It Can Take A Decade
I have been frustrated, I mean really frustrated lately with what I perceive as a lack of progress. I have been getting down on myself with internal thoughts like I should be advancing along in my professional path, I haven’t had enough personal growth, I wish I knew the next best step to take, Women Do hasn't had enough growth…and on and on it goes. I don’t do well when I feel like I am in a stagnant state. I liked to be challenged, especially professionally and creatively, and the minute I feel unchallenged I tend to turn that on myself…What could I be doing better? Am I failing? Am I creating change and growing enough? When questions like these are not kept in check they can create a lot of frustration so when the questions started again a few weeks ago I decided that I would look big picture, a decade long big picture to be exact. When we only look at the past few months or even the past year we can miss the full breadth of our progress because change TAKES TIME. So the challenge for us, especially in the frustrating moments, is to spend time reflecting on the past month, the past year, and even the past decade, so we can fully see and appreciate our evolution. And just maybe, if we understand where we have been, we can better evaluate the steps we need to take in order to get where we are going.
The Lessons From 24-34
I have learned a lot of things professionally over the past 10 years but the greatest thing I have learned (and unfortunately it was the hard way) is to prioritize my well-being above my career. As an Athletic Trainer the focus is athlete/patient centered care. The job is about making sure their health is your number one priority which means taking care of them physically and often mentally as well. If you aren’t careful you will get lost in this. My job required me be at every practice, every treatment, and every game, but then I started to feel that I had to be there for every moment and couldn’t take time off because they needed me. Coaches, athletes, administrators and parents call and text all times of the day with no respect for your time and it makes you feel like you MUST respond and that you MUST show up. I know I started to feel like I couldn’t turn it off or ignore it because they needed me, and yes they do need their Athletic Trainer, I am no way knocking the value of what my profession does, but when I wasn’t careful this created some kind of warped savior complex. I was willing to sacrifice my sanity, my few precious moments away from work, my valuable time with family and friends because I became convinced I was the only that could provide the help they required. I also started to believed that people would see all the sacrifice on my part and give me the help I needed but instead all I did was prove that I could do it all alone as long as sacrificed by own sanity for it. This all just led to burnout as I lost myself in my job and lost my ability to prioritize myself. That savior complex is completely by accident but you start to believe you are the only one who can step up and if something happens when you are away it is all your fault. I am not proud to say that it took a moment of someone telling me if I left that they could easily find a replacement that I was reminded no one will prioritize me but me. What this decade taught me is that no career will put me first, that is my job to do, and to expect anyone else to do it is simply unfair and unrealistic. I had to learn boundaries to keep my sanity. I had to learn that my job could not take over my life. I had to learn to let go of the things I couldn’t change and move on. I had to learn to put myself first. I had to learn working all the hours in the world wasn’t going to make anyone offer me the help I needed or step up to protect me from burnout. Ultimately I had to learn the power of NO and what a life changing word that would be for me in my career.
Relationships with others:
I remember the night after I got engaged I cried in that moment it was not from happiness but from paralyzing anxiety. It had nothing to do with the person I was marrying, it was about me. You see somewhere along the way I had convinced myself that in order to be married I had to have my shit figured out or that I would remain in the same place. When I got engaged I was professionally frustrated and had no creative outlet. I was unhappy where I was, unsure of what was next, and thought holy shit, if I get married this is where it will all stop! The thing is if you are surrounded by the right people or marry the right person it doesn’t stop, it only expands. First and foremost I had to really understand that I could not expect anyone to complete me or be my excuse for not doing something I wanted to. What I learned (and likely should have already known) is that the right person doesn’t want or expect to do either of these things. Will that person enhance your life? Absolutely. Complete you? No, only you can do that. Set limits for you? Absolutely not. Encourage you to keep pushing when you are creating your own limits? Thank God, yes!
Here is what I have gained over the past 10 years, the best relationships in your life will grow with you; they won’t stunt you, they won’t hope for you to never change, they will evolve and change along with you, and they will be perhaps the most important voice of reason, second only to your intuition, in this life. Whether I am talking about romantic relationships or friendships this holds true. I only want people in my life that add to it, I want people who challenge and encourage me, I want people who help me expand, not try to limit my potential, and I want to be this for them as well. I am so thankful that I cried that night because it required me to turn the responsibility back on the person it belonged to, me. If I was with the right person, which I am very happy to report I was, then anything I didn’t accomplish would be because I stopped myself, any growth I missed out on is because I stunted it myself, and that is a VERY important lesson to learn.
It is important to know that it is OK to feel anxious about big changes in your life, including getting married, changing jobs, having a baby, etc. it is OK to fear how those things may change you or your current status. I don’t think people talk about this enough, you are allowed to be both excited and scared shitless, and it is perfectly normal to wonder how a big change will affect your overall evolution. And when these moments occur DO THE WORK, don’t push it down and hope it goes away, don’t ignore your inner voice. Work on yourself and work to understand why you are feeling those things and you will get a clearer picture of what is meant for you and what is not. It is OK to doubt but if you don’t look in to those doubts you will end up in a situation you don’t want to be in or you will become the creator of your own limitations.
Relationship with myself:
"The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”
The older I get the more I appreciate this quote because the relationship I have with myself has been tough at times but ultimately the most fulfilling one I have. The past ten years have brought a lot of ups and downs when it comes to this relationship but reflecting back I see how even the worst moments have led me to a much better place. For too long I was in an internal fight with my body. I trusted my instincts, but not my body, and looking back I’ve realized that actually left me not fully trusting myself. I had let the outside voice of society convince me I was not enough and I had let that voice become my inner voice. The acceptance of my body has created a new freedom for me and helped me move to a space where I give less f*cks about the opinions of others. This freedom is not just in relationship to the way I look but also to the things I do and HOLY SH*T that is liberating. I have to live a life that I am proud of, and sure there will be difficulties along the way, and of course I won’t always get it right, but it is the single most important thing for me to know that I am living how I choose to. I refuse to stop myself out of the fear of others’ judgments or ideas of who I should be. Ten years ago I definitely wasn’t here, 5 years ago I wasn’t here, but somewhere along the way I started making professional and personal decisions based solely on what felt right to me. I listened to that voice inside of me that said start Women Do, leave this job, wear what you feel good in, lean in to this relationship, stand up for yourself, don’t be afraid to be who you are, and what I’ve realized is that greatest disservice I ever did was silence my voice. The past 10 years have given me more freedom and acceptance of myself as a whole and there is no greater accomplishment for me than this.
Who knows exactly what the next 10 years will look like but here is what I do know; I will continue to respect and accept the person that I am. I will rebel against anything that is not meant for me. I will continue to evolve this Women Do journey (I can’t wait to see what this becomes) and I will move in to the next ten years more free than the past 10. I hope that I still have high expectations for myself. And I even hope that some days I get frustrated where I am, like I did recently, so I can take time to reflect back on where I have been. In those reflections I hope to find more gratitude for all that has changed and all I’ve accomplished. My only definitive resolution is to step in to every day and every year with a boldness that seeks to grow, evolve, and continue on the path that is meant for me.
I would love to hear about how you have evolved over the past decade. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing here I would love to hear from you via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy New Year to you and thank you for being on this journey with me!