When I Grow Up (The Angsty Work Post)

Posted on July 26, 2010


The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a singer.  We lived in an old house with low windows, and I used to play my WHAM! tape and croon along, kneeling at the casement and hanging my head over the porch roof.  I thought it was fairly likely that I would be discovered and whisked away to begin a life of stardom.  Sadly, not a lot of talent reps visit Smalltown, Ohio, and even if they did I don’t have a lot of talent, so this never panned out.

The next thing I wanted to be was an obstetrician.  This lasted until I took my first difficult science class and realized that I’m really more of a verbal person.

Next on the list was ambassador to France, or perhaps a contemporaneous translator at the UN.   However, it  turns out that being the absolute very best French student ever in Smalltown, Ohio does not guarantee you an international career.  Had I known this, I might have saved myself 100 million years of student loan servitude and chosen a different college, but then I’d be a whole different person leading an entirely different life, and the myriad ways that path of thinking could lead would probably give me a headache that would cause me to take to my bed for a week and lose the job I have now, so let’s move on.

Turns out that what all of those Romance verb conjugations and diagrammed sentences got me was the ability to magically learn Spanish almost instantly when I started working at the bar and needed to make friends with the Latino kitchen staff.  If you need any item commonly found in a kitchen brought to you with haste, or wish to be able to provide comic relief to a group of cooks and bussers, I’m your girl.  I can get more silverware to table nine and cast aspersions on your manhood with alacrity.  (Coming from me  it just makes people laugh.  I’m not very threatening, apparently.)  I can also interpret school permission slips and immigration forms in exchange for eating what the cooks ate instead of what the staff ate.

After years in the service industry, I hurt my back and realized that I didn’t want to live without health insurance any more, so I made the creaking, achy leap to office life.  (It could also be argued that some genetic self-preservation process finally kicked in and made me realize that unfettered access to cheap and free alcohol, after-hours clubs,  and a workplace where vicious hangovers were met with empathy all around might not be the healthiest environment for me.)

Working in an office for a few years, I bounced around and up the ladder.  I have a pattern of doing very well for a year or so in each new situation and then losing steam.  Sometimes I lose steam and change jobs, sometimes I get a dog, sometimes I go on a crazy trip, sometimes I buy a house…something has to be done to shake things up.  Two shake-ups ago I got laid off and freelanced for 6 months, writing a little about food and editing tech articles.  It was a great time in my life, and felt full of possibility, but we had just bought the house and one of my old jobs made me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse.  I didn’t write anything of my own again for close to 4 years.

The last shake-up was about a year ago.  Fed up with a website project at work that required constant ego-babysitting and consensus-seeking, I was seized with what I thought might be my Great Idea.  It combined my two great loves: food and the internet.  It seemed like an idea that’s time had come.  I had a little money from the sale of my house to kickstart things.  And…it failed.   Maybe I didn’t have the connections I needed to make it work, maybe it should have been an iPhone app, maybe maybe maybe.  It was disappointing, but the process of creating it was far and away the best professional time I’ve spent in years.  Coming up with a great idea, planning how to execute it, overseeing a team of people making it happen, rolling it out…I really felt like all of my pistons were firing for the first time in ages.  Even though it didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned–with me on Oprah telling her how a humble idea turned into a multimillion dollar empire in only 12 months–it was a great experience overall.

I’m starting to feel that pull toward a shake-up again.  Things are rocky for me at work, and I can’t seem to work up the requisite amount of give-a-fuck.  Part of my “other duties as assigned” fall into the realm of being court jester, and when I can’t find it in me to do that–when I selfishly keep it for myself and the people in my life that I choose to amuse–my stock starts to sink.  In every office, I guess, playing politics is part of the deal, and I can be very good at it; I just get worn out.   And then I get stubborn and even less court jesterish and things devolve from there.

I am going to adjust my attitude at work–it’s a good job and I need it.  But I’m also really ready to think about what comes next.  I’m on the cusp; I always assumed that at some point my career would take a backseat to having a family, but single 35 year old women need to peek around the corner at the idea that that might not happen.  If it doesn’t, I’m going to need a much more exciting and meaningful way to support myself.  I don’t know what it looks like now, but I think it’s time to try and figure out exactly what it is I want to be when I grow up, because somewhere along the line (when I was likely dicking around on Google Reader instead of paying attention), I did.

Posted in: Uncategorized, Work