enough to work and be happy with myself? Okay.” What resulted was this vision of me that lived to work, and worked to work. I would sleep to work, eat to work, and do everything to work. It was a lonely 5 year plan, but it was one I wanted nonetheless because working hard = success!
That was precisely the problem. This vision was neither specific, nor holistic. I ran into the same roadblock that I’d run into for years — I worked to lead, but lead what? I also would pass off my personal life as uninteresting and unimportant. I had been taking the only part of me that WASN’T shaped by physiological need or by a corporate identity, and shoving in the corner.
I was honestly struggling with a weird existential crisis – do I live as a feminist bitch dominating the corporate world with no other concerns but myself? Into my 30’s? Heck, 40’s? Or do I do something crazy? Do I take a leap and try to dive headfirst into my life?
I remembered this saying, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
When I finally pictured this holistic vision of the future, I thought about the bigger, important things – family, home, love.
Would I be with my fiancé? Where is he in the picture?
Is he still thousands of miles away because I was too reluctant to quit my job? The Army will never be able to move him where I am with any certainty.
What kind of job am I working? Is it one that can move with me and still fulfill my dreams?
Twenty eight is about the time to have kids… Do I even want kids? If I do, how late am I planning on having them? Probably not long after that? Will I be in the situation necessary to plan for a child?
What is my TEN year plan? To run a business that I can take with me wherever I go? So I don’t have to quit a job?
Is that something I have to wait ten years for? Can I do it now? What can I do, NOW, that will get me where I want to be in ten years, family, work, and home included?
Picturing all of this made the decision easy. This was a subjective vision, but am I doing anything objectively to meet this vision? Is there something I can objectively do better to get there? Where are my investments in time and sacrifice really going? If I were to fail at all of this, would I be failing doing the thing I want to do the most? Would I be failing at the time and place I want to fail? What is the single thing that will support me if I ever lost everything?
(Hear me out.)
When we consider what fills our lives other than work, there are a million things around us – leaves on trees, oxygen, sunlight, mountains casting shadows on large fields; there are birds, fish, oceans, entire cultures to experience and learn from. There are people other than us, believe it or not! There are lovers, parents, family, friends. There is a world and a universe around us, and if we don’t admire them with wonder, hold those we love close to us, treat others with kindness as we envision a life not just about us, but around us, life becomes more full, less lonely. Our surroundings come to life with the vibrancy they already had but we were too head-down and focused to appreciate… and to love.
To completely deny love as a fundamental part of your life, as fundamental as breathing… why, that is folly.
Many will have an opinion on this. And in this case, “The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind,” doesn’t necessarily apply. The people who care about me and have seen me grow from toddler to consultant have sincere concerns that what I’m doing is not like me. And it’s true, it’s not at all like me.
But if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
My vision is complete, and there is nothing more that I want than to chase it with the fervor, persistence, and optimistic defiance that I’ve learned so well. This is the first real decision I’ve made for myself, without the real desire to impress others or make people proud. This is a decision that made me realize that a feminist can still desire a family, and that a feminist can be whoever she wants to be. That is the true essence of feminism — to allow women to follow their bliss, whatever that bliss might be. I could not be more confident that this is my bliss, and damn it, I will carpe the hell out of this diem.
All of this thinking and maturing… it’s messy as hell, but when the dust settles, there is a certain clarity that shakes you when you find it. This, my friends, is the act of becoming.
For once, I can say with certainty, that I’m beginning the rest of my life.