That is certainly true in our household- I have always been the person who makes our weeknight dinners, so if my commute is delayed there can be ripple effects that disrupt our entire evening. This is less traumatic now that my kids are older, but when Pumpkin was little a screwed up evening routine often translated into even more disrupted sleep than usual. She really liked routine as a baby and toddler. As I sat in a traffic jam, I could predict the ripple effects through the rest of our evening, leading to me getting only a few hours of sleep that night. It made me want to cry. Of course, I was so sleep deprived in those days that a somewhat stirring television commercial could make me want to cry, but you get the idea.
So, I shifted my schedule to make sure that traffic jams were a very rare occurrence, and that our nighttime routines stayed intact. If Mr. Snarky was late, we just ate without him, and kept the routine on schedule. Things rolled merrily along... until they didn't.
It is no secret that one of the things that contributed to the timing of my decision to quit my job and start my own company was the fact that my company relocated and made my commute more difficult. The small amount of slack I'd managed to squeeze into our schedule was gone, consumed by the longer commute. Dinners were late a lot and although that no longer translated directly into crappy sleep it still had an impact on our evenings, and we all felt it. I had planned to work at my last job for at least two more years before quitting and starting my own business, but a variety of things combined to make the pressure grow and grow... until last April, I couldn't take it anymore and just quit. The commute was definitely one of the forces applying pressure.
There were other forces, too, of course. I am still not ready to write about them in detail. This is partly because I still don't think I really understand what, exactly, happened and partly because there are bridges I'd rather not burn.
But you can probably guess some of the reasons, and I'm able to write about things that impacted me over the course of my career. I often felt like I had to work harder than my male colleagues to be taken seriously. I found myself assigned less technical roles, and then I found people (even people I considered supporters) surprised to learn that I could do hands-on technical work. I couldn't see a path for advancement. I felt blocked.
All of this is pretty standard stuff, as cited in the report about midcareer women leaving IT jobs that I've shared before.
So, while there were positive things pulling me to quit, there were a bunch of negative things pushing me to quit, too, and those negative things are depressingly common.
Sometimes, I feel empowered to learn that the challenges I face are general, not personal. Not this time. I could certainly put a positive spin on things, but I have a rule that if I'm going to write about something here, I will be honest in what I write. I definitely don't write about everything, but if I write about it, I have to be honest. Otherwise, what's the point?
And to be honest, realizing just how in line with common trends my experiences have been makes me feel defeated, not empowered. It is like I came up against a well-mapped mountain range and got lost in it, anyway.
Rationally, I know that I am being unfairly harsh to myself. But the negative voice of self-doubt in my head is not particularly rational, and in these early days of this my new endeavor, solid signs that it is going to be a success are rare, which only emboldens that snotty little voice.
|Even with a map, that's not an easy climb.|
I am fighting this the only way I know how: by focusing on the positive things that pulled me in my new direction, and reminding myself that it is too early to know how this story ends. My new company is going to grow slowly by design, because that is how I want to build it. My efforts can look a bit scattered right now, but they are in fact proceeding pretty much according to the plan I laid out when I decided to do this. There is enough money coming in to pay the bills. I need to find more contracts, but that is normal and I have only just started looking seriously, since I gave myself a lot of time last year to decompress. I love that I can write about whatever I want now, without having to ask anyone for permission. I love that I can define for myself what things are worth my time. I love being in charge, even if it is only of myself.
In short, there is a lot of good on this new path, and it is quite likely I would have chosen to follow it even if the old path had been nothing but flowers and butterflies.
Could I have stayed on my original career path if I'd just tried harder, and maybe found a better map? Maybe. But this new path suits me well, too.
Will I be a success story, or a cautionary tale? Only time will tell.