Running to Stand Still
For many years travel was a way to escape myself and a life I hated. Some years I found a way to take a week-long vacation every 3 months. It was brilliant. I always had something to look forward to. Even sitting in front of the computer for hours daydreaming and researching for a trip was enough to give me the escape I longed for. It was the one thing that kept me going. But as excited as I always was to go away, I was equally as depressed at the end of a trip. The knowledge that I had to face my “shitty” life again made me feel worse than if I had never left at all. Even now that I am happy and love my life, I still get sad to finish a vacation. So imagine how awful it was to have to face the reality of going home to a life that made me miserable. At least now I’m not vacationing to escape, but rather to experience and receive. I coped with my unhappiness by always having a travel plan in the works.
If I knew I had something wonderful to anticipate in 3 short months, coming home stung a little less.
Since I became so adept at using travel to get a break from my work, it’s only fitting that I repeated old habits by doing that very thing while writing about my career. Luckily coming back from a vacation to write about work is much less painful than to actually live through it.
I had decided I wanted to move on from dentistry, so the next move was to actually do the work to make it happen.
But what truly interested me? What did I love? What would keep me excited? I didn’t want to jump into something else that would still suck. I went through too much schooling to go back to school for something that wasn’t a sure thing, and I wasn’t willing to leave the perks of dentistry for just anything (yes, there are some perks.) I started exploring to see if I could make some of my interests into careers. I had a sort of reactionary response to the things that bothered me about dentistry and wanted to find something that was light-hearted, and maybe didn’t have anything to do with having my face 6 inches away from someone else’s.
I needed a break from all of that.
At the same time I had decided to go on a gluten-free diet because of a gluten sensitivity. I actually found that with this restriction, I chose to expand the way I looked at food. Instead of resenting my new limitations, I embraced them. I began to love cooking and experimenting with a new way of eating. I felt good about nourishing my body with healthy food, and found a new appreciation (some might say obsession) for it. In the book Finding Your Own North Star, the author says that you easily remember things you love, and you forget things you don’t. I’m the weirdo who will eat in a restaurant I haven’t been to in 3 years, remember what I (and everyone with me) ate, and then turn to my husband and confidently say, “I think this was saltier the last time we were here.”
It was safe to say I liked eating and food, but how the hell do you make a career out of that?
The gluten-free market was just starting to grow, and it hadn’t quite exploded yet, so I started exploring that arena. Because of my husband’s love of all things beer, we were well aware that there weren’t any good gluten-free beers. We had brewed beer at home for a few years, so I dabbled in that. Brewing beer is fun. It’s similar to cooking. I enjoyed making it, and my husband enjoyed drinking it. For many reasons, though, it was the wrong match for me and was very slowly going nowhere.
I even tried the gluten-free cookie thing when an acquaintance in a similar situation was dabbling in that. We tried to team up to see if we could make that happen. It wasn’t right either. In fact, that was worse. It was so out of sync with my values that it took me only one afternoon to figure that out. I care about healthy eating, not unhealthy eating. And while cookies are delicious and can bring a smile to your face, they’re just not healthy for your body (or your teeth.) Plus, in a day of experimental baking, I felt it was my duty to try the dough raw, try the cookies half-cooked, try them piping hot out of the oven, try them when warm, try them when lukewarm, try them when they have cooled down, and then again when they’ve been cool for 20, 30, and 60 minutes. This was not good. I had no control.
This whole process lasted at least 6 months. Here I was, still stuck, having seemingly made no progress. At the time any headway appeared insignificant, but looking back I see that these steps were all part of the process; the steps that helped get me to where I am today. I learned that I’m not good at certain things. I learned that what I choose to do has to fit into my values. And, most importantly, I learned that for me the secret to finding a career was all in the approach:
The key wasn’t about running away, but it was about finding something I was excited to run to.