This is Going to Be the Death of Me
I went to a professional networking dinner last night. It was a dinner for current and former Board members of a Nashville healthcare organization. The room was full of the trappings of success. Suits and ties, I went to a professional networking dinner last night. It was a dinner for current and former Board members of a Nashville healthcare organization. The room was full of the trappings of success. Suits and ties, Tumi handbags, VP and C level titles. This organization fed me for a solid decade. I thrived on the networking, the functions, the recognition. I loved my career and I loved the energy of an organization that fostered my professional development. I am amazed by how much time has changed me.
Instead of the old buzz of excitement and anticipation to attend an exclusive event, I found myself full of dread as I busied myself with dressing and primping. Yes, I succumbed (mostly) to the unstated rule that I must show up in my freshly dry-cleaned suit. I reapplied my makeup and touched up my hair and then decided that no, I would not comply just to fit in. I put on my suit jacket, but stayed in my trouser jeans instead of donning suit pants. Ha!
I sat with Randy and teared up as I told him I was afraid to go. I was afraid that I would feel like a failure. I left my corporate job nearly 2 years ago. I don’t have a solid answer to the questions about where I work and what I do. In this room of stars, I was terrified that my eBay and Airbnb businesses, that my month in India for yoga teacher training, that my intense focus on self-discovery would be “cute” at best. Randy and I played around with the best way to answer the inevitable questions. I ultimately felt some peace about saying that I was building a program to help women find their power.
When I arrived and picked up my name tag, I was mortified to see that my company name was printed: Sanctuary at Shenandoah. Now the entire room of people had evidence that I was a failure in the professional realm. I must have been feeling pretty damn bold when I filled out my registration information. My moment of strength suddenly felt like an incredible weakness.
I looked into the sea of faces. I saw some old acquaintances and yes, even some old friends. I saw dozens of people I didn’t know. I made my way over to a woman who I once considered a friend. She clearly didn’t want to speak with me. I no longer have anything to offer her. No rung for her to climb on as she makes her ascend to the top. I excused myself to get a glass of wine. Liquid courage. I found another old acquaintance. We chatted for a while. We had the meaningless kind of conversation that often occurs at a networking event. And, finally, a real friend appeared. We caught up for a few minutes and then it was time to transition to our tables for dinner and the presentation.
I found myself at a table of “old school” folks. At least I knew everyone and could make small talk. Again though, I received a couple of barely perceptible raised eye brows. You’re doing what? Huh? And then they scrambled to change the subject.
I realize that much of what I’m revealing here is my own sense of insecurity. Clearly I didn’t really leave the rat race because even after 2 years, I’m totally playing into the game.
As I drove home and got ready for bed, I kept thinking I wish I could just die. What is the point of all of this anyway? I don’t know who I want to be. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I don’t even know if I want my marriage. WTF.
And then this morning as I was out exercising, I remembered another conversation that I had yesterday. This one was earlier in the day with my therapist. He said, “You know this version of you has to die, right?” He was talking about the me who has perfectly performed an unsavory role in my marriage. My marriage that I once considered idyllic. My marriage that is now obviously based on Randy being a dad and me being a kid. Yuck.
I will allow that old me to die. I do not want to be dominated. I do not want to feel like second best. Isn’t it funny that I so obviously played out that belief while networking too?! Yes, that version of me must die. And my wishing I were dead isn’t so much a suicide pact as a plea for a new me.
Here’s the scariest thing. I don’t know what it is that I do want. Does a caterpillar know it’s not really dying? Does it know that it will be beautiful after its transformation? There are no guarantees. The old me may die, and the new me may not want my marriage. The new me may never again grace the doors of a corporate meeting. Ah, but what if the new me is wise and compassionate and authentic and attractive? My butterfly wings might be bright blue or they may be yellow and brown, but they will still be wings. I will still learn to fly.