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Removing the Labels

On October 1, 2020 my job ended at a place where I worked for over 16 years. I didn’t fully realize how much of my identity was tied to having a successful career and being in a leadership position. I needed a level of accomplishment (and subsequent stress) attached to my every day. Making lists, attending meetings, finishing tasks, achieving goals, using very specific language to sound intelligent. To feel important and have financial security. I always wanted more too, whether it be raise, a promotion or high profile and exciting projects. Then one day my job was done. Unceremoniously, without celebration or tears, it ended.

I struggled with losing the label of having a successful career more than losing my actual job. Typically when we meet someone, the first question we ask is “what do you do”. The question implies what is your job. Who was I now that I didn’t really “do” anything. At the same time I longed to not get a new job right away. To take time off to travel, dream and reset what I wanted in life. Put a temporary hold on “doing” anything. Yet what would that make me? A quitter, a failure, someone who gave up or provided little value. Yes these thoughts were extreme but they came from somewhere deep within me and therefore were real.

I thought a lot about how most of us label who we are, who others are and the world around us. Being a teacher, a nurse, a manager, a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a runner, an artist, an activist, a hippie. While labels can provide meaning, they also create a level of control that doesn’t really exist. The year of 2020 reinforced how little control we have. Labels can make us feel stuck and act out of fear rather than embrace change and be bold and brave.

Redefining what I do, I ask these questions:

  • What brings me joy?

  • How do I attach meaning to my life?

  • What does my ideal day look like?

  • How do I want to feel most of the time?

These help determine actions I can take to create a life I want to live. No wrong answer exists whether I go back to marketing, start a yoga business, travel more or go to school. Over time the answers may change too. Moving forward I wish to open my mind to new possibilities, hold onto fewer labels and get comfortable with uncertainty.

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