Posts Tagged career

Waiting for My Vision

I left my job in May.  I didn’t have a horrific boss and wasn’t forced to work long hours.  Day-to-day things really weren’t that bad.  So why did I quit?

It may sound idealistic, but I want to wake up and be excited to go to work.  After two acquisitions, I was no longer in a corporate culture of my choosing; I wasn’t motivated to excel.  I don’t want to work just to have a place to pass time and earn money.

Life at Work

supercomputer

Ms. HalfEmpty coding in a server room…at work, of course!

My degree is in computer science, but over the years it has become increasingly clear that it’s not my passion.  I always got A’s in school and certainly have an aptitude for it, but the interest just isn’t there.  I was never the girl who had a server farm in her basement, spending each evening coding my own side projects.  In fact, I don’t think I would ever code for enjoyment.

In 2010, I stopped coding.  I left my project as a software engineer and looked for other projects within the company.  This was incredibly eye-opening.

I didn’t think it would be difficult to find a non-coding job.  I had built a reputation as a solid employee.  Surely, someone would want me on their team.

And they did…to code.

I would apply for job after job.  But all the calls I got were for software engineering positions.  My résumé had marked me as a software engineer, and no one wanted to hire me for anything else.

After a while, the phone interviews got a bit comical.  A manager would call me and ask all sorts of detailed technical questions about frameworks and design patterns.  After a few questions, I asked which job he was filling.  Invariably, it would be the software engineering role, when I had applied for a different position on the same project.

Eventually, I did end up in a project management role, and later, a consulting role.  I was grateful for the opportunities and did well, but still wasn’t inspired.  I held out hope that there could be something more.  But staying in the same environment wasn’t helping me get there.

When I announced my departure, everyone wanted to know what I was leaving to do.  I didn’t have a good answer…or a plan.

Deciding to Leave

Palisades Park

Ms. HalfEmpty had it rough as she napped around the world!

Quitting my job was scary.  It was a lucrative career; I was the breadwinner of my household.  Financially, I worried if things would work out. Without my regular income, I would be living off savings. I wondered how long that would be feasible.

But part of my assurance came from the 30/40 World Tour.  Last year, I was on a Leave of Absence for 3 months with no income while traveling around the world. Plus, I was spending money to travel, while still maintaining mortgages and car payments back home. So that was reassuring and gave me a little more confidence to take the plunge.

Life After Work

I had a surprisingly rough time over the summer.  At first, I was quite industrious. I started taking things apart in the house.

I spent more time on my home desktop computer, which is near the hall bathroom.  This caused me to notice an intermittent drip from the toilet.  It was so infrequent that it was hard to pinpoint. It didn’t occur immediately after flushing, and I could never see the actual drip. Eventually, I got fed up and decided to replace everything in the tank. I’ve replaced flappers, but never actually removed a toilet tank.

As a teacher, Mr. HalfFull was off for the summer, but he was taking grad school classes from 7-10 PM. Of course, I started this repair project while he was in class. At around 9 PM, I realized that I needed a hacksaw to shorten the new pipe. So I was done for the night.  Upon his return, Mr. HalfFull was rather surprised to find his toilet in pieces on the floor!

Ceiling Fan

Oh Ceiling Fan, your incessant ticks kept me up at night!

Then I tackled the ceiling fan in my bedroom. It started making an intermittent ticking noise that made it difficult to sleep because it was so irregular and nonrhythmic. The airflow in my bedroom isn’t that great, making the fan especially critical in the summer.

So I took it apart. Don’t worry, I put it back together too. And the noise stopped!

Then I noticed a dripping sound in the master bathroom toilet and decided to replace that one too. By then I was a pro, armed with a hacksaw and plumbers wrench ahead of time!

During this time, Mr. HalfFull became fearful of what he would find in pieces when he returned home.  He was especially worried that his TV and stereo system would be disassembled with cords and cables all over the place.  But his fear was unfounded!

Eventually, I ran out of projects around the house and wondered what I was supposed to do with myself. Since Mr. HalfFull was taking classes on a compressed summer schedule, he had papers to write every week. He seemed busy and productive. But what should I be doing?

I thought that being spontaneous and unscheduled would be wonderful. I was no longer stuck at a desk during business hours. But it wasn’t wonderful. I had no purpose. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing.

You may be reading this wondering how I could be so unhappy with a decision I made myself. I wasn’t laid off. I wasn’t fired. It was completely my decision to leave.

I was happy that I left, but it was hard to not know what I was going toward. I’m a planner. I’m practical. What the heck was I doing?

Vision of the Future

Time Travel

What is the nature of time?  When will Ms. HalfEmpty’s vision come?

Over the summer, I read a book called Einstein’s Dreams about the nature of time. The short chapters each tell a fable based on a different theoretical flow of time — circular, captured, frozen, etc. One passage in particular spoke to me:

This is a world of changed plans, of sudden opportunities, of unexpected visions. For in this world, time flows not evenly but fitfully and, as consequence, people receive fitful glimpses of the future.

For those who have had their vision, this is a world of guaranteed success. Few projects are started that do not advance a career. Few trips are taken that do not lead to the city of destiny. Few friends are made who will not be friends in the future. Few passions are wasted.

