I Went to WordCamp and All I Got Was…

… validation, inspiration, conversation, and a sweet belt buckle.

I started working on this post for National Mental Health Day, and then #metoo was everywhere, and I had more feelings about that, because, well, #metoo. And then more and more scumbag behavior came to light, and more still, and it’s not that I don’t have the words, it’s that I have way too many words. So I shelved this and went on to give my first talk at WordCamp DFW, which was a tremendous experience, in large part because I heard a couple of other people give talks that I really needed to hear. If you’ll bear with me a moment, I promise this will become semi-coherent at some point. Probably.

First, a number of months ago it became glaringly apparent that it was time for me to make a change at work. When I say that I was burning out, I mean people were running at me with fire extinguishers telling me to stop, drop, and roll. Up until recently the thing I have done, and done well by most accounts, is build, manage, and grow support teams. While there are certainly folks who have worked for me that won’t sing my praises, by and large, this is where most of my professional success has occurred. But I noticeably lost my passion for it, renewed it for a bit, and found that I simply needed a new challenge because I just didn’t want to keep doing the same thing. And for awhile, there was this small voice constantly asking are you done resting on your laurels yet?

My brain is always competing with itself in two areas: safety and security vs. risk and movement. I want both in equal parts. There were days after I approached the folks that held the yes or no answer to my dilemma in their hands where I was in a pretty deep state of panic. The prevailing worry was what if I am not any good at this, what was I thinking, holy shit. Which I hear is pretty much what everyone goes through. But I’ve made the move from managing support teams to working as a product manager, focused on customer experience, and people, I’m not great at it yet. I ask a lot more basic questions than the rest of my team. While I like to think that I’m good at swallowing my ego and asking for help when I need to, I’ve been used to being the person asked for help for years. I’ve worked through being dismissed, ignored, or shouted over to prove my skill set. Now I’m the new kid again.

The thing I was going to talk about when I started this post was anxiety and imposter syndrome, and how I see this great therapist, but also my inadequacies keep me up at night, and then everything else came up, and I wanted to talk a little more about how my #metoo experiences have impacted the whole shebang, but it just made me tired as fuck to think about. And talk about. Because battling my own internal voices that tell me everything I’ve accomplished is luck, or right time, right place, or not deserved takes so much effort. Prepping to give this talk at WordCamp DFW took extra mental preparation. Why would anyone even listen to me? What on earth makes what I’m talking about relevant? 

I’ve also been really struggling with the question of my own purpose. Sheryle Gillihan of PurposeWP opened the event, talking about finding purpose and meaning and I walked away from that feeling more acutely a need to put some definition down around my own purpose or intent, but also feeling like I’m not yet able to do so, not clearly. For over a year I’ve felt an absence of personal inspiration, as if my drive has no true direction. I don’t know if this is a condition of growing older and I’ve entered another phase where who am I is shifting, but this is not the first time I’ve felt at odds with myself on a constant basis.

The day after my talk, Carrie Dils gave the second keynote at WordCamp DFW. I had never met Carrie before, but I’d heard about her, and how awesome she is for almost year leading up to this. (She’s great, folks.) There’s something about hearing another successful woman say (I’m super paraphrasing here) sometimes I feel like shit about myself and it holds me back. And it seems weird to be like OH MY GOD THANK YOU FOR ALSO FEELING LIKE GARBAGE SOMETIMES, but damn it, it helped.

It’s really easy to watch others get their grind on and kick ass and make the assumption that everything is moving into place for them because they have it way more together than you do. And sometimes, that will be true. But no endeavor is without pit falls, doubt, failure, fits and starts, and most people do not become accomplished without a lot of hard work. You and I are no different. What I’ve been noodling on since last weekend is that yes, it is very important to embrace and examine and get to know your failures, without crucifying yourself for them. But it’s also important to give your victories attention. I have been known to agonize for days (longer, shut up) over failures, but dismiss success as no big deal. Get a story published? Maybe the editor just has bad taste this one time. (They don’t.) Get accepted to speak at a WordCamp? What were they thinking? (That my subject matter might be relevant to other people, and it was.)

When I started getting short stories published I decided to use the money, which ranged from none to most of a six-pack’s worth of craft beer to I could pay a bill amounts, only for celebration. When I publish a story and get paid I buy frivolous things. A nice bottle of bourbon. lipstick, dinner out with a friend. Something wholly out of the realm of necessity. Do I feel some amount of guilt for not using my earnings in a practical way. Oh, you bet I do sometimes. But it’s less and less every time. It’s ok to praise yourself for doing good work. It’s ok to accept praise for doing good work. A lot of us are just really bad it.

Well, I’m not sure this became a more coherent read, but I do want to leave you by saying what you do is valuable, and you are worthy of your successes.

 

8 Comments

  1. This was a great read Ani. I’m glad you are finding another route to keep you interested and motivated. It’s good to hear that your stories is being published. You are a very smart individual, and I’m sure you’ll thrive in this new position. Take care.

    Michael
  2. “yes, it is very important to embrace and examine and get to know your failures, without crucifying yourself for them. But it’s also important to give your victories attention.”

    So. much. this.

    Here’s to both of us figuring out how to do that increasingly better.

    1. It feels like a “just keep swimming” thing — I wonder sometimes if the focus on failure often does those with imposter syndrome a greater disservice than we maybe realize. Here is definitely to us finding ways to celebrate our wins, and feel them as the victories they are!

      Ani

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