Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Great Expectations

I have a definite routine to my reading—every morning, it’s the Boston Globe, the NYT, and then I scan Salon and Slate, keeping track of relevant news, health/science updates, etc. (I get up early and I’m a fast reader). And like many of you, I have a blog routine, a bunch of sites I check in on regularly or follow through feeds.

One of my favorite non health-related blogs is Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist, which is “advice at the intersection of work and life.” I don’t even remember how I started following it—likely it was a blog read by someone whose blog I read, because isn’t that how it always works? Her posts about Generation Y (by most measures I am technically a “Y” but sometimes I’m an “X”), and navigating a career path her thoughts on the “life” part of the work-life balance are smart, entertaining, and often funny. They make me think, even if I don’t always agree, and that’s why I like them so much.

As I sat down to write a post this morning—coffee consumed, chest PT and reading completed, full day’s worth of tasks listed and ready to be tackled, and the same overwhelmed feeling I went to sleep with currently coiling my stomach—I was blank. Sometimes I have posts I am burning to write, paragraphs form in my head during my treatments, transitions cement themselves while I am at the gym, ideas get jotted down on my laptop’s Stickie notes or in the notebook I carry with me everywhere.

When I don’t have something I am really interested in or compelled by, I won’t post for the sake of posting. I realized, though, that this overwhelmed feeling was something I wanted to write about, this mix of anxiety, apprehension, hope, optimism, fear, and excitement that is my constant companion lately. But I’m less interested in the teeth-grinding and the late-night list-making part of it, and I bet you are, too.

No, a much better way to broach this topic is to turn to this post on Brazen Careerist, “Career lessons from Susan Boyle’s Success.” Penelope makes several great points about talent, hard work, and mentors. But the part that resonated the most with me, the thing I needed, was about Seth Godin’s writing on The Dip. She summarizes his idea: “…You have to try something big, and you have to accept that anything big and huge requires you to have a dip – a point when you are wondering if it is worth it. And that’s where most people quit. For the most part, you cannot do something big without going through this process.” She drew parallels to her current start-up company, and to Susan Boyle’s choice of a really hard, really “big” song to bust out with on Britain’s Got Talent.

I think a lot of us are in various stages of the dip right now. Maybe we’re trying to reinvent ourselves after an economy-inspired career change. Maybe we’re at tough parts of a diagnostic health journey, or working through a challenging stage in a relationship.

(Or maybe, like in my house, we’re grappling with a book project and other work that is as exhilarating as it is exhausting, or we’re preparing for a huge exam with a ridiculous amount of material covered and an insanely low pass rate. You know, just as examples.)

Whatever the scenario may be, we’re all operating on the assumption that the hard work and sacrifice are worth it, that the difficult decisions we’ve agonized over in bed, in doctor’s offices,at our desks, etc are the right ones.

We all have our dips, personally and professionally. And I also think that most of the time, now matter how tired or confused we are, we know it is worth it, that anything worth having is worth the demanding journey to get to that goal.

But it sure is nice to have someone remind us now and again.


Rachel said...

If I'd been able to come up with something, this would be it. Privately, I've been going through some huge stuff and it's been hard to write. Not that I don't want to, it just can't be for all to see. Not yet.

Kairol Rosenthal said...

I write about young adult cancer and chronic illness. My husband fights coal fire power plants in the state of Ohio. Our work lives (and much of our personal lives) are about uphill battles. If doubt does not enter our picture from time to time then we would just become consumed with fierce persistence that is hardened and overly edgy: not the kind of person I want to be.

When I feel a dip, I don't fight it. I succumb, and then it passes, quickly. In five years of writing and getting my book published, I had one week where I doubted what I was doing. Pretty good track record. I owe it to befriending the dip rather than letting the pressure of obstacles snowball.


Tough Cookie said...

Amen! I totally agree! Having RSD and working toward my masters degree has been seriously brutal, but I know that it is worth it, especially for the difference I will make working as a mental health therapist with other illness fighters.

jennie said...

How true about the dip...I am nearly 50 and still trying to get to the next "big" stage. Writing can be really, really lonely sometime and I constantly wonder whether it is worth trying. But I always come to the conclusion YES IT IS. You just have to believe that you can make it.

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