A few months ago, someone said, “You used to be so ambitious! That’s what I’d always liked about you.” I was floored. There are no words to describe how shaken I was by this statement. The statement was in past tense. I used to be ambitious. Used to be?
There are three things about me that I take pride in. I’m tenacious, ambitious, and I have very pretty brown eyes. That’s it! Other than those three, I have no idea how to describe myself. So, the speaker’s use of past tense broke my sense of self.
You used to be so ambitious!
Now this wasn’t said to be mean. The comment was actually in response to me saying I wasn’t sure I wanted to ever be upper management. The speaker was shocked. I’m bossy. A natural leader. I manage my team well. I always have my eye on what’s next. And I want more money. She didn’t understand why that did not naturally lead me to conclude that my next step was upper management. Assistant Vice Provost, Registrar, Director, etc.
I couldn’t even form the words to say, “Upper management gets too bogged down in minute details and I prefer to not spend the rest of my life in useless meetings.”
Instead, I just smiled while my heart broke a little and my self-esteem caved in.
To be honest, my neurotic brain had me obsessed about this a little. I went to everyone I knew who would give me an honest answer and asked them if they thought I was less ambitious. The answers were honest yes, but not a resounding, “Naw girl you still kick ass!” So very disheartening.
Have you really lost your ambition?
Since then, I’ve spent time asking myself two questions. One, have you really lost your ambition? Two, what’s next?
I only have answers for the first question. No, my ambition has not diminished in any way.
At the time I was in a holding pattern. A crossroads really. You see, this person merely voiced my own thoughts about no longer aspiring to be the Big Boss. If I wasn’t going to be the Big Boss, then I had no clue what I wanted to do with the next thirty plus years of my career. The obvious conclusion is I’m no longer ambitious, and therefore a bump on the log. Right?
My mother worked two, sometimes three, jobs. That meant, with our schedules and hers, she never saw much of her three daughters. I never begrudged her absence because I understood. Between the three of us, she missed games, concerts, and recitals. Speaking from my own experience, it was the missed holidays and nights spent sick wanting my mommy that I regret the most. But again, I understood. Time and a half meant a tired mommy, but big paycheck.
I see lots of Big Bosses, male and female, who work one job and still manage to somehow neglect their family. This isn’t as obvious in day-to-day life, but one slip-up and their familial neglect is mentioned in nasty whispers about children gone astray and unhappy spouses.
Sometime during my child’s life, I decided I wanted to be present. And the mom and natural go-getter in me went to war.
Suddenly, I found myself reevaluating what’s important and exploring other ways of getting what I want. I had to rewrite my definition of success. I found myself paying attention to my own Values and Success lesson in class.
After much contemplation I have come to several conclusions.
As a no-brainer, I want the flexibility of being able to leave work early to see class presentations and games. Go on teacher conferences during my lunch break. Read to Monster at night. And I need to have enough energy to accept his “Hey, mom play with me,” and happily carry out whatever that entails. Be it wrestling, soccer, video games, Play-Doh, or experiments.
I simply no longer believe a fancy title and too many emails equate to success.
I also have to consider my fear of being broke and figure out how to get the most bang for my buck and my valuable time. The next job I choose needs to pay enough to get me out of the paycheck to paycheck bracket and still align with my need to help students succeed and reach their potential, while still allowing me to set boundaries surrounding my personal time.
That is a mouthful and an extremely tall order for a job in education. Which led me to another conclusion.
I need to find a second stream of income. Or two. Something that doesn’t take me away from the home too much and isn’t too energy intensive.
Lastly, I need to write. And publish, even if only my sisters buy the book!
The emotional constipation of not writing had taken a huge toll on me. Eleven years! That’s how long it took me to get back into writing. Eleven years of bottled up emotions and clogged creativity energy. It was painful! I refuse to go back to that life.
So, yes. I am no longer interested in being the Registrar or Associate Vice Provost. But I realize I did not stop dreaming or having goals. I did not suddenly halt forward momentum. I simply no longer believe a fancy title and too many emails equate to success.
Instead, I decided to slow the grind and look for alternative definitions of success. I am choosing a different path and that’s okay.
Besides, I’m the lady of my house, and sole female. One way or another, I am the Big Boss.