I’m fondly calling this summer the summer of overcommitments. I’m leading a career group in my home, cohosting/leading a book club, and trying to work my way through my first 2 workbooks of Toastmasters. Never mind traveling one weekend a month, leaving the country for 8 days, reading 50 books, and you know – working a full-time job. Read: this is why I never have time to blog anymore.
In July it was my turn to choose the book for bookclub. If you know me it won’t surprise you to read that I considered picking a book I’ve already read to take one item off that month’s to do list. I resisted that urge and landed on ‘Strengths Based Leadership’.
The week before bookclub one of the other members stopped by my desk to tell me that the book was really making an impact on her. She said that her whole childhood she felt completely out of place being gifted differently than the rest of her family. She shared that she always felt like there was ‘something wrong with her’ but as she’s learned what her gifts are (and aren’t) she’s gaining confidence and losing the awkwardness of feeling out of place.
I love when I recommend, gift, or choose a book for someone that as I love to say ‘changes their life’. I had a rosy sort of glow after that conversation and I went back to business. Then a few minutes later I plodded down to her desk, popped my head over her cube, and said ‘I’m the opposite. It took me until my adult life to feel like I didn’t fit in’.
My parents didn’t raise me to be a girl. They didn’t raise me like a boy either, mind you. They just raised me and my sisters. I never remember my parents talking about gender at all. This may seem strange being the middle of three girls born to a football coach but my even my Dad (maybe more than my Mom actually) just raised us to be us. They nurtured our various interests from sports to dance to foreign languages and in my case, horses. We grew up blissfully unaffected by the ideas of what girls and guys should like while playing street hockey and barbies in equal measure.
I started college early and I studied first Photography and later Sociology. I had a million career ideas and I knew that I wanted to someday own a business or run a company. For my 15th birthday I had very seriously asked my parents if I could have a job. If I remember correctly the answer was ‘fine but you have to ride your bike…and what do you need a job for anyway?’. They never made me ride my bike to work, by the way. But I got a job at the only place I could find hiring 15 year olds, Publix, for just as many months as it took for one of my customers to offer me a better job, which I took, doing advertising for their small business.
I spent my senior year applying for jobs, my spring break interviewing, and the day after my last college class moving. That’s when I started noticing I wasn’t wired like many of my friends. I had literally spent all of college trying to get out as fast as I could so I could work. I still have friends who say that college was ‘the best years of their lives’. I’ve never for a single second felt that way. I love adult life. I spent all of college dreaming about graduating, getting a job, moving, and buying my first home (which I was determined to do while single). I moved far, far away from Purdue to sunny Florida and struggled through the start of my career and adult life on my own, just the way I wanted it.
The farther along I’ve gotten into my 20s (which are coming to an end this year) the more weddings and baby showers I’ve been invited too. I love walking with my friends through these exciting seasons in their lives but I started to wonder after a few years, is it weird that I don’t want this? Am I supposed to be dreaming of ring selfies, white gowns, and those really-freaking-adorable instagram pregnancy announcements? Because I’m not. In fact, you’re reading a blog from the girl who cut a deal with her Dad the day after her older sister got married so she could keep the money, skip the wedding, and elope. I hate the idea of being the center of everyones attention for an entire day (not to mention that is literally the last way I would ever want to spend money) and would much rather spend the moolah seeing a new part of the world on a honeymoon (sorry to all of my friends who were so looking forward to wearing taffata for me). And after 20-some years of never being self-conscious about any of that I started to wonder if I was wired wrong.
At 29 I’m still not dreaming about rings or babies. I still love to work. I also love to read, study, and endlessly seek career and self improvement. Want to know what my 5 strengths ended up being? Focus, activator, achiever (my #1), strategic, and futuristic. If you read the definitions of those 5 they perfectly describe, explain, and maybe even justify me. As it turns out, I’m wired kind of awesomely – as are each of you. What makes my friends fantastic husband/wives, mother/fathers, career men/women, etc is the same thing that makes me a ridiculously happy homeowner/adventurer/data manager…living my strengths.
So about 20 years after the rest of the world I finally experienced that same awkwardness of ‘um, is there something wrong with me?’. Thankfully I figured out what my strengths are and how to live them long before we read this latest book. Of course, I’m still learning and still implementing with each new experience and book but I couldn’t resist putting this in the blog. This blog and the one I had before it (before I made the big girl jump from blogspot to wordpress) have so perfectly captured the growing pains of my 20s and this chapter is no exception. I think this is a struggle many people can relate too. So let me, let you, off the hook here: there’s nothing wrong with you (or me).