It is important to embrace a cycle of creative & professional rebirth, where you choose to let go of projects that have left you feeling unfulfilled in order to make way for new growth and endeavors. Towards the end of every year, I evaluate the goals I had set both creatively and professionally. I think about what I wish I would have accomplished, what I didn’t, and why I didn’t. This year is no different, I’m seeking out that creative and professional rebirth… but a little more emotionally than I normally do.
2017 isn’t over yet, but thus far it has presented me with a challenging year for my professional career and personal life. Professionally, I made the leap to a new job in January, heading up creative direction for a 116-year-old engineering firm. I was met with many difficulties once I started, mainly a disconnect between myself and the established marketing department, I was also confronted with bullying, something I’ve not had to endure since elementary school. It has been a long year, fraught with emotional debates on whether or not I push forward with my current role and continued to endure unprofessional abuse, or throw in the towel and move on to a company better suited to handle such toxic employees. Inevitably, I made the tougher decision and decided to stay, and so far it has worked out. I’m wrapping up the rebranding of the firm and we will be launching our new website at the end of the month.
But, in my personal life, I took an even greater hit. My dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in July. He fought hard, every step, all the way through the radiation and chemo, and finally to his surgery. Three and a half weeks ago he beat cancer, and then he died of septic shock the day before he was scheduled to go home. It has been unexpected, shocking, and unimaginably painful to endure.
In the weeks since my father has passed, after the shock and anger ebbed, my mind often drifts. I weave in and out of time, grasping for every shred of memory I have of him.
I started this professional journey because I wanted to make my family proud, but also because I wanted to help make their life more comfortable. When I naively set off to college with the prospect of being successful, I didn’t understand the cost of an education or the work it would take to achieve the dream that I had.
I never got to give him that comfortable life. I chose the wrong profession to make it rich in, but I’ve done all that I could with what was given and earned. I’ve pushed my degree to its fullest and drawn on all the random bits of information I’ve learned throughout my life. A lot of that information, my father taught me.
For the first three weeks after his death, I pushed myself to work in order to meet unavoidable deadlines, working through sorrow and a respiratory infection. I’ve done a little crafting and woodworking. In the moments of silence, I contemplate my creative pursuits because they bring me joy and distraction. I’ve contemplated my career and how hard I’ve worked to be where I’m at. I’ve often thought about how jealous I am of people who can go through life fulfilled simply with existing, who aren’t consumed with goals or dreams. Dreams, goals, ambitions, they all take work. They all take sacrifice and time and tears, and the past three weeks have made me realize how tired I am, how tired I’ve always been. For the first time, I thought of letting go of those dreams and ambitions and living like most of the world, in blissful simplicity.
And then, I think my father reached down from heaven and thumped my forehead… hard.
In the midst of exhaustion and sorrowful sobbing on the way home from work, with all my dreams and ambitions rattling around in my head with tiny signs reminding me that they are there regardless of how I feel, and just as I wanted to will them away and crawl into a dark hole, a warm determination budded in my soul.
All that I have done, all that I have accomplished, was in the hopes of making my family, my father, proud. Abandoning those ambitions because they are too hard right now is not only uncharacteristic of me but goes in the face of that primary goal. I’m going to keep making him proud, whether he’s here or not.
So, as I approach the time of year where I begin to evaluate my professional career and creative growth, I’ve decided that now, more than ever, I’m going to work towards those hard goals that are often elusive. Goals that I want desperately, but find that I get too bogged down in others to achieve. The problem with being a goal-oriented person is having too many goals you want to focus on at once. It’s time to narrow the focus.
Step one for me, from now until December, is to evaluate the goals I really want to focus on and hone in on them.
But, I have some ideas on where to start.
The series of posts to follow will be an exploration of that creative and professional rebirth, conveniently in time for NaNoWriMo. Over the course of this series, I’d like to talk about understanding when it is time to abandon a project (even if temporarily), narrowing the creative focus, managing professional burnout, finding inspiration in the dark times, goal setting and keeping, and renewing your passions.