I’m an Achiever…who doesn’t have it all together

I need to be open that I really struggled with this post. I have written it several times, and erased it just as many. It was a wall I wasn’t ready to climb over.

Or better yet, wasn’t willing to admit that I had to climb over.

However, I have a feeling that I am not alone in this, which is why I have finally become comfortable pushing the publish button and laying it all out there.

So bear with me as I take you on a journey of unpacking some emotions that have been weighing pretty heavily on my heart the past couple months.

I have always been a person that likes to achieve and get things done. I am always my worst critic, and I am intrinsically motivated. I put my goals on a pedestal, however unrealistic they may be, and work diligently to be the best I can be and push myself further each day. This has manifested itself in several manners: being top of my class, getting scholarships, but also just keeping busy. Creating a to-do list and marking things off gives me a high like none other. I am one of those people that will add a completed task that was not previously on the list on the said list just so I can get the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. It is why crocheting is so important to me. I can be “achieving” something, but actually be still which gives me much needed rest.

(For all my student affairs friends, this is why Achiever has always been my number one strength when other strengths have moved around.)

I have worked hard to attain certain achievements. Getting the GPA, the degrees, and other resume items, have not always come easily, but they did happen in succession as according to the plan. I worked hard and tirelessly to mark the next thing off the list.

My first professional job came so naturally according to my timeline. I proceeded to work there the next three years to prepare myself for the next step. It was a job that I loved and was exactly what I needed at the time. Check and check.

Since everything before had come after hard work and perseverance, I thought dream job career would be no different.

When the Army mandated that it was time to go, I thought, “Perfect. I am no longer a new professional. Look out world! Hire me for that mid-level position. Booya!”

And a year and a half later, I am in a temporary position.

What they don’t tell you as an achiever, is sometimes the timing sucks.

What they don’t tell you is that sometimes you can work your tush off, and things still don’t look profitable.

What they don’t tell you is that sometimes you can “network” all you want but they still may go in another direction.

What they don’t tell you is that you can have the perfect credentials, but you may not be receiving an offer (from anywhere).

What they don’t tell you is that this doesn’t mean you are a failure.

Well maybe they do tell us this, but most of us don’t listen. Most of think, I am doing everything right so that can’t happen to me. I personally have a hard time thinking that “no” and “an uncompleted task” isn’t an automatic failure. Unrealistic, I know.

My position is a temporary position that basically gets audited every so often and is allotted hours on a need basis. Some weeks I have full time status, others I am there 4 hours a day.  After coming off a full-time position that had very healthy benefits, I was kind of in shock at first. This position was all that I could find that was still relevant to my field and passions.

I spent a year and half doing resumes and applications, and I have lost track at how many positions I have applied to over that time.  I have only done 3 interviews.

You might be saying, “Well, maybe it is your application materials”. Well, it might be, but I have also had about  a dozen people look at those documents and I am constantly tweaking and updating. I have a Master’s degree and a resume that speaks volumes to the work that I put in (not to toot my own horn). The cards were just not in my favor to find the perfect ideal next step. Sometimes the stars do not align, and you cannot fix that. That is all it boils down to; sometimes it just doesn’t work out as you imagined. My brain knows this.

My heart, however, was hearing something else.

As someone who is in their late twenties who has worked hard and gotten some pretty nice accolades for the time and effort, not getting a full-time-next-step-dream-job-here-I-come position, was a big blow to my psyche.

Let’s be clear, I did start out very positive about the job. I thought it was a great segue out of Residence Life and into the academic setting that I yearn for. I was hopeful about the opportunity! I was very thankful to still be working at a university and being in the education setting.

But after a couple months, I was yearning for the interactions that I have had for the past 5 years. I was no longer on any committees. I wasn’t developing anything besides witty emails. I was no longer in a supervision role. My meetings with students were reading instructions for tests. I felt that I wasn’t reaching my full potential.

This achiever became miserable and spiraled down quickly. My husband is truly a saint for putting up with me some days, since he got the brunt of my emotions.

I was embarrassed, angry, resentful, bitter, hateful, and just plain sad. For the past few months I have not been myself. I was out of control inside.

