“‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’” ~A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
There’s a reminder in my Gmail that has waited there since I created it in June. It’s one little phrase – “lost between Joni Mitchell and Courtney Love” – intended as a writing prompt. I’ve lost the narrative but the general idea is still there. It was likely meant to paint a picture of the weird stasis of feminist heroines for women my age. Though the 80s saw power suits and shoulder pads in offices, the uniform didn’t necessarily match the ideals of the time. At least that’s where I think I was going with it.
I share this anecdote not to explore 80s feminism, at least not today. Diane Keaton will have to wait. It’s much more an example of the extreme ennui with which I’ve greeted this summer. I had an idea, a path to explore, and I watched it wander off without much protest. Likely from the couch with either a remote or my phone in hand.
Oh I’ve had plenty of fun, mind you. I went to Santa Barbara and scandalized elderly locals with my seafoam green hair. My daughters and I spent a week in rural Maine with some of my favorite people in the world. I spent plenty of time in cold water on hot days. I drank gallons of rose. I introduced my kids to Mad Men. I took a few naps. It’s been a great summer. Me and my folk know how to summer.
But you know what I didn’t do much of? Work. My inbox is a ghost town (except for Joni and Courtney of course). Part of this is self-imposed. The first two quarters of the year were good to me, affording me the luxury of enjoying all this summer laziness. And I fired a client in June who was causing me too much stress and growing increasingly unpleasant to work with. I thought long and hard over that firing. They were a big source of income for me, not an easy thing to let go of when you’re a single mother. But I decided long ago that no job is worth the kind of stress that makes you sick. So I bid them adieu.
There was something else behind that firing though, something that I’ve been talking about for over a year—I am bored beyond belief with my work. I’m uninspired, uninterested, and listless. It’s stuff I’ve been doing for years and, for the most part, stuff I can do in my sleep. Some of it is way below my experience level, which carries a certain kind of defeat and results in me half-assing it.
I’ve been in this state of limbo – bored, antsy, indecisive – for a while now. What’s been gnawing at me recently is my inability to do anything about it. I know I need to make a change but into what? Back and forth and round and round my head I’ve gone. And then this morning, it hit me like Colonel Kurtz, “shot with a diamond bullet right through my forehead.”
My divorce tanked my career.
Being in a long-term, committed relationship has its merits on many levels. But the benefits and advantages it lends to a woman’s career can’t be overstated. Being single – especially after over a decade of living on two incomes – is a financial weight that looms for years after the ink has dried. The realization of how much it has handicapped me is a relief, but it is also maddening.
My career took off when I moved to Silicon Valley with my ex. Yes, I worked my ass off and was sharp and ambitious and seized on practically anything put in front of me. But meeting a software engineer during the dot com bubble goes a long way toward putting you in front of some plumb opportunities. When a friend and I started a PR consultancy 5 years later, we landed our first client based solely on our expertise and bad-ass-ness. But having our husbands’ income as a back-up made it 1,000 times less scary to start our own business. When I was offered the chance to travel the world as an emerging tech analyst, it was because of an even higher level of skill and expertise I then possessed – but guess who stayed at home with the kids while I did it? My proudest accomplishment was Sharp Skirts, a network for women entrepreneurs, that had effects still rippling today. I quit my job to build that company and am still so proud of it. But guess when it folded? That’s right, friends. The company built on the idea of empowering women in business had to close because its founder got divorced.
The past 5 years have been a slow unraveling of everything I was before. In some ways, that is a very good thing. I’ve done *a lot* of personal work and definitely consider myself more evolved. But pulling that thread (hi continuing metaphor) has had its drawbacks, primarily financial. I’m in debt that isn’t insurmountable but certainly feels that way some days. And my career is literally moving backwards (I built a media list today, a job for someone just above entry level). I also, weirdly and almost inexplicably, have lost my drive. All that creativity and energy I felt when we started Graceless – it’s gone. I suppose because it’s pretty defeating to watch a project die and not have the resources to resurrect it.
Much has been written about the motherhood gap and what an uphill battle it is to get a career back on track after having children. Well, a five-year gap on a resume can happen for other reasons, and it’s just as lethal. My current timeline gives off the aura of a woman who’s fallen into money and leisurely setting up pet projects – precisely the opposite of what’s happening.
“Before you decide which way to go, remember where you’ve been.” I saw a woman with this tattooed on her arm the other day. When I asked her about it, she said it was something her father had always said to her growing up. Looking at where I’ve been tells me a lot. That I’ve had a full career with experiences and opportunities that many would kill for. That I’ve made a name for myself as a smart, creative, respectful person who gets shit done. Most importantly, that every time I have created an opportunity for women in my life to gather, whether online or real-world, fantastic things happen.
I am a curator. Of people and information. And I’m damn good at it.
Something’s coming. I feel it now. I don’t yet know it’s shape. But I will.