For those who have not had their vision, this is a world of inactive suspense. How can one enroll in university without knowing one’s future occupation? How can one set up an apothecary on Marktgasse when a similar shop might do better on Spitalgasse? How can one make love to a man when he may not remain faithful? Such people sleep most of the day and wait for their vision to come.

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Without my vision, I spent much of the summer slumbering. Naps are divine, but I was using them as an escape. When you have no plan, it’s much easier to sleep than seize the day. It requires no planning, and you can’t fail.

But I really wanted that vision of my future. In fact, I still do. I want to know the right path for me. I want to know that my efforts are not wasted. I want to know the future.

  • Have you ever left a job without a fully defined plan?  Why?
  • Have you made a career change?  How did you reinvent yourself?
  • Have you been surprised by the emotional aftermath of a decision you willingly made for yourself?
  • What home repair projects have you tackled yourself?  Did you take your household by surprise?
  • Have you had your vision?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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The Heroine’s Journey?

Stereotypical around-the-world trips seem to be undertaken by youthful backpackers eager to explore (and apparently party across) the world — those who just graduated from high school, those on college break, or recent college grads.  I certainly don’t fit this mold; I’m older, married, have career experience, mortgages, and car payments.  And most importantly, I’m at a crossroads.

The old model of “maid, matron, crone” for women’s lives was based on a much shorter average life-span.  Modern technology, over the past 150 years, has literally doubled the life expectancy of women in industrial societies (from 40 to 45 years to 80 to 90 years).  With lower birth rates, “matron” takes less of a bite than ever out of the prime years, and the debilitation of old age is pushed off for decades.  This gives instead a life structure of “maid, matron, 20-or-30-year-blank, crone.”  There are no historical social models for that second-maturity period.  It’s something our time is having to invent.

I am most definitely in that “20-or-30-year-blank” period, attempting my second maturity.  Hopefully, my 30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion will help me usher in this next phase of life.

The Power of Myth book cover

Today Mr. HalfFull sees this defining book from his college years in a new light

I’m not a fan of ancient mythology, fantasy, or science fiction genres, but Mr. HalfFull recently suggested to me that perhaps our trip really is a quest.  Of course, we dubbed the trip a Quest for Passion, but it’s somewhat in jest and mostly because it sounds awesome! =)  Yet Mr. HalfFull now contends that I may be on “The Hero’s Journey,” which he learned about in the early 90’s (when I was a 10-year-old…haha) watching “The Power of Myth” hosted by Bill Moyers on PBS.

I begrudgingly watched that old interview with Joseph Campbell, and was pleasantly surprised to find that much of it resonates with me today as I ponder my upcoming trip.  Campbell asserts that there are two kinds of hero journeys — heroic acts and spiritual journeys.  Obviously, mine would be a spiritual journey, which is described as a death and resurrection, like the transition from childhood to adulthood.  This type of journey involves a going and a return, which is exactly my plan.  Campbell also discusses how spiritual journeys must be taken intentionally, rather than being conscripted.  The only thing certain in my mind is that I’m ready and willing to go.  As Mr. HalfFull would say, “Let’s light this candle!”

Chart outlining The Hero's Journey

Chart outlining The Hero's Journey

The basic outline of the hero’s journey comprises three major stages:  a departure (before the quest), initiation (adventures along the way), and return (with new knowledge from the journey).  The first stage in the departure is a “call to adventure.”  Mr. HalfFull and I have been thinking about our round-the-world trip for years.  Well, he came up with the initial vision, and I’ve been thinking (and stressing) about it for years!  My ISTJ nature persisted in channeling his ENFP energy, so together we could sort out the minutiae that renders a quest of this magnitude possible.  We have truly inspired adventure in one another.

However, I had my doubts about this whole heroine’s journey when I saw the next step of departure, titled “refusal of the call.”  Hmm.  Well, we have talked about the trip for years, but did we go?  No.  We considered going after our wedding in 2009.  We considered going last summer in anticipation of our 30th and 40th birthdays.  Whoa, twice we refused to heed the call to adventure in the past!  Thankfully, we have now been inspired by “supernatural aid.”  In our case, events in our professional lives conspired to lead us toward travel this summer.  Mr. HalfFull changed careers, becoming a teacher with summers off.  Meanwhile, I’d never felt passionate about my career, and my small company was sold twice, finally being absorbed into one of the largest companies in the world.  I don’t know what I want professionally, but I definitely don’t feel a meaningful connection to this revenue-fueled behemoth.  So here we are, ready to cross the mythical threshold in five weeks.

feet on the beach

Belly of the Whale? Nope, just Ms. HalfEmpty's feet.

The final step in the departure phase is the “belly of the whale,” which represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.  Campbell explains that within the context of the belly of the whale, water represents the unconscious.  Much of my trip revolves around water since most of my destinations are island nations.  So as I lay on the beach looking out at the water, I’ll have to try to figure out what my unconscious is telling me.

The second major state of a hero’s journey is initiation, which involves trials.  This scares me a bit, but I do realize that you can’t grow if you don’t challenge and test yourself.  Campbell thinks of these trials as losing yourself and giving of yourself in order to transform your consciousness.  I wonder what revelations await me…

Campbell also believes that the landscape and conditions match the readiness of the adventurer.  So the hero will not get more than he is prepared to handle — not what he thinks he can handle, but what