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.