I’m not very good at small talk. I find situations with groups of random people unnerving. It’s not that I’m anti-social as such (well, I am a little bit, but thats not the root of the problem) or that I’m not a chatty person, once you get me on the right topic I fear there’s no stopping the gush of enthusiastic babble (beware of mentioning gin, yarn, sheep or cats in my presence). It’s the “filler” chit chat with people you don’t know and are unlikely to meet again that so unnerves me. I hadn’t really thought much about why until recently when I attended a family event. It wasn’t just the extended family, but family friends that I’d never met and likely won’t come across again. It was these interactions that I found so difficult and I’ve finally figured out why. It’s the inevitable “so, what do you do” question that follows the silence after “how do you know so-and-so”.
I don’t really like this question. It’s not inherently bad, and it’s a logical conversation starter, but I find it makes me uncomfortable because I’ve always felt a bit of a disconnect between who I am and what I do, and yet have never quite managed to reach a point where I don’t feel like I ought to define myself by my job. Until now. After an exchange over canapés that went something like this:
“so, what do you do”
I roughly outlined my job
“Oh, and do you like it?”
“No, actually I hate it”
At this same family function I spent a lot of time catching up with my parents. We talk on the phone all the time, but it’s not the same as actually sitting down together with a glass of wine and enjoying each others company. Whilst sipping a glass of red and discussing the job choice I’d made, my reservations, and yet my fear of walking away and admitting my mistakes my father told me an amazing anecdote that I’d never heard before. Apparently his mother once had a job for one day. Just one day! Turned up, did a days work and hated it so much immediately that she quit and didn’t go back. Amazing! I was in total awe when he told me the story. She was a strong believer in the idea that things will work out, and I think if you genuinely believe that then you’re able to make them work out.
And so I was able to end the exchange above with the words “but it’s okay, I’m getting out to find something I do like.”
I take strength from following in my grandmother’s footsteps. It wasn’t quite so dramatic, but it didn’t feel that far off. It’s hard to hold your hand up and admit you’ve made a mistake, to just get out there and say “you know what, this isn’t for me, I tried, but I just don’t want to do it anymore”. I am incredibly lucky for the supportive people around me who instead of judging what might have seemed a rather rash decision, just said “do what you feel is right, you only get one go at life”
When I mentioned my goals for this year I spoke about cutting yourself some slack, which was indeed one of my targets for 2015. Another, which I’ve kept a bit quiet, is that I want to spend this year “figuring out”. For me that’s always been what this year would be about. I don’t mean that I expect to have “life” figured out, or to have found the answers to things. It’s more about pushing myself to ask more questions of myself. As this wonderful article I’ve pointed to before says, life is as much an elimination of the things you don’t want to do as finding the one thing you do. I definitely feel like January has taught me that lesson! It well and truly kicked my ass and shoved me out the other side. But that’s okay. I’ve learnt some big lessons, not just about life and work, but also myself, and now it’s almost February and the daffodils are blooming and I feel more ready for anything than I have in a very long time.