The Very Wind
Just because you can doesn't mean you should. I found myself cosseted by the familiar truism as I solidified my decision to withdraw in round two of the interview process for a role I had coveted as recently as last fall and that had the potential to launch my career with my employer to stratospheric heights should I have succeeded. However, throughout round two, which consisted of a case study and exercise, I was riddled with anxiety, writer's block, and disinterest-cum-agitation having to force my attention, not to mention the abdominal pain that I was experiencing while trying to muster the grit and perseverance to push through, forcing me to reckon with the most literal of gut checks.
For better or for worse, I have had this visceral reaction when it comes to career choices for as long as I can remember. Such was the case when I was presented with interview request after interview request during second year of business school from, by all measures, attractive and best-in-class employers in tech, consulting, and financial services - all of which, except my current employer, I either declined or withdrew from later in the interview process. Since then, in fits of regret and disillusionment with how my post-MBA career has evolved and how the floodgate of interview requests has all but closed a mere 2.5 years later when floating my resume on the open market, I have often hearkened back to that golden age and spiraled into periods of verbal and emotional self-flagellation for not having seized the moment.
It's not as if I'm ignorant to what lies beneath the angst, the pushing-away of seemingly golden opportunities, and even the scant responses to resume submissions: none of it is truly what I want to do with my life. In throwing my hat in the ring for these opportunities, I'm fully aware that I'm subscribing to someone else's dreams and ambitions, to what society, leaders, parents, and peers explicitly and implicitly value as success and advise as the right thing to do. Furthermore, with greater self-awareness comes the realization that I seek solace in replaying the track of shoulda-woulda-coulda because I'm afraid of trusting my own judgment, failing, what I would seemingly sacrifice, to really pursue the things that I am energized by.
So, how do I stay focused on cultivating the work that nourishes and creates for me a sense of flow and purpose, when much of the advice from well-meaning mentors, close friends, and confidants is telling me to get out there, look elsewhere, move on, there's a better fit out there, and when LinkedIn announcements are reminding me that my MBA peers are getting promoted, poached, and propelled into new and greater opportunities? Whenever I am overcome by extrinsic pressure to move on to the next thing or, worse yet, succumb to the habit of comparing myself to others, I'm reminded of one of my favorite reads, The Alchemist, in which an Andalusian shepherd boy goes in search of his treasure across the deserts of north Africa into Egypt. Along the way, in each place, he encounters hardships, trials, and lessons that he is compelled to overcome and learn from, if he is to continue on in his journey, so much so that he even overcomes the limitations of his physical being to transform himself into the very wind. In the end, his treasure is, and always was, right back where he started, and the journey to find it, the metaphysical pursuit of finding himself. And so, too, must I focus on this present place and its trials, lessons, and hardships; on learning, overcoming, and transforming; and then, when it's time, I'll continue on in my journey, wiser, truer, freer, and one step closer to truly finding myself.
Photo Credit: Leslie B.