One hundred seventy eight
chapters gone too soon.
Racing and slogging through time.
Today may or may not be my birthday. As a former orphan, or like a Breadman sold on Craigslist, I don’t have original paperwork. No birth certificate; just an official document stating that it is an official document that states May 12 is my birth date.
As I begin my next decade*, I am beginning to write. Again. For the unknownth time. Depending on how you count.
I’m like the boy who cried wolf, only I yell “Hey, I posted a blog post! Stay tuned for another post in a week or two or year.” Elephants gestate a baby elephant in less time than the span of some of my posts.
I resist calling myself a blogger, or wanting to be one. I sometimes call myself a writer, though it would be more accurate to call myself a sometimes writer. I consider myself more of a columnist or essayist. (What’s the minimum word count to be considered an essayist?) Since grade school, I envisioned my writing as scraps of paper hanging on refrigerators across the country. Or tacked to people’s vision boards before vision boards were a thing.
According to Jon Acuff, (and many other internet philosophers), it’s never too late to have a do over. I recently read his book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. I didn’t come away tremendously inspired, but it did spur me to think about doing over this blog. Again. The book centers around his concept of a Career Savings Account — investments in skills, character, relationships, and hustle. I’m overdrawn in the hustle account.
As with many other things in my life (exercising, eating clean, keeping house), I know what to do but just don’t make myself do it. My life’s implementation is like step two in this comic:
Do Over is an easy, conversational read, much like his blog. I sense he is somewhat self-deprecating and funny and energetic in real life like in this book. Acuff also makes some very good points about showing up and needing to adjust yourself because others aren’t going to change for you. The book is likely helpful for many, and it served as a good reminder of some very foundational concepts. Not sure if I can sustain this do over beyond this post, but I can always start again. Again.
*I’m turning 41, so that starts my fourth decade, right? Did turning 40 end my third decade? It’s like the new millennia question — did it start with 2000 or 2001? Counting is hard.
I just may be the most well-connected, unknown person in Indianapolis.
I’ve worked for some of the most well-respected — or at least well-known — Indianapolis institutions. The Indianapolis Business Journal. Central Indiana Community Foundation. Pacers Foundation and Pacers Sports & Entertainment. United Way of Central Indiana. The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. I’m on a first name basis with some of the city’s respected elite — Mickey Maurer, Ellen Annala, Clay Robbins and Alecia DeCoudreaux. I’ve done informational interviews with Gerry Dick (whom I once almost worked for), Tamara Zahn (whom I once wanted to work for) and Deborah Paul and former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. I know people. Yet, I’m not on a Forty Under 40 list nor have I held a position with a title higher than “manager.” I had personal recommendations from Mickey, Ellen and Alecia, and still didn’t get into a Stanley K. Lacy class. Maybe because I don’t have a fancy title. Maybe because I’m not an influencer.
I am, however, a connector. In Malcolm Gladwell’s pivotal book, The Tipping Point (which, incidentally, was recommended to me by Frank Walker of Walker Information), connectors are “people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.” I love making connections. Between me and another person. Between or among different people. Between a person and an organization. And to me, these people are more than acquaintances for the most part. They are mentors and colleagues and friends.
But are those relationships enough? To advance professionally, do I also need to be an influencer? An expert or maven (as Gladwell calls them)? Or is being a connector enough? Am I ok with just filling in the spaces between?
Yes, I think I am. What do you think?
Nothing like getting laid off to spur me into a re-renewed blogging habit. Nearly a month ago, I was informed that my position at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is being eliminated as part of a cost-cutting measure to avoid extreme budget constraints in the next few fiscal years. More than 25 percent of our organization is being let go. I am an alumna of the Center’s master degree programs and a donor. A generous donor. And a good employee to boot. And my job is still being eliminated. I’ve been laid off, or in university terms, I am going through a “reduction in force.” I am grateful that I have three months to figure out what to do next with my professional life.
In his book What Should I Do With My Life?, Po Bronson profiles dozens of individuals who have asked this question, oftentimes during crossroads in their lives. Often making drastic changes. A lawyer becomes a baker. An undecided becomes a Buddhist monk. I read that book and felt uninspired. Of course these folks were able to look deep into their own selves and search their souls. They often had professional degrees or financially supportive families or nothing to lose.
Now here I am, faced with the same question, and late-to-be-realized by me, in a similar position as those profiled in Bronson’s book. I have advanced degrees. I have a spouse with a financially supportive job, and even better, a personally supportive attitude. I have nothing to lose. I can be discerning and demanding and pleasantly capable of not settling for less. I can choose what I want to do with my life.
The possibilities scare me because I might fail. Or I might succeed.