The thought has crossed my mind more than once recently that in leaving one career behind for another, I left good things behind with the bad. One of the things that I sometimes miss is the intellectual challenge of my old job, although enough time has passed that I recognize that the challenge was both good and bad for me. When you have worked hard at something, something difficult, and you have excelled at it, there is a certain satisfaction to it. Of course, the ugly truth is that there is a often a cost to excelling at something hard--it takes blood and sweat and tears and time, and more often than not, you sacrifice your personal life at the alter of success. My current job is interesting and unique and often fun. It is sometimes intellectually challenging. But. . .sometimes I'm bored, and mostly, it's not overly difficult for me. Which is sort of one of the reasons I chose it, because on the other hand, I am not sacrificing my personal life. Just the opposite, in fact--I'm home for dinner (almost) every night, and we do things as a family every weekend. My husband says he's seen me more in the last year than in all of the time we've been together (well over a decade).
However, over this last week or so, I was working on a big project, and it was intense and fun and interesting and unique (although, also not exactly intellectually challenging). I was perfectly competent at it, and people seemed to appreciate that, but. . .it was pretty much just logistics on my end, lists and phone calls and moving pieces around the chess board. What I highly enjoyed, though, was not so much the actual job, but the pace, which was crazy. It was all very intense and last minute and rush-rush-rush, with lots of moving parts, and I LOVED that. It reminded me, just a tiny bit, of one of the things I truly loved about my old job. I am an adrenaline junky. I like the fast pace. I thrive on chaos. I like to walk the tight rope without a net. I thought, ah, THIS is what I've been missing lately. With a little more of THIS, I would be so happy.
As much as I thrive in high-pressure situations, it was also equally clear to me how toxic it is for me to be in them. It's so addictive. . .like a drug, I become all-consumed by it. Time melts away, I become intensely focused, even forgetting to eat. I love how brightly the candle burns when there is a goal in sight and you can go after it all-out. Yet, late nights arrivals home and early morning departures are not what I want for my child on a regular basis. I will not be that kind of parent. That is part of the reason I turned the page a year ago.
And I realized this week how different my life is now. I loved many things about my old job, my old life, but it was like I was living in black and white. It was very, very good. But now, with Miss M, I have a happy little family, and my life has sprung forward in full color, and it is so much better than before. There is a texture, a richness that I never knew existed before she came into our world. I wouldn't trade it for anything. The intellectual challenges of the past, the fast pace, the adrenaline. . .it's fun, but it's like great sex. You enjoy it in the moment, but you can't build a life on just that. There must be more.
So it has me thinking a lot, about the tension of thriving off something that is also not good for me, and where I go from here. My current assignment ends in another year or so, and I have a chance to do something more intellectually challenging at that point. Questions abound, though, as to whether I can take up something more complicated, without also sacrificing my personal life. There is the very real possibility that while some people may be able to do hard work and work very hard without making personal sacrifices, there may be unique quirks of my personality that make it impossible for me to find a happy medium between serious work and a full family life. I may only be capable of jumping off the cliff and leaping all-consumed into professional challenges, rather than wading in up to my ankles.
PS My fertility monitor finally gave up on ovulation, and flashes that annoying little "m" at me every morning, taunting me that I'm supposed to have my period already. My painful ovaries, however, have told me that I finally ovulated around CD26 or 27.