As the year 2018 draws to a close, I find I’m trying to assess the year and where I am in my life and career. 2018 was a milestone year, as I turned 50, and so that’s a pretty big indicator that I’m definitely in the second half of my life at this point.
I’m having a difficult time determining if 2018 was a good year or a not so good year. My gut feels like it wasn’t so great, yet when I try to look at it a little more analytically, it wasn’t so bad. So, I’m going to look at both sides, although I think overall, it’ll probably lean more towards good.
I had decided a year ago that my mantra for the year was going to be “persistence”. No matter what I did, I would just stay the course, and forge my way through what I wanted from myself and the world. Well, in that respect, I think I did okay. I got through some rougher times of the year through my persistence, determination, and ambition in some cases. But I wonder if I was trying too hard to be too many things, or try to be something that I thought was better, but I was already there.
A big part of my identity is my career. I know, you aren’t your job–I’m the first to say that, but when you aren’t working, and you want to feel like you are contributing to your field or just being productive, you feel lost not having something. I had another gap in employment (again) that made me doubt myself. In the last eight years, I’ve been learning and validating everything I could take in about tech comm. I went to grad school, taught in the same grad school program, have done all sorts of different jobs, yet had a difficult time finding something. I started the year with something that was new and felt promising, but fell apart in the end. I spent a good part of my summer trying to figure out how to get my next gig, and was fortunate that I only had the summer off. Even since starting my current job, I feel like I’ve been tested about what I know and don’t know, and there are times I feel confident, and other times I feel like the dumbest person in the room. It tears at you from either end. I don’t feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be in my career. I’m in a pretty good spot–don’t get me wrong. Perhaps this is my constant desire to learn and do more to challenge myself to be more. I’m constantly trying to figure out what I should be studying or learning next to amplify my skills. I can’t quite figure out what my next step should be, and that bothers me.
I’ve also found that I’ve lost myself in the process. Between finding my last job and this job, and juggling a number of other things, I’ve let myself go in some respects, especially with my health. I had worked so hard to lose a lot of weight and get healthy, and I stopped watching what I ate and stopped exercising, resulting in me gaining a good chunk of the weight back. Some of that was due to injury, but in the last year, it was mostly out of being overwhelmed by other things that I felt like sleep was more important that getting that workout in. I’ve also not written in this blog very much, and that got away from me, too. It’s hard to squeeze in when you are juggling a million other things.
Now…for the better parts of the year. I learned that I had some good analytical skills and was looked upon as the “expert” at work at two different jobs. I still got to work at home all year. I helped bring my STC chapter the “Community of the Year” award that it received at the 2018 STC Summit (which I missed!). I was a keynote speaker for the first time at the STC Interchange conference. I worked for three of the largest companies in the world, and I’m still working at two of them. I’m making the best hourly rate that I’ve ever made. I was invited back to be a “resident blogger” for an Adobe event. I became an STC Chapter President–I’ve never been given that kind of responsibility before! I also took a bold move, and helped my chapter move its conference to a new location for 2019–at a Philadelphia landmark, no less. I taught my second graduate level tech comm class (and survived). I took a trip to Canada and Maine with my family–new adventures. These are just some of the ways I tried to push boundaries, and perhaps fulfilled that goal of being persistent over the course of the year.
So now what? I’m at a point where I still feel a little lost, but perhaps it’s a good thing. I feel like I’m constantly setting goals, and I’m starting to feel that maybe I should stop making definitive ones. For example, I know what I need to do to get control of my health again–I just need to do it. No setting weight loss goals. Just do it. Same with professional development and career. Keep trying to reach higher, and perhaps what I should be learning or reaching for will become more evident. I have different interests, and it’s hard finding the time to pursue any of it (I’m only one person, after all). Maybe if I just do what Elsa sings in the movie, “Frozen” (Let It Go), then maybe things will fall into place without me feeling like I’m constantly spinning my wheels. 2018 felt like a year when I was overextending myself to prove to the world that I was worthy. Perhaps I need to stop trying so hard. It’s not like I’m going to stop trying, but rather ease up, and see where things take me. That’s a tall order for an Aspie who thrives on creating and following structure.
I can already tell you that 2019 is going to be a busy year, and some of it will hopefully entail letting some things go. I don’t think I want to teach at the university level anymore. It’s a little too stressful for me. This past fall, I was working three jobs (one almost full-time, two part-time, and then there’s my STC responsibilities, which I’ll get into in a minute), and it was overwhelming at times. While I enjoy being the president of my STC chapter, also being the conference chair AND the sponsorship chair is just a LOT to handle. I’ve delegated some things for the conference, but there’s still a lot I’ve had to do on my own. Something will have to give in the latter part of the year. Either I stay on as president of the chapter and someone else takes up the conference mantle (my preference) or I give up the presidential seat and only do the conference (not my preference). We’ll see if I can pull that off. If I can concentrate on one main job, and my occasional part-time job, and the STC-PMC presidency, that’s plenty to deal with.
This year, my son will also be graduating high school. It’s a big deal, and it’s already been a long journey to get this far. Last school year, we had moved him back to our home district after several years at a special ed school that was far from us, and bringing him back has brought him some peace. This year has generally gone far better. The big question was what he’ll be going next, and our district already proposed a plan that seemed like a good opportunity for him to take advantage of. He’ll be doing a transition program that allows him to take job skills classes and some electives for half the day at his local high school, and then the other half of the day will be at a technical school or the local community college–at the expense of the school district. We haven’t ironed out the details yet, but it seems like a good way for him to go, so that’s going to be a big deal in the next year or so.
I feel like I have a good idea of how the next six months will be going (more or less), and some hints about nine months from now (when my son starts his new program), but where will I be this time next year? It’s truly hard to say, but I’m thinking that’s okay. I will still be fierce and persistent in what I do, but perhaps taking a step back here and there. I keep saying that 2019 is going to be a rebuilding year for me, and so perhaps that’s my mantra for the year–rebuild. Rebuild who I am with my health especially (lose that weight! Get some health issues fixed!), but also determine where I want to start heading for the second half of my life. I need to figure out the delicate balance in taking risks and learning new things while finding some safety and comfort in what I do. The last few years have been fraught with instability for me, and I just want some stability to come my way. Perhaps 2019 is the year.
What do you think is ahead for you in 2019? Include your thoughts below.