I was talking with a young friend at our weekly beach night picnic (where we force ourselves to go to the beach, because what good is it enjoying your home town only when visitors arrive.)
A professional woman with a young toddler, she was talking about stress in her life. You know the normal things: finances, not enough time for all she has to do, etc.
Theresa Venus and I spoke in unison – “You have embarked on a stressful part of life; building a career, a home, a family. What’s important is to avoid overwhelm.”
And then the evening got going. Food and libations were consumed, sunset and scenery were admired, toddlers entertained and entertaining. No more was said.
Yet the Venuses have spent a lot of time musing on what we wished we’d known sooner. The next few blog entries will focus on sharing some of the wisdom we gleaned looking backward to our own stressful, building times of life. We offer these ‘flashbacks” to all of our daughters and goddesses-in-training in the hopes that you will gain some advantage from some of our stumblings and successes.
What We Wish We’d Known Sooner About Career/Work
What You Do Is Not Who You Are
Most of us Venuses wished we’d known sooner that work is something you do, not something you are. (Even if or maybe especially if you like your work.) We wish we’d known sooner that leisure time pursuits are equal to or more valuable than work time. In other words, we wish we hadn’t taken it all so seriously.
One Venus summed it up like so:
“We are not defined purely by our work/career. We have
many other dimensions. In other countries, “What do you
do?” is not the first thing people ask when they meet you.
True self-esteem doesn’t come from what you do (no
matter how successfully you do it), but from who you are
and who you are becoming. There’s no such thing as just
one career in life. Reinventing yourself is entirely possible.”
We Have Choices
We wish we’d realized sooner that we have more work-world options than we might have believed. We might have made different choices, had we really believed they were possible.
Beej-Venus would have gone to medical school instead of nursing school. Genelle-Venus had dreams of a more artistic bent, but upon reflection has decided she’s happy with her “imposed choice” of nurse. She now manages a plastic surgery office and
“I always say that I wish I’d been a dancer, but then I might
have missed my kids and husband, so it’s good that I’ve
kept it solely as a passion. I really love my job, because I help
people change their lives. I get to see wonderful healing and women
feeling good about themselves.”
Many times the Venuses have found themselves stuck in a job or position because of fear, or worse, because we believe we are indispensable. When we finally take the plunge to leave a job or career or when it is forced upon us, we find that change can be liberating and invigorating.
As Sandy-Venus tells us:
“A job is a job and it can always evolve. There will always be more work and if you work in an institution you are just a body. No one is forever, someone will always come along who can do the job better than you.”
You Do Not Have To Be Good At Everything
This is HUGE. We’d like to shout this from the rooftops.
We wish we’d know earlier that we didn’t have to be good at everything, nor did we have to do everything ourselves. We wish we’d known sooner that we could just focus on those things we did well and find others with different strengths to help us in areas where we weren’t gifted. Perhaps we’d have been a little more forgiving of our colleagues when they weren’t able to perform well at every task.
Karen-Venus, our favorite business consultant adds a few final bits of wisdom about work and career:
“Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff).
Trust your instincts – you know more than you think.
(Some material adapted from the chronicle of the Venuses’ adventures “The Big M”.) Visit www.thebigmwebsite to purchase or to download Chapter One for free or click the link below.
Thank YOU so much, Virginia, for such a personal heartfelt perspective. I love climbing the ladder to the stars rather than the corporate ladder. And truthfully, there are those who will dismiss us if we don’t identify ourselves by what we do.
I remember a good friend who was involved in all manner of sustainability issues, growing a huge organic garden, and volunteering in all manner of creative outlets. Still, when she was at a party, people would start with “What do you do?” When she would detail the things she was passionate about, often their eyes were scanning the room or they said “Oh.,” and moved on. She eventually began answering “Nothing.” Those who were identified people by their careers moved on more quickly, and she met many people who were so intrigued by her answer that they really wanted to know her.
Women sharing wisdom like yours – that’s how we’ll not only get through Menopause more easily; it’s how we will create a life. Climbing to the stars.
I was so glad to see this subject treated here. I’m 47 and in a new marriage after losing my first beloved spouse when I was 43; he had a brain tumor for years. The struggles and triumphs that come with dealing with illness/”mortality in your face” every day surely can change the way you look at things. While work remains a priority because I’m not independently wealthy (!), need health benefits, and it’s satisfying on some levels, it no longer seems such a big “identity” hook. What a relief! Is it really OK not to equate what we do with who we are, at our core? Is it OK to not feel like so many others in our office, who want to climb the corporate ladder, etc.? There are so many other ladders, leading to the stars, that I want to take time to climb. I feel as if I need encouragement, from women like those here, to cut free from the “work as identity” paradigm. Thanks for these honest, helpful thoughts.
During those stressful years when I was working and had small children, I wish I’d understood how important it was to prioritize my SELF, as well as time for my husband and me. If you don’t make those things a priority every week, in all the busy-ness of life, you can end up undernourishing both yourself and your primary relationship without even noticing. I can remember thinking that a massage, for example, was a luxury and an indulgence, instead of seeing it for the wellness activity it really is. That quiet time can be really restorative.
When the priorities get screwed up, little resentments can build into walls – laid down in super thin layers of silk no one would have guessed would become a problem. Rather than address the resentment, you push it down thinking it’s not important, it will pass. The wall can end up destroying the fabric of the family life you treasure.
Although I believed my work was so important at the time, now that I look back on it from the perspective of retirement, it hardly matters to me now.
A wise Scotsman once said to me: “Americans live to work, while we Scots work to live”. THAT puts it in its proper perspective.