It was Friday afternoon at 4:55pm. I had just sent my analysis to my superior and hoped she would not reply with comments. It was a gorgeous, summer day and Chicago and my best friend was waiting downstairs for me. I jumped into her car, put my sunglasses on, rolled down the windows, and turned on our carefully curated Spotify playlist that we expressly called “Workin’ for the Weekend.” That’s exactly what I was doing – working for the weekend. I was my worst and robotic self from Monday through Friday and my best and engaged self Saturday and Sunday.
In that moment, I knew I was not where I wanted to be, but I was convinced I was where I should be. To me, it was a reputable data point to tell others – I was working for a prestigious economic consulting company, financially independent, and engaged in some of the most well-known litigation cases at the time. On the inside, however, I was empty.
It was not until 5 years later that I invested in my own career coach. With her, I had conversations I had never had before. Through my own self-discovery, I understood what drove me, what was fulfilling to me, what were my values and natural strengths, and what were my dreams. For 45 minutes each week, I had her undivided attention – she challenged me and listened to me. My work with her informed me of my own mission to become a coach.
Below are some things I would tell my 25-year old self:
Stop lying to yourself. I used to tell myself the same stories over and over: “I work at an economic consulting company. I don’t love the people, but the work is fascinating and while I don’t see myself here forever, it works right now.” Every day, I would justify living my own nightmare because I thought others would respect me and the work that I did. It was a disservice to myself and my loved ones.
Invest in yourself. I have never liked the word “passion”. To me, passion is like an exclusive club – it’s intimidating and if you don’t have it and can make you feeling left out (read more about this on Elizabeth Gilbert’s On Being podcast). I felt exactly that way – that everyone around me had found their passion and that I was going to live my entire life not knowing or executing mine. Instead of dedicating the time to figure out what really made me curious and tick, I suppressed it so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it, until I couldn’t suppress it anymore. Take time to understand your interests, values and natural strengths – they are innate in and unique to you. This self-awareness is powerful.
Be courageous. The only way for me to get fear out of the driver seat of my life was to be courageous. As one of my favorite researchers, Brené Brown says, "courage is borne out of vulnerability, not strength." By being vulnerable and acknowledging that fear was driving me, I let my true self emerge. I saw and embraced my natural gifts, and committed to practicing them through my work. Because I am doing something I love, I will never have to work a day in my life. I encourage you to do the same.
Instead of working for the weekend, let’s be hungry for Monday morning.
Sources: “Choosing Curiosity Over Fear with Elizabeth Gilbert,” On Being, July 6, 2016, https://onbeing.org/programs/elizabeth-gilbert-choosing-curiosity-over-fear/; "The Courage to be Vulnerable with Brené Brown, On Being, January 29, 2015, https://onbeing.org/programs/brene-brown-the-courage-to-be-vulnerable-jan2015/.