Embarrassed of my job status.

Angry that I didn’t feel fulfilled.

Resentful for the Army not sending us to a different city. (FtC was the last choice on my ranking sheet…)

Bitter because I had a job that I loved.

Hateful because of all the above.

Sad because there wasn’t anything I could do to change the cards I was dealt.

I was just miserable. I had made myself out to be this failure. I was fighting a constant battle with my life to-do list.

I was having an issue that my life did not turn out where I had expected. I had created a monster.

I am not really sure where/when it happened in the past few weeks, but I have started seeing the proverbial light. With a lot of prayers and encouragement from those close to me, there have been little glimpses of sunshine in my made up bleakness of a career. It has been a slow revelation, but I am getting there.

I realized that I was the problem. Me. My to do list. My unrealistic expectations and timelines.

For a moment, this achiever was crushed at what I had done to my sunny disposition.

How did I get out of it? Create a list obviously.

But, the list was different. It was a list to help me get out of a rut, how to get through each day, how to enjoy each day.

Basically it is a list of blessings and opportunities that I do have here-finding my yellow umbrella amongst the storm.

Maybe this is the time to focus my energy somewhere else besides committees and projects. Maybe this is the time to learn the little things and take a moment to breathe.

I have to have a different outlook, otherwise I am wasting opportunities. Otherwise I am wasting me.

The truth is I do get to do some pretty cool things at my job, and it is a wonderful opportunity to learn a unique part of the university. Not being a supervisor does allow for different relationships to build with students. I get to go to class with two students several times a week and help with their learning process. I am learning Excel. Which if you knew me before this job, it was a wonder I knew how to enter anything. I am interacting with faculty almost on an hourly basis.  I am able to use other passions and my creativity to fill the most random jobs needed for the office (ie the department’s photographer and bulletin board guru). And those emails, they are spot on perfect!

I know that we will not be in Ft. Campbell forever, so this wouldn’t have been my forever job. I just need to be thankful that I was able to find something in my field that is still challenging and be open to different possibilities. While I know that doing excel spreadsheets and emails all day isn’t my ideal work life, this job is giving me something. I need to re-frame my thinking that this will help me get that job I have always wanted as an Academic Success Coach. I just have to dig in a little now and just keep being awesome no matter how little the task may seem.

And if I am going to be real with you, there are some plus sides to being a temp. Silver lining folks.

I have become hopeful again!

This article really inspired to write this. It eloquently describes all of the feelings I had been going through during this transition. It hits the nail on the head for all my fellow twentysomethings.

“Failure is not a period, it’s a comma. And only if you stop trying will you really fail.”

-Paul Angone

I think so many of us expect things to happen naturally and are blind sided when even if we do everything so right, you can still end up in undesirable situations. With that expectation, we also compare ourselves to what people put out on social media.

Honestly, I was most concerned with how people would react knowing that I don’t have a full time job. My embarrassment was driving everything else. So I have to remind myself of this quote often, because I know there are so many others out there struggling, even in full time jobs. This has been a very humbling experience to say the least.

I don’t have to have a job status to define me. I want my actions and the work I put out to show who I am. I want to be known for how I treat people, not how many hours I put on a symbolic time clock. I just need to be happy where I am in this moment, and be ok that it doesn’t look like everyone else’s “highlight reel.” I can still be successful; I am successful. I just need to remain hopeful and make my own definition of success.

And be proud of that.

I wanted to write this because I am not alone in this, but yet so many keep this struggle buried. I wanted to write this because I am not a failure,  yet so many argue that my paycheck says I am. I wanted to write this because I am thankful for what I have,  yet our “to do lists” beg for more .

I wanted to write this to keep myself in check to my own life and not someone else’s.

I wanted to write this because it’s ok to live in the moment, even if it’s not the one from your dreams.

So here’s to a new outlook and repeating the mantra “control what I can and let go of what I can’t.”

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

14 thoughts on “I’m an Achiever…who doesn’t have it all together

  1. Oh sweet girl, I’m sorry that you’re feeling this way and things aren’t going the way you invisioned. I wish I had words of wisdom to give you but, really, all I know is that – as another achiever – being in your shoes would be so hard! I truly hope that you find peace where you’re at and/or that you can move onto something bigger and better soon!

