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Learning to Prioritize: A Note to Self

When you’re like me, there are at least five different things, at any given time, that you’d LIKE to sink your teeth in to.  At this very moment, literally, this very moment, there are exactly five things I want to be doing.

1) Studying for the GMAT

2) Studying Mandarin

3) Working out

4) Writing (which I, technically, am doing)

5) Sewing (or at least trying to put together the puzzle that is my new, very used, industrial machine)

One child is out on a daddy-date, the other sleeping sick by my side.  SO, theoretically, I have some much-coveted free time on my hands.

Now let’s dissect the word LIKE.  The key element behind the word LIKE is that because there are SO many things to do, my brain decides that too many things actually cancel themselves out, leaving me reading the New York Times, or basically ANYTHING that is NOT on my list.  I think it’s something similar to procrastination.  I’d LIKE to be doing, but I’m overwhelmed, so I’m just thinking about doing.  Like when you were in college and you’d end up watching an entire season of Sex and the City, instead of studying for finals.  Or when you’re moving and the packing feels like it’s going to implode on you, so you end up going for a walk instead.

It’s not exactly procrastination though, I think that it is the brain’s defense mechanism against feeling overwhelmed.  TOO many things to do self?  That’s okay, let’s just not do ANY of them and then we won’t have to feel overwhelmed.  I don’t have the time to full heartedly do EVERYTHING, so let’s just not half-ass any of them.  It’s my brain’s fault, not mine.  Damn brain.

But this is where you pull a fast one on your brain.  A little word called P R I O R I T I Z A T I O N is employed.  Break it down by task, make the vastness smaller, and tackle slowly.

Find the LARGEST wall calendar you can and give yourself a daily goal.  A daily task to tackle.  And not all five.  Just ONE.  Maybe TWO.  But NEVER five.

My daily hopes (LIKES, if you will) are most often somehow, directly and indirectly, connected to the current overarching question in my life:  how to create a career with two young kids and remain flexible enough that we can take off and travel when my old man has the time.

When I was pregnant with our first, I listened to an NPR show where there was a woman who was speaking about the effect her children had on her career.  She spoke about her fear that having children would derail her from her path and her surprise that they only made her path more clear.  Now, I didn’t exactly have a career at that point, but knew how utterly important it was for me in the future (I had actually deferred acceptance into law school for a year and was planning to enroll the following year); a fear that was real and terrifying for me.  But I listened to her words with hope that I too would speak them someday.

Fast forward 5 years, and I’m definitely not yet singing that sweet tune.  I am, perhaps, more lost than ever, as ever relates to my career self (read here for more clarity).  As I approach 30, time feels like it’s barreling forward and I’m left behind trying to catch up.  I want so deeply, to speak of how my children helped positively sculpt my career.

Here I am, left with 3 million interests, trying to find the time to pursue them.

Life’s a journey and as long as you keep walking, you’ll get to where you’re meant to be, right?  My children ARE teaching me how to PRIORITIZE and how I can have everything, but perhaps not at the same time.  I need to be patient.  I need to take it one goal at a time.

And so, a note to my self:  it’s OKAY.  chill.  alright?  just chill.  take it one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other.  week by week, set goals.  define a daily task and stick to it.  work when you’ve set out time to work and be in the moment, with your kids, when it’s time to just be.

Buena suerte, self.


A Brief Recap of My Floundering Adulthood

I’ve worn many half made hats, but don’t own any perfectly constructed ones.  I’m a jill of all trades, master of none.  I’ve dabbled in dozens of things, but specialize in nothing.  I’ve explored a million careers, but still don’t have one.

SO, in an effort to validate (or perhaps further confuse) myself, I’ve decided to write down how life has transpired since I graduated from college in 2005.

1) Lived and traveled through Mexico with friends for 5 months.

2) Worked as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in St. Croix for 6 months.

3) Worked as a junior paralegal while applying for law school, for 1.5 years.

4) Traveled through southeast Asia for a couple of months.

5) Was accepted into first choice law school (Vermont Law – a small, private, environmentally focused law school) but chose to defer and help my sister in law realize her dream of creating a line of cosmetics.

6) Accidentally got pregnant (with baby of committed partner).

7) Started said law school and took a leave of absence after 2 months (single mama with a 6 month old – decided to support career of baby’s daddy, who was on the other coast, instead).

8) Let leave of absence expire (timing still wasn’t right for career of baby’s daddy, a family decision).  Then reapplied.

9) Got pregnant, again.  Planned this time (still wanted to go back to law school, so we kinda rushed in to number two so it would be at least 9 months before school started).

10) When it came time to make the final decision to attend law school, baby’s daddy’s career was cooking and I still couldn’t justify mine for his.

11) Determined that law school in Vermont was the ONLY school I wanted to attend, and relocating wasn’t going to happen, so I allowed other interests to take over.

12) Took an Anatomy class (and loved it) because I wanted to become a midwife, or a pediatric nurse practitioner, or a naturopathic doctor.  In all honesty, what I REALLY want to do when I grow up is to be an pediatrician who specializes in integrative medicine (I even started college as a microbiology major)… BUT, with kids, at age 29 going on 30, I’m almost 100% sure that ship sailed long ago.

