I followed My Plan. And Then It Blew Up.

sarah bagley

I started my career in county government as a camp counselor.  Charged with a dozen five-year-olds, I spent my summer leading sing-a-longs, helping chubby fingers hold paint brushes, and making sure no one drowned at the local pool.

I loved everything about that job.  The kids ate me up, vying to sit in my lap, wanting to know if I could move in with them and their families.  After that summer I knew I had to get serious about a profession, so I lapped in all that goodness and tried to hold onto the fun and responsibility of my summer camp career.

Soon enough I found myself on the verge of graduating and an uncertain future.  So I did what any good undergrad from U.Va. did.   I entered a Masters program.  I powered my way through my Masters in Public Policy while balancing my second job with the county: working at a teen and community center.

I adored working with the teens.  Sure, they were surly and kind of rude.  And forever making trouble.  (Here’s a tip: when you see a group of teenage boys walk into a bathroom with pool balls from a billiard table, call a plumber right away.)  But they were also full of energy and spunk and challenged me to constantly think of new ways to entertain them.

As I wrapped up my Masters degree, I knew it was time to move on.  Obviously I couldn’t stay.  I got my Masters in Public Policy to, well, write and analyze policy.  Not run a teen center and help 8th graders with math homework.  So I applied for a job at the county’s budget office.

And I got that job.  I looked just like every one of those analysts in the office.  A BA in government and a MA in public policy/administration.  I could write, analyze, and use Excel.  It would seem I fit right in.

Right away I felt underwater.  Everything was complicated.  I tried and tried and tried but nothing clicked.  And the more it felt like I didn’t get what was going on, the worse I felt about myself.  I clunked around the budgeting computer system, trying to find the missing hundreds of thousands of dollars I mis-entered.  The agency budgets read like Chinese.

I felt defeated.  Wasn’t I supposed to be good at this?  This office was the next logical step.  It was in the plan.  Why am I so bad at this?

Tears stung behind my eyes most days.  I wanted to do a good job.  And I so wasn’t.  I tried my best, always giving everything I had.  But each day felt like I was jamming myself in a hole that didn’t fit.

About a year into my job, I found out I was pregnant.  I assumed I’d go back to work after my daughter was born.  I never thought I’d be stay-at-home-mom.  But as her due date approached and still no child care on the horizon, my husband and I decided to tighten our budget and for me to stay home.

Since I knew I wasn’t the world’s best budget analyst, I didn’t feel sad about leaving my job.  I assumed it was for the best.  But a couple months into my stay-at-home gig, I realized I wasn’t all that good at this staying at home thing either.

Then everything started to blow up.  I felt alone, isolated, like I was the only one in the world feeling all misshapen and out of place.  Clearly, I wasn’t built to be a budget analyst.  But I wasn’t doing so great at mothering all day either.  This signaled to me that I’d never be good at anything.

Around this time, I happened to find the Stratejoy blog.  I’m not exactly sure how I got here.  I think amongst the Twitter and Facebook and blogging rabbit hole, I found the Stratejoy community and thought to myself these people are my people.  I think they get me.

It seemed I wasn’t the only one struggling.  Whether it was motherhood or marriage or being a single girl or divorced or whatever, there was a lot of struggling going on.  But also a lot of earnest.  A sense of grasping for joy, a happier life.

That resonated with me.  Yes, I am struggling.  True, I am feeling identity-less.  No, I’m not sure where I’m going.  But, absolutely yes, do I want to live my best life.  My blog is called Sunny Side Up.  Because no matter how down and out I’ve been (or will be), I am certain there’s a path to a better way.

So here I am at Stratejoy, sharing my story in the hopes that something will resonate with you.  So you won’t feel alone.  And I won’t feel alone.  And together we can come to terms with struggle and instead of letting it eat us up, we can work through it to live a life on our terms.

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