Tell me about your three earliest memories. Tell me about your three favorite magazines or TV shows. Tell me about your three childhood heroes. Tell me the quote that you live by.
It seems like you enjoy telling stories.
It seems like you look up to people who are adventurous and you want to be adventurous, but what’s stopping you?
It seems like you want to “Live. Love. Laugh.” but what’s stopping you?
Career counseling is a process. You sit still and you answer questions and you remember things that you hope you can remember and you are told not to make sense of the process along the way because you can’t possibly relate your childhood heroes to your ideal career. And when your best friend is the one doing the counseling, you rely on her for the answers because your brain just can’t hold all of those memories and sometimes it’s as if you weren’t even there because she remembers everything and you remember nothing.
Where exactly was I when she was remembering and I was erasing?
Amelia Bedelia and Junie B. Jones. Total confusion in my mind. Here I thought Amelia Bedelia, the “literal-minded housekeeper” was my childhood hero when she was the one who put sponges in sponge cake and Junie B. Jones was the whimsical child who made everyone live, love, laugh when she ate “yucky blucky fruitcake.” In all fairness, they were both a hot mess. Why on earth did I ever aspire to be a hot mess?
Maybe when perfectionist is your middle name, being a hot mess seems adventurous.
A recent personality test literally lined me up perfectly in the perfectionist category. I can’t make this stuff up. It pins me as “restrained and cautious.” It says that I strive for stability and predictable accomplishments. Yet, I’ve always dreamed of pitching tents and climbing trees. Once in my life, I was on track to be adventurous. I built tree forts and didn’t care what time it was and I got dirty and my mom checked me for ticks later and I went snow skiing and I plunged down black diamonds.
I was on track to be little Junie B. and grown Amelia in the flesh.
But what’s stopping you?
Now instead of tree forts, I build grants. I check off boxes and I follow rules and I work in an office that often feels like a cage. I write plans in my planner and I consult my planner before I even make plans. I always know what time it is and I live my life with the ticking of the clock. I cross things off to-do lists and I follow rules and I cry when the state trooper pulls me over because my registration is expired because I’m baffled at how I never wrote that in my planner and I missed the deadline and I never did it and I never crossed it off my planner. “This isn’t me,” I cry. He gave me a warning — nothing but a warning.
Goal: stability; predictable accomplishments.
Every day I wake up at 6 and I get to work by 9 after dilly dallying in words and creeping slowly towards the day that awaits me with open arms. I go to work and I put my lunch in the fridge and my coat in the closet and my purse under my desk and I turn on the computer and turn on the monitor and fill up my water glass. Every hour I fill up my water glass. I check boxes and clean out emails and I file them accordingly and I write grants and I turn them in on time. When they are done and perfect, I send them in on time. When things are late or not done or not perfect, I cry, “This isn’t me.” I cross things off to-do lists. Every day, I write and rewrite the mission statement and I cross things off and send things in. I put away my notebook in the top left drawer and I turn off my computer and I turn off my monitor and I grab my coat and I grab my purse and search for my keys before I leave for the day. I like to leave on time because I believe that people who stay late just didn’t plan their day very well because you should be able to accomplish what you need to on your to-do list if you just plan out your 9 to 5 and stick to the plan.
I’m always searching for my keys. After locking myself out of my apartment and then closing my keys in the trunk of my locked car, my dad questioned, “How can you be so smart yet be so stupid with your keys?”
Maybe losing my keys is my only chance at being Junie B. and Amelia right now. I want to be the person who doesn’t care where they are and who can handle putting them in a different spot every time and who doesn’t care what time it is when it takes you time to find your keys. I want to be the person who finds it adventurous to lock yourself out. I want to be the person who likes the adventure and likes the search that takes you out of a routine.
I want to be the person who can tell you the story about that time when my hands were full and my friend’s hands were full and my mom’s hands were full and the car was locked and I opened the trunk and put the keys in and closed the trunk. And there we stood with a locked car and keys in the trunk. I want to tell you about the story when I called my dad for the second time in a week because I locked myself out and he said, “How could you have done this again?”
One day I’ll tell you the story. And one day we’ll laugh and we won’t cross off the to-do list that we laughed, we’ll just laugh and we won’t care what time it is.