I started a new job this week. It’s the first time I’ve started a new job in a decade. A DECADE. Think about how much you change from age 0 to age 10, from age 10 to age 20… Well, I started my last job the year I turned 30, and this is the year I turned 40, and here I am.
Are all 10-year intervals created equal? Is 30-to-40 the same distance as the distance between 5 and 15? 60 and 70?
The office feels like foreign territory. I’ve been working at home these last 10 years, this last decade, this last 80-minus-70, away from corporate culture, away from needing to interact with other human beings all day. It is a performative act. It drains me.
I used to feel like I had to get into character every day, to put on a mask. I resolved never to do it again. At home, bra off, laptop open, was bliss, for a while. Then I was lonely. And bored. It took 10 years, the distance from 12 to 22, but it happened.
I’m not bored now. My head is swimming with “does she like me” and “why do I care?” I’m remembering how former colleagues called me “Demanda,” and the one guy who called me a control freak. Why do I remember the name calling above so much else? I remember being called Fatso in kindergarten. If I am to believe my detractors, I am a fat, demanding control freak.
My supporters would take issue with this. They would call me kind and thoughtful and creative and smart. I remember the boss who told me I lit up a room.
Maybe it’s all true, the good and the bad, for better or worse, the names and labels, the critic and the lover, are all up there in my head, keeping me company. Or maybe I get to decide.
It’s easier to dodge the risk of negative interactions at home, under controlled circumstances, but that’s no way to live. I have too much to share to hide away, connecting from the other side of a computer. But my god it’s taxing. So much easier to stay home.
I want to rise to the occasion, my way. To be real and to not give a shit if anyone likes me, to care only about the work and the people it serves, but that is not rewarded at my company. One must think of Culture and Team.
What if I don’t? Does that make me the kid who won’t play nicely on the playground? Or am I the leader who doesn’t give a shit, who people remember later not for being nice or easy but for being brilliant?
Which is better?
What is better is not to care, to set aside so many concerns about how other people see me and focus instead on how I would like to experience my days. Less on gaming the system or reading the room, more on purpose, practice, mindfulness. Being my best self and sharing my gifts while taking care of myself. That is the loving path, not the ego trap.
Ego is as sharp and piercing as a bear trap set in the woods, and being around other people all day makes it harder. More chances to say the thing you wish you hadn’t said, more stimuli to interrupt your flow.
And yet more resources, and an energy and structure to feed off of, and maybe just maybe people to learn from. Maybe just maybe, new people to love.
Where will I be 10 years from now? Is 50 the same distance from 40, as 40 is from 30?
To that 30-year-old young woman, I wave a cheerful hello from the other side.