Random Rantings

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

On turning 30

Disclaimer – this is a “girl thing”… I’m venting… really not looking for solutions to my issues – since mostly they are just that – my issues – totally attitude related, and there aren’t any “real” solutions other than to just get over it… I’m really quite clear in my mind that this is totally my own ego trip and intellectually I know it has no bearing on the truth of my life… on the other hand, I’m still bummed about it… so I’m hoping that writing about it will make me feel better…

So – I’m turning 30 in a few weeks…

And I can’t help but feel like somewhat of a failure… I’m comparing my current self to the “future self” I envisioned when I was in high school… and I’m not totally happy with what I see…

Let’s go back to my high school years for a brief moment, simply to explain that I was the total outcast… I was bullied and picked on every day of my high school career, except for the last week of my senior year, when miraculously, just about everyone except for the “cool crowd” (read in – the bystanders who ignored me like I was invisible and let me be bullied instead of stepping in) expressed regret that they never got to know me better… they thought I was really a worthwhile person and was sorry we hadn’t been friends… thanks a lot… too little, too late… how much I would have enjoyed having at least 1 friend last week…

I was the “Hermione type” too… real high achiever, one of the top GPAs in my year, and about a dozen extracurriculars… awards and honors out the ying-yang… that was good for me – kept me having some sort of self-esteem (everyone might hate me, but look at how well I’m doing), but I’m sure it didn’t help me win friends and influence people…

I remember one guy told me that I was ugly and would never have a boyfriend… and I told him that I might be ugly, but I was certainly smarter than him and his friends… and he said that it didn’t matter if I was smarter than Einstein – his spit was still worth more than I was…

So – let’s just say that I left high school with a burning desire to return to my 10 year reunion as the next Bill Gates of the world…

Hasn’t happened…

Well – not entirely at least…

College was great… I went from outcast to social butterfly… I was a geek, but I was still popular… Geekiness was “in” at my college… I had a large social network, a fraternity, a few really close friends, I networked with the faculty, staff, and administration, and, best of all… I had a boyfriend (now husband)!

I had shown up all of my detractors in high school…

I’d never be socially accepted? Wrong – I was one of the 25 finalists for homecoming court! I wasn’t voted homecoming queen – nor was one of the 4 homecoming court couples… but that didn’t matter to me… the simple fact that I was one of the top choices of the entire student body at my college?!? Me? The ugly social reject? I will forever remember the fact that I had enough votes to be in the top 25…

I’d never have a boyfriend? Hah! I had a boyfriend from the first evening of orientation! In fact, I had 2 guys fighting over me the first week! And by October of my freshman year, I was dating who would become my husband 7 years later…

And college was the same as high school – academic honors and tons of activities… awards and honors…

I went back to my 5 year high school reunion armed with my fiancé, and stories of my success… But no one from the “cool crowd” was there… in fact, hardly anyone was there at all… I had no one to whom I could prove I wasn’t a reject, that they were wrong and I was right all along…

So, I went back home and started my life, thinking about how in another 5 years I’d have racked up another ton of “honors” and “successes” to be able to prove myself better than my nemeses… and, at that point I could point out my “husband”, as compared to my “fiancé”…

But, I think I peaked in college…

I started working at a university, thinking that I would work while getting more advanced degrees – but that didn’t work out… so, I took a glamorous “consulting” gig, that had me living in a hotel in NY for 3 months, before coming back to my area of the world… but that dot.com went dot.bust, and I was back on the job market…

I was disillusioned with the corporate world, especially the “we own your life” mentality that went along with trying to get ahead in corporate ladder-climbing games… In college I had come to value my social life and having hobbies and things to do besides work, so I wanted somewhere to work where I was happy, but also didn’t require me to give up my life to the bottom line…

I also wanted to “make a difference” and “change the world” – my idealistic side coming out… I should have a job that does more than just pay the bills… So, I ended up in public service – government stuff… doing computers for public health…

Pay wasn’t great – but it made ends meet, I enjoyed my work, and I had the time I valued…

But – I couldn’t help feeling like I had “settled”… working in government you realize that at least among the non-management types, government is the location where the mediocre come to work… good enough that they accomplish the job, but not good enough to make it in the corporate world… These are the workers that wouldn’t make it anywhere more challenging… Though – if you were management… you were idealistic, intelligent, and the corporate world could really use you, but you won’t work there because you value your soul… and I was management…

The problem is – that in my experience, many people don’t see that insider’s view… the fact that management folks in government are excellent workers is missed by the public, and the public view is that “you couldn’t make it in the real world, so you’re working in government”…. I’m appreciated by my co-workers and my boss and the government officials… but going back to my 10 year reunion – would anyone be impressed by this? Would this be considered success? Especially since the folks doing the judging would have cushy executive jobs at their parents’ businesses…

I missed my 10 year reunion… but from the article summarizing the event, it was exactly what I thought… the “cool crowd” had mainly been in attendance here (where they were absent at the 5 year – go figure), and they all did have impressive sounding jobs at top firms – mostly where their parents or their parents’ contacts could place them… and they all had a lot of money to burn… I decided that I’m glad I didn’t go – since I couldn’t have competed… I had the husband, and a good responsible job… but it had been 5+ years since college, and talking about how I was in the top 25 for homecoming queen doesn’t quite compare to a 6-figure salary, corner office, and a corporate jet…

I also decided that it was silly to try and keep competing with people who intellectually I couldn’t care less what they thought of me. Yes – I still would love to have the opportunity to hurt them like they hurt me… but would that really make me feel better about myself? Not really… so I told myself that they were not the competition – since they didn’t have to work to get the cushy jobs they hold… and besides – they can’t possibly be as happy as I am – since their lives would be devoid of real meaning…

So – after 7+ years in public health, I’m now working for a non-profit agency in health promotion… higher salary… but…

When I was hired I thought I was being hired at a particular level of job… you know – with almost 8 years of experience in my last job, and another 4 years before that – I figured that meant I was moving up in the world… and my new job, when I was hired they talked about how they were really impressed with my experience… and I’m in charge of some major projects here…

But we started this new performance plan thing for next year… and it turns out that my position is considered “entry level”…

At this point in my life I’m still only considered entry level material?

I know this is getting long – so I’ll try to conclude here…

I think you get the idea where I’m going… I look in the mirror and think to myself “is this all there is”? If I had done something differently, could I have been more successful? But of course, I’d probably have had to work harder and longer hours – and probably have no personal life left… But I’d have the 6-figure salary and cushy job title? Who knows…

I just feel like I’m deserving of more? Or perhaps I still need to prove that I can accomplish more… I need to know that I’m not only successful to myself – but that someone in the “outside world” would also consider me successful…

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you now… the only one who knows if you are successful is yourself… but… I still feel the need for outside validation…

Would one of the “cool crowd” think I was a worthwhile person now? Would they envy me? Would they wish they had my life?

I suppose when I was younger I had all the accolades – those “awards and honors” – to let me know that I was doing a good job… It was outside validation of my success… you don’t have that as an adult out in the “real world”… awards and honors are rare… and so, I no longer have “bragging rights” so to speak, about how successful I am…(in the sense of, hey someone other than myself judged me as being special or above average in my success…)

So – all I have is the ability to compare myself to others who are about the same age as me, and see where they are in life compared to me… and unfortunately, those who I am comparing myself to are closer to Donald Trump than my end of the world… (or they are really fibbing everyone?)

I suppose it just comes down to – I’m turning 30 – and I can’t help feeling like I should be doing better than I am…
(So – I suppose I should be determining what I consider to be successful for me, and work towards it… but I’m having trouble with figuring out that too!)

-Emily

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