13) Was trained as a Doula and volunteered at a local hospital as one.

14) After a few births and realizing how difficult becoming a midwife in San Francisco was going to be, again, I let other interests creep their way in.

15) Decided that I’d go to business school instead (something I had pondered way back between #’s 1 and 2).

16) Started an MBA program in Sustainable Enterprise, but left after a semester to again, pursue baby’s daddy’s career (who is now the husband).

17) Moved to southern China and now spend my days hanging with the babies and writing and dreaming of new pursuits.

WOAH.  That list just kept growing.  Even in college, my thoughts on my career changed every month.  I wanted to be a doctor.  Then, I wanted to be a zoologist.  Then an anthropologist.  Then I wanted to quite altogether and go to fashion design school.  Then an attorney working in International Environmental Law.  Then a trapeze artist in the circus.

Sometimes, I wish that I had been born 50 years ago when my options would have been a) a secretary, b) a teacher, or c) a nurse.  The OPTIONS are what kills me.  WHY MUST I HAVE SO MANY INTERESTS?  Combine that with being, oh, I don’t know, the MOST indecisive person who ever lived… and well folks, what you get is a 29 year old mother of two who is still floundering trying to find her career self.  AND, as dreary as it might sound, it’s ALL good, really.  It’s all part of my journey and I accept that there is meaning behind the floundering.  Sure, it would feel great to not have to wake up regularly wanting to research new programs, and schools, and possibilities, BUT, I trust that I’ll get there… wherever there is.

I will finish with 3 things that I would like to accomplish in the next year:

1) Take trapeze classes and become a BADASS trapeze girl.

2) Learn Mandarin as well as my VERY American accent will allow me.

3) Make some stuff and sell it.

What new things do you want to accomplish this year???



SCHOOL!  Though I’m currently debating pulling us both out and joining a gypsy caravan under the auspices of  “field studies”, I’m trying to step back, take a deep breath, and see that school is a net positive for BOTH of us.  Safari is apparently learning that it’s not okay to say “I can’t”, something that we’ve been working on at home as well… though, when her teacher brought it up, I felt like a parental failure.  It didn’t exactly positively reinforce that my thoughts of her not being too fond of me as just my own projections.  Pretty certain she thinks I’m a degenerate parent.  Perhaps it’s because Safari has only made it to school half the time she’s been enrolled, or maybe it’s because her nails are often caked with dirt.  At any rate, I’m not joining the PTA anytime soon (thankfully it’s only preschool and I don’t have to subject myself to hoards of other moms who are hellbent and bent out of shape on their kids education quite yet ;)).  Though I am hoping that the PTA conforms to my rosy ideas of what a healthy school community could look like, and not my irrational assumptions that it’s full of crazy parents.

AND, I guess that I’m learning it’s not okay to say “I can’t” as well.  Being with two young kids hour in and hour out, 7 days a week, is a difficult enough job in and of itself (and YES, I believe that being a stay-at-home-parent is one of the most challenging jobs one could take on, though I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive partner by my side), adding in graduate school (MBA in Sustainable Enterprise, part-time, but still) to that, makes me want to take a shot of whiskey just thinking about it.  FORTUNATELY, my class has been quite enlightening and fulfilling, forcing me to think and think and think some more.  It’s reinforced my love of free form writing and has challenged my behaviors as a parent.  It has also reaffirmed that I hate boxes (in this case, boxing myself into a narrow career field), but has at the same time helped me confirm that I NEED a box.  Maybe that’s why I dislike them so much.  I’m a generalist at heart, or perhaps by nature, and it’s VERY difficult to create a career as a generalist.  Would someone PLEASE just make me a pretty [bedazzled] box and stick me in it?  If I start crying and shouting at you, really, it’s okay, I’ll be okay.  {This I learned over the first few mornings dropping Safari at preschool.  She shrieked as if she was being bludgened and tortured, but after 10 minutes, she was good}.  Once I’m in it, I’ll take it from there (as long as the walls are high enough).  When you’re the kind of person who is as interested in fashion design as you are in restoring salmon populations, it’s a tid bit challenging to narrow in on a career.

If nothing else, it feels good to turn my brain on and think of something other than what I’m going to cook tonight for dinner or WHY THE HELL Denali had to spill his entire bowl of yogurt, for the third time, today. I CAN’T isn’t an option going to graduate school with kids.  I have to write that paper AND change poopy diapers.  It’s a great exercise in time management and a great experiment in pushing my boundaries and saying, or at least thinking “I CAN”.

Though I’m still not convinced that any of it is sustainable long term or that a clear cut path has been forged, for now, school is a defined part of our lives.  Don’t be annoyed with my indecision (something that many have been known to do), take the ride, it’ll be, at the very least, exhilarating.

Next on the “I CAN” list is a juice cleanse followed by 6 weeks of NO SUGAR (not even honey), NO ALCOHOL, NO COFFEE, NO DAIRY, NO GRAINS, NO YEAST, and of course, no processed foods.  Hoping that it’ll make everything feel a little lighter and a littler easier and if I’m lucky, it’ll even inspire me to tell about it.

As is the theme of my blog, life’s a journey, we’ll see where we’re at in 6 months… bon voyage.