I had the rare opportunity recently to spend a few hours one-on-one with a very senior executive at my company. With his perfectly polished demeanor, he had this way of getting information out of me by asking just the right questions. Information about what motivates me, what I want out of a career, and how I think our business is doing. I’m sure I said too much.
He asked me what scares me, and I joked, caught off guard, and said drowning. Then I postured about the business in ways I shouldn’t have, fumbling to find something intelligent to say. Something intelligent that I could say to the big boss which made me sound professional and optimistic while also practical and soundly strategic. I’m sure I accomplished none of the above. I left asking myself that question too – what is it that I’m most afraid of, outside of drowning?
I’m also at the point in my life — God, 19 days until 30 — when I’m done with pretending to be something I’m not, and less afraid of just being myself even when it bites me. So far, the whole being myself thing has worked out pretty well. Then again, am I really being myself these days? That’s the question I walked away from the conversation with, and it’s still been throbbing loudly in my head and heart.
When I see my friends posting pictures of their first and second children on Facebook, it suddenly hits me that the longer I wait, the more real it becomes that I may never have that life. I always just assumed as some point I’d have a family — when I was older and ready. But when you turn 30 you’re either ready or you’ll never be ready. Sure, some people have kids in their late 30s, but that just gets harder. I don’t want to unnecessarily complicate having a family. After all, I’ve been with the same guy for nearly eight years, and I’ve gotten to the point where all I want in life is to care for someone else. I’m kind of over myself.
Beyond this, though, I’m triple checking my whole career path, and wondering if I’d be better suited for anything else. I know myself pretty well – too well – and I’m certain that I’m suited more for a career which provides constant change. For example, a consultant working on a project for three months, and then moving on to another. I’m really good at throwing myself into something 1000% for a short while. I lose stem. I fizzle out. I’m left faking a smile from my cubicle and trying to motivate myself every morning to get something done. It becomes so easy to forget just how passionate and motivated I can be, when I’m working on something new.
There’s also the question of whether I belong in technology at all. As a woman in a relatively senior role, I feel like I owe it to womenkind everywhere to stay put, to push for even higher titles, to maybe one day have a seat at the executive table. But I don’t know if that’s what I want. That as a goal doesn’t motivate me. Building great products does, but I’m not in a place right now where I can really contribute to actually building them. I don’t trust myself to ever be good enough at product, so instead I stay in marketing, where I feel as a decent writer I can make some stuff happen, write a landing page, tweet a few posts, secure some digital ink and boom, some kind of magical success, albeit temporal and exponentially more difficult to achieve with honors.
And then I think – this is the time, if there ever will be one in my career, to make a change. It won’t ever be this easy again. What, if in three years I’ve got an infant at home crying away, or in six and there two kids to take care of if I should be so lucky? No, now is the time to leap, if I am going to leap. I just don’t know where. I wish I went down the path to do something creative in my life. Maybe be a cinematographer or art director. A fashion photographer. An interior designer. I know I have a reasonably good eye for composition. But I never trusted myself to do anything creative for a career – even though I know that being creative, especially visually creative, on a daily basis would be much more sustainable over focusing on my stutter of a writing ability.
This all leaves me here, 19 days – 19 days!!! – to 30. And I’m not so much freaking out about turning 30 as I am knowing that within the next 1 to 2 years I need to either commit to the life I have today or make a serious commitment to one I’ve yet to know. In this time, I’ll likely get engaged and married, and be ready for that next phase of my life as I sit and watch my Facebook photo stream of all my friends who have so been there and done that. Needless to say, I’m terrified. Maybe 30 is what I’m most afraid of. 30 back to square one.