The end of the year is supposed to be a time of reflection, gratitude, and celebration. It is supposed to be a moment in time for me to look back at all that I accomplished. I welcomed the chance, as I always do, to participate in this exercise. What I didn’t expect were the circumstances or depth I would find myself in for two months.
It was December 1st, the one year anniversary since launching House of Wise. I sat in my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn as we virtually celebrated with the rest of the team. There was much to celebrate. We achieved so much for a small team, in the midst of a global undoing, and young by anyone’s account of a company. After the birthday party, I found myself overcome with a sinking feeling as I made my way to the airport to head home. I chalked it up to standard issue travel stress, popped a gummy, and didn’t give it another thought.
Until it gave me another thought.
As I pulled into my driveway, an undeniable shift started. (That’s a lie. The shift started in early November, but I wouldn’t realize that for another couple of weeks.) I had a visceral reaction to what my mind, body, and soul could not make sense of. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling and it certainly wasn’t a clear feeling. It was simply a lot of feeling. All at once.
I text my founder the next day. I was completely burnt out. I needed time to rest, but I didn’t know what that looked like yet. Spoiler alert: one of the most powerful shifts for me has been defining a truly human-first culture at House of Wise with Amanda. That made what ended up being a two-month hiatus from work possible. I have no doubt about that.
Here are the top learnings when I started unwinding my internal jumble:
I tend to make myself small because, by conventional perception, I have a great thing that others are struggling to find for themselves. “Why would I ever consider giving that up?”
This will make more sense if we got real for a second. Where I’ve gotten to on this point is a byproduct of healing and growing from prior workplace traumas – gaslighting, pay disparity, executive ego. I need to share the triggers that shock my system into “fight or flight” mode and how the responses have progressed from always fight > exhausted/unhappy> always flight > firm & forthcoming.
I understand more clearly now that the risk is the same whether I “always flight” or stay put and ask for change. That said, choosing the latter presents two opportunities: 1) for me to advocate for my needs and interests and 2) giving other parties the chance to support that advocacy. Choice. It always comes down to choice – making them and offering them.
The truth here is that the way I spend the time I have each day should be fulfilling my needs. Some hobbies, jobs, or relationships will be a one-stop-shop for meeting all of my needs. My truth is that I need multiple sources and instead of feeling guilty or ashamed of that, I am embracing and exploring how that comes to life.
You will always be able to do more. We’re not one-dimensional, we don’t fit into one box, we are multi-hyphenates. It is up to us to fiercely protect this balance. Being able to is not the same as being inspired to.
For example, I am excellent at programming conditional logic. However, I’d rather spend my time visualizing a human experience that would benefit from a process that was programmed with conditional logic. Both are my superpowers. The latter makes me want to strut a bit more in my cape and leotard is all.
Minor mentality difference, major emotional difference.
Trauma-informed patterns are natural self-protections. Healing from these experiences is ongoing work. By giving my career-related traumas space to make me uncomfortable, I am starting to unlock what has been my own limiting beliefs about my potential.
My pattern is to compensate now for the toxic devaluing dynamics of prior leaders by over-indexing and under-advocating for my skills and talents. Helping others is a core driver of mine, but moderation is my shortcoming. When I don’t champion for what I can contribute, I fall hard in frustration and blame, building resentment. The facts? I’m the one who disrespected myself the most.
I am the sole architect of the height from which I fall.
I have the power to renovate the floor plan of my patterns. I can knock out walls and create new hallways where I once was stuck walking through a bathroom to get to the kitchen table. In order to make these changes, I need to build up my toolkit.
It becomes obvious when you hit the stop button to see that you don’t have what you need to knock down the walls or rip out the carpet. That you’ve been doing the landlord’s special and simply painting over the outlets and calling yourself updated. I don’t know if you’ve tried to plug something you need to use into a painted-over outlet in a rental, but it does not work. And if it does, it is not well and certainly not for long.
I am wildly grateful for the full stop of December. and January. I acknowledge that I am very privileged to have a life circumstance that allowed me to not worry about meeting basic human needs while I introspected. What I did will not be an option for everyone.
Creating a new pace is critical. The binary cadence of life, especially in American culture, is dangerous. The narrative is either “hustle hard” or “rest easy”. I prefer a tender chugging along – to go at a manageable pace and not be pressured to slam on the brakes when it becomes too much. I hope for the very same recalibration for you.
It will take time, but time is our most valuable asset. Let’s do this together.