Tuesday, April 24, 2007

At Goal

The last two weeks at work have been ridiculously busy. Not 14-hour day busy, but the kind where you look up and realize almost the entire day has gone by and you haven’t eaten lunch yet, the kind of day that leaves you feeling sort of stunned after you’ve managed to stay on top of the constant stream of e-mails and phone calls. I’m feeling so exhausted right now. The thing is, I’ve been craving days like these for months. I’ve been so bored by my shortage of work, that I’ve dreamed of feeling so busy that I don’t even notice the clock. I thought that if I was busy I might like my job more, that the responsibility of taking care of a lot of projects would make me feel engaged and invested in my work, that I’d be energized by my job. That has not happened. I’ve had so many balls in the air that I dropped a small one today. There was no lasting impact, but I made a mistake. I don’t handle mistakes well. I react emotionally to them, I call my intelligence into question, I start believing that I don’t belong in this job at this place where everyone has a PhD. I wonder about my ability to do anything. I learned a very important check to this line of thinking at my last job, where I was overworked, overstressed, and overly emotional. I decided that any mistake that I wouldn’t remember in six months was not worth worrying about in the moment.

The problem is that I’m an editor. It is my job to find other people’s mistakes. I’m the goalie of the publishing world. I never wanted to be the goalie. There’s so much pressure. You screw up and that’s it, goal for the other team. No matter how many players one mistake went through before getting to you, you are the one that has to stop it or game over. I consider myself a perfectionist. You’d think being an editor would suit a perfectionist. It doesn’t. When it is your job to be perfect, not being perfect causes self-implosion.

I was hoping that being busy again would make me like my job more, but it didn’t. I hate having to be perfect and never really living up to it. I’ve asked to be put onto the highest level project available to me to see if that would make a difference in my overall happiness with this kind of position. But I don’t think it will and that scares me because I’m out of ideas. I’m basically on my third career and nothing has really stuck. I’ve never felt passionate about my work, I’ve always felt underpaid, and I’ve never been motivated to try to excel beyond just being “good.” These are bad things for me, The Perfectionist. I want to excel at my career and I want to be interested in it. I’m constantly trying to push my life forward with different choices and plans. Right now I have no ideas, so I’m essentially pushing myself, but towards nothing. I know that maybe what I need to do is to try to be comfortable and relaxed with where I am in life without trying to find a way out. Maybe if I just accepted where I am, some new ideas would come to me. I just don’t have faith in that. It feels like I need to constantly be searching for what’s next or I’ll just stay where I am forever.

I know a lot of this comes from a fear of ending up like my father. He had the same career his entire life and he hated it. The job made him miserable. But he stuck with it to help support a family and then later to get his pension. I don’t want to be stuck in life, yet no matter how hard I push and pull, I just am.

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