Last week, I wrote one of my most honest posts to date, on how I’m feeling about the relationships in my life. I was surprised to find a lot of empathy from others – I guess this is something that is pretty common after all! Since no one ran me out of the blogosphere with nastiness for my last post, I’m going to try to stop censoring and start writing what’s really on my mind.
When I wrote that last post about relationships, an anonymous commenter wrote an eye-opening reply suggesting that perhaps this isn’t the job for me. Shortly after receiving that comment, I read Sarah Pekkanen’s fabulous novel, The Opposite of Me, about a woman in her late twenties who goes from a high-powered career to a more modest job that she loves. It’s a tough call that we have to make at this age. No matter how hard I try, I can’t do everything, and it comes down to prioritization and what I want more.
This weekend, I was in my hometown of Albany, NY, for the wedding of one of my college friends. On the way back to New York, I shared a ride with two other college friends who have similarly demanding careers, and they expressed a lot of the same concerns I have. They don’t want to stay in New York City for the long term, but they’re concerned about their job prospects when they eventually get married and move to the suburbs. All of us agree that we don’t want to raise our kids in the suburbs of New York (i.e., New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut, or Westchester), but if you decide to move elsewhere, there just aren’t the same job opportunities that there are here – at least without changing fields. Would I make that sacrifice if I had a husband and kids? Absolutely. But will I make it if that doesn’t happen? I’m not so sure what happens then.
I have long said that my goal in life is not to be a C-suite executive, but to have wonderful and close meaningful relationships. One of those, of course, is finding my dream guy to marry and be my best friend and live happily ever after with. That’s what I really want, but I’m also logical/realistic enough to know that you can’t force that; some people are lucky enough to find it, but some people don’t. So I set the “career woman” goal as my secondary consolation prize if I don’t end up meeting the right guy. I can still get fulfillment from my relationships with other people, but I wouldn’t be putting all my eggs in one basket by assuming that I’ll find my other half at a specific point in my life. In the meantime, I could focus on what I can control: my career.
I used to think that it’s only the relationship with a significant other/children that would be impacted by my work. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that my relationships across the board are suffering, and that maybe going for the proverbial corner office is going to really hurt my chances at happiness. Already it’s a daily struggle to keep my health up while working long hours and wining and dining my clients. I don’t want to have to fight weight gain and other unhealthy symptoms for the rest of my life – it’s exhausting just thinking about it.
I’ve also realized that New York is a pretty insular community in that we all work long hours (a 50 hour week is a light week for me) and get so caught up in our jobs that we don’t even realize that maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to do that. In the past, when friends and family who aren’t in finance/consulting/etc made incredulous comments about me checking my work email on a weekend or bringing my work laptop to do a few things on vacation, I dismissed them as people who just “didn’t get it.” But maybe it’s me who doesn’t get it. Maybe there’s another way to achieve success without spinning around and around on the hamster wheel of stress, just trying to keep up with my equally hardworking coworkers on the hamster wheels next to me.
Still no answers to any of this, but it seems like we make a lot of progress the more we open up and discuss what we’re doing instead of tiptoeing around the subject like we’re the only ones with issues. Let’s keep the discussion going!