Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are you Drifting?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have a trio of goals for 2010 based on three books, one of which is Gretchen Ruben's "The Happiness Project."

Well, Gretchen Rubin came to town!

To Berkeley, to be exact, and since that's only 25 minutes from me, and I already own Gretchen's book (and how cool would it be to meet her and get it signed?), I decided I wanted to go and I have had it on my calendar for a couple of weeks.

Well, in typical "me" fashion, when today rolled around I wavered.  It would involve leaving my house at night and driving to Berkeley by myself (in this cold January weather!), to a bookstore I'd never been to before (Books, Inc.) and wasn't exactly sure where it was located or what the parking situation might be (it's not unusual in Berkeley to have to park several blocks away from your destination and walk).  I'd asked a couple of friends if they wanted to go with me but neither were available.

Last evening I asked Mike if he wanted to go.  He never did give me an answer; over the years I have learned that silence means "no."

But I really wanted to go.  I didn't want to just say, oh well, maybe next time, as I do so often, and then regret it later, as I inevitably would. One of the (as yet unwritten) goals of my own "happiness project" is to actually follow through when I have found something that I want to do and have gone so far as to put it on my calendar.  Ok, I thought, I'm going, no matter what, but I also decided to give Mike one last try.

When Mike got home from work I informed him he was going with me because, since he hadn't answered me one way or the other the night before, I had assumed his answer was "yes."

What could he do but smile and agree to go?

One of the things Gretchen talked about, and that's not in her book (another reason I'm glad I went!), was "drift."  I found this topic very interesting and true of so many people; in some areas of my life, true of me as well.  This is where you just sort of drift into a decision . . . instead of making a conscious one.  Gretchen's own "drift" consisted of taking the LSAT and passing it.  Well, since she'd passed it she might as well apply to law schools.  Well, she got in, so she might as well become a lawyer.  Then she was a lawyer.

But over time she discovered that was not where she belonged; that what she really longed to do was write.

How many of us have done the same thing? When I was in college, as a Business major I was required to take some sort of computer-related courses.  So I took a programming class.  It was fun, so I took another.  I did well in them, too, it was like solving puzzles or a secret code.  I figured since I did well in them, and that there was money to be made in that field (this was in the 90's, before the dot com bubble burst), I'd concentrate my studies in the computer field.

I graduated with a Business Administration degree and a concentration in Management Information Systems and went to work as a systems analyst/programmer.  Over the next twelve years I made a lot of money but with each subsequent year it was more clear that I didn't fit in.  I didn't mind the programming so much as the rest of the high-tech corporate stuff; the committees, the meetings, the travel, the politics, never enough vacation time, inept and clueless supervisors, harrassment from co-workers, and the never successful task of pleasing end-users, customers, and management.

For a creative, changeable (ok, moody), unpredictable, and routine-resistant person like me, it was hell.

All because of drift.  Making careful, conscious decisions is a lot more work than simply drifting into decisions or, as Gretchen mentioned, not making a decision at all which is a kind of decision in itself.

Finally, two years ago I made an actual conscious decision to take charge of my own happiness and I left the corporate world to pursue a more creative line of work.  It was hard, really hard, to leave the security of a job, even one that I hated, and face a totally uncertain future.  I still don't know how everything will ultimately turn out, whether I'll find success, or simply manage to get by while doing something I truly enjoy.

But I do know one thing for sure; I'm back to being me - the real me - and I'm really happy to see me again.

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