  2. Steph.

    This was perfect timing. Today I reached a peak where I questioned everything about law school and my desire to return to full time work…

    and i was embarrassed as to what that would look like to my peers.

    and then i read your post and now i think to myself, “self, if glinn can do it, so can you.”

    power through. be your best self. and be proud of who that best self is.

    love and miss you.

  3. I’m really glad you decided to write this because I am right there with you. I wouldn’t say I’m an achiever (if you are referring to Strengths Quest, my number 1 was Empathy), but I derive a sense of self from my accomplishments. In high school, it was volunteering; in college, it was grades; now it’s supposed to be work, right?

    It’s a real challenge to grow your career when you move around frequently and you don’t have a choice about where you are moving to. El Paso is a much bigger city than many other Army towns, but the job market is saturated. Despite all my achievements as a teacher back home, I can’t even get an interview here. My job at the library is ok, but my boss makes me insane and I really want to quit. But I worry that if I walk away from this, I won’t be able to get another job that I like or even another job at all.

    • It’s oddly comforting knowing that I am not alone! I feel the same way about my situation. I don’t think the Army Career Center knows what to do with us when you go in for spousal assistance. Haha!

  4. We have so much in common outside our love of bows on ear warmers! The Army wife “template” isn’t tailored perfectly to women with degrees and ambitious career goals, and that was something I considered deeply before my soldier’s proposal.

    I was the same as you through my education–top of my class, Phi Beta Kappa, scholarships, graduation awards. But when I graduated…nothing. I spent a year searching for a job in any of my fields and, after striking out, ended up in something I hated. I spent my year and a half at that job crying in the elevator and applying for hundreds of editorial jobs. I eventually landed one (yay!) and, though it was a marked improvement, it came with a demoralizing environment. I spent my year and a half at this job reminding myself to count my blessings, and hoping that more hard work would pay off.

    This lousy job experience made it easier for me to move to Fort Campbell when my husband finished his second deployment. But I already had the failure stigma to pack up and bring with me. I was disillusioned, and feeling regret for how hard I’d worked for this result.

    I’m not going to pretend I don’t still feel that. I knew we would be PCS-ing a few months into my Fort Campbell move, so after browsing unsuccessfully for Kentucky work in my field, I made the tentative decision not to job search. And my failure stigma grew three sizes that day. But for the past several years, I’ve sent my soul on a journey to find self-worth in places outside my career and those traditional definitions of success. There are still days when I wake up and think “Good LORD I’m unemployed what am I doing with my life,” but a combination of good days and bad days have helped me realize that my good luck is still there, it’s just manifesting in other ways. When I stopped concentrating on my failures, my natural drive to succeed burst out in a dozen different ways.

    Being an Army wife means my career struggles won’t ever keep food from my table or a roof from over my head. I have the time and the means to pursue the things I love, without having to worry about being cared for. I am lucky. And on the days when I wake up feeling like I’ve failed, I remind myself that there are a thousand ways to be successful, and I’m experiencing so many of them every day.

    Sorry I wrote you a novel. The military lifestyle offers you so many new challenges but, based on your background and your will, it sounds like you’ve got the tools and determination to succeed. Keep swimming!

  5. “For a moment, this achiever was crushed at what I had done to my sunny disposition.”

    This is where I am. This lazy, unmotivated, grumpy, moody person IS NOT ME! And I know I’ve done it to myself. I’m a huge list maker also so maybe that’s what I need to do to help pull me out I this dark phase of my life. Thanks.

    PS. Proverbs 16:9 is my favorite Bible verse!

  6. Just wanted to say, Thank you for sharing. I can only imagine how you felt while writing this and ultimately hitting the publish button. I hope you felt some relief. While I was reading, I was reminded of something one of my professors told me during grad school about working with different counseling clients…we are just a part of their journey, and they are a part of ours. I think each job/career is like that too…just a part of our journey and we’re meant to learn something about ourselves during that experience. Just keep swimming!

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