I have been feeling remarkably grateful of late. Sure, the sun is warmer and greenery is beginning to dominate the landscape, but there’s more to it than that. I finally feel that I’m not chasing after something. Life feels good. I’m spending time with my family, reading novels, making art. My work life, after decades of toil, is fun. I’m creating new programs, mentoring bright and promising students. My experience and insights are not only appreciated by my colleagues, but sought out. And I’m not arriving home at the end of each day feeling like I’ve been hit by a train. I feel valuable, valued, and like there’s so much potential yet to be explored. It’s like I’ve spent most of my young adult life wandering around a huge building, trying to figure out where I am and how to get to the rooms near the top, and then, one day I recognized the halls and rooms on every floor and simply walked into the penthouse like I own the place.
Four years ago we were in Cape Town, trying to see if we could make a life there. We had been in South Africa for almost five months, and I simply couldn’t get a break when it came to work. When I met with a recruiter, shortly after we arrived, she took a look at my resume and frowned.
“I’m not sure how to position you,” you said. “Your experience is so varied.”
It was the first time I felt regret that it wasn’t easier to put me into a box. I’d worked in documentary film, had some small success as a journalist, blogged, written copy, designed websites. But I was still making things up as I went along. I didn’t feel confident that I actually knew what I was doing, and didn’t yet know enough about the various industries to speak with any authority about them.
Now I can.
None of what’s happened in the last four years was premeditated. I fell into one experience after another. And while the jobs have all been very different — office manager for a boutique marketing agency, webmaster for a dentistry school, sponsorship lead for a tech non-profit, copywriter for various startups, journalist, and now communications director — each job has brought me new insight and skills.
I’m now the Arts major who, by virtue of writing about it, working and living it, understands business and technology. I know how much time creative projects should take to complete. I know how much time is worth. And I’m not afraid to tell someone what I think of the work they’re doing.
There’s something to be said for experience. In my early twenties I was vexed that nobody was willing to take me as seriously as I took myself. Now, after choosing to do things my own way — travelling at every opportunity, having kids a decade earlier than expected, buying a camper van rather than a house — I understand exactly why I couldn’t do the things I felt owed, why, for instance, “being a writer” was something elusive and frustrating.
There’s nothing like real life experience to show you just how much you don’t know. And after years of feeling like you’re stumbling through the fog, likely to fall into a pothole or tumble down a rockface at any moment, the sun will come out, the horizon will clear and you’ll know exactly where you are.
Where you’re going? Not so much. But wouldn’t knowing where you’re going just spoil the surprise?