Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Howling at the Moon

Some of you may know that I have had lifelong insomnia. I get it from my mother, who has also had lifelong insomnia. All these years, people have just assumed that I have a good work ethic when in actuality I can't sleep with any semblance of regularity. Since one of my pet peeves is idleness, I try to be productive at almost every minute. It all started when my mother began driving my father to the train station very, very early in the morning so he could go to work in New York City. This happened as far back as I can remember. I would hear them wake up - my father had this strange notion that once he was awake so was the whole world (or they ought to be) so he could make as much noise as he pleased. So, my mom and dad would head off to the train station, I would wake up, make myself some oatmeal, and when my mom came back we would watch I Love Lucy reruns. My insomnia was born.

As a teenager, it drove my crazy - literally. I thought not being able to sleep was just about the worst kind of hell a person could live through. And then an amazing thing happened - I made my peace with the condition, it subsided slightly (I can usually get, on average, about 5 hours of sleep now, though I wake up quite often during the night), and I learned how productive I could be since the lack of sleep did absolutely nothing to dampen my enthusiasm or need to be useful.

Now I have a new reason for my insomnia. My new job. Now, it's not what you're thinking. I have had some good jobs, great jobs, in the past. And I've had some really lousy ones; I'll take a moment here to apologize to those of you who had to receive my phone calls when I occasionally had to be talked down off the proverbial ledge because my work situation was so unpleasant. This new job and my situation there is a different case entirely.

I love this job. It's amazing - I get there, I have fun ALL DAY, and when I leave I can't wait to get back to work. There is always something new to learn, and there's no end of that in sight. I never knew I could love a job this much. I had no idea a job like this even existed, much less did I ever think I'd be able to call it my own. My lovely boss keeps apologizing that he's not spending enough time with me when in fact he's giving me more guidance, support, and encouragement than any of my other bosses ever dreamed of giving me! This is the longest commute to work I've ever had, and the only thing that upsets me about that is that it cuts into the time that I could be at work learning. Oh, and they're paying me. How did this happen? Where did this gift come from?

A number of years ago, I read a book called Women Who Run with the Wolves. In this book I first came across the phrase, "She who does not howl will never find her pack." I got my current job because I howled so loud that the whole world heard me - you may have heard me also and just mistaken me for a coyote of some sort. After months of job searching and not finding what I wanted, I went into my career counselor at Darden and described the exact job I wanted - "in retail, working on innovation as a project manager, in the New York metro area. New product, new services, new store design. Anything new that adds value, I wanted to be a part of it. I want it to be a fun product category that I can relate to. I'm interested in improving anything that touches the customer - which is just about everything. I'd like X number of dollars, I'd like to start in July or so, and I really need to have a boss who believes in me and values my experience."

My career counselor, bless her heart, said, "Christa, that sounds amazing. What a great position to have. I just don't know where you'd find it or how you'd get it." In a few weeks time this same person would provide me with the contact to get me this exact job - the job I have now. And then when I called that contact at my company, he asked me to pitch what I'd like to do and how my experience might relate to my career goals. I howled again, even louder than I did the first time. I was completely terrified, and I just couldn't help myself. Finally, finally, something inside me broke and I was no longer able to settle for just A job - I needed a place where I could make an impact, I needed to be in a place where all my skills and abilities would be completely maxed out. I needed to be in a place that needed me.

I wonder if in every life this happens - when some dream, some idea takes hold of you and you just can't help but live it. There is no plan B, there is no substitution. There is no room inside your heart for settling for whatever life offers you. You want what you want and there is no substitute. There must be a point when howling is just about the only thing you can do, and your pack comes running. My friend, Monica, told me a long time ago that time and time again in her life when she made a leap of faith, the world always seemed to stretch out its hand to grab hold of her and pull her up to safety. In my mind, I see the image of that outstretched hand coming from the moon, answering my call to help me live the life I imagine. If you haven't already, I hope you'll give it a shot. You may be surprised who hears you.

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