This is one of those blog posts that probably isn’t going to wrap up with some great list of things you can emphatically do like a checklist or even some inspiring battle cry. More than likely it is going to be a rambling, a bit too personal, purge of where my life is at right now, and my journey of the last year, but I decided to post it anyway in hopes you will find tidbits that motivate you.
Living authentically has become very cliché. It is the phrase of the year. There are a million movements related to being honest to yourself related to your gender identity, your sexual preferences, your abuse history, your pay at work and your pink hat. It is everywhere, but at the same time it is nowhere. In my personal opinion, the big one, the real “coming out” has yet to occur or at least to be embraced by society, especially in the workplace, being openly INTELLIGENT, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
This has been an insane year for me. I bought a new horse and am leasing other (after selling two I had at the start of the year), I up and moved to Texas with about an hour’s forethought, I live in a new (to me) house and the year ended with a new job (after being “downsized” out of my previous position – but that is a story for another post).
My life looks nothing like it did a year ago. A new landscape, new friends, new weather, new challenges and new adventures. Everything around me has changed, but oddly enough it feels liberating, not because I shed things but because all of these changes allowed me to build a life in which I am down to the bone brutally myself. I feel like every change this year opened up a chance to move closer to being unapologetically who I am. The new horses and trainer moved me from a situation where I had no communication and no input to a really great program where I feel my voice matters in my riding future and I was able to say what worked with my horses and what didn’t and find the right fits. Living in Texas is by definition brutally honest (it’s a perfect fit for a New Yorker) and I have surrounded myself with friends who get the real me and either like it or move on. I no longer ask people to stay in my life who want me to be someone that fits them at the cost of invalidating myself. I would rather have 4 close friends who let me be me than 100 who want someone I am not. Even my house was selected to accept the challenges related to my nerve damage and to stop pretending stairs and I were friends.
The biggest change however is in how I am approaching my job and career. While changing jobs wasn’t on my radar and probably wasn’t something I would have done this year by choice, it (like so much else in my life) happened when and how I needed it to. I needed something to liberate me to find a space where I could be the best me.
I should preface this with saying I HATE applying for jobs and interviewing. Ask me to sell a product or someone else, I can rock it like nobody’s business, but sell myself, I begin to filter. I try to be who I think they want for the position and lose the best of me in it. For as good a writer I am, I am terrible at creating a cover letter, and interviews send me down a dark hole. I try to figure out what they want to hear and get lost in that innate fear of not being picked. For me specifically it is the fear of being “too much”.
I have spent my whole life being told I was too much, of something. I was too smart, too loud, too stubborn, too opinionated, too driven, too ambitious. The list goes on and on. And for the majority of my life I believed that message and tried to shrink myself. To keep relationships, to keep friends, to keep mentors and to keep jobs. I tried to be less so that those around me could handle me. It started when I was a child and my mom called me a “snob” for wanting to go to college and has continued through my professional life for the last decade. I was told more than once at my last job that I was too much for the leaders they had and that was my fault. In my last weeks there I was told I had outgrown them because I was working on my advanced degree. Instead of embracing what I had to offer, I was told to be less to make others feel better about themselves and I bought into it. I beat myself up, I tried to change, I tried to scale back. I let the world convince me that the right approach to life was living at the least common denominator instead of expecting others to work up I lived down. I’m done with that.
Being forced to change jobs has helped me focus. It was with great pride yesterday I told an interviewer “I will never again apologize for being smart and good at what I do” and knew I was in the right place when that was met with “that is refreshing to hear”. I never would have believed being laid off would be the best career advice I have ever gotten, but it really was, I finally get it. Career satisfaction isn’t rooted in the dollars on your paycheck, or the promotions you get or the fancy titles and corner offices. It lies in being somewhere where you can be you, where your gifts are used to the best they can, where leadership realizes that finding the best people and letting them being who they are is an asset not a threat.
The hardest honesty of the year, the one I am still working through, is related to my horses. I have blogged before about the love of my life, Jasmine. This horse will be in my life as long as she lives, that will never change, but I had to face the hard truth recently that as a show horse her and I are in different places right now. I need a horse who better fits me and she needs a rider who is stronger legged than I am and who can remind her that she isn’t the alpha in the arena. As with everything else this reality got forced on me, after a less than stellar ride at a World show, but as it also does life handed me a solution, if I was willing to open up and accept it. The perfect horse came along for me to show this next year and has also potentially offered me a perfect rider for Jasmine. Once again, this all reminded me that sometime there is a major chasm between what we want and what we need, but that opening up to the need is where happiness and self-honesty live.
It’s almost 2019, that means it is time for goals and resolutions. For me 2019 will be about maintaining the authenticity that this year forced on me. I don’t expect it to be easy. I have recently had to make some decisions on friendships that I knew weren’t healthy and walking away. It was hard, but nothing worth having is easy (also a cliché but true). One of the great life lessons I will take away from my 40’s is that fit; be it a friendship, relationship, job, client or horse, is very personal and admitting that something isn’t working is not the same as failure. Failure is staying where you don’t belong because of fear of the unknown.
Make your new year ‘your best you year’ even if you aren’t sure what that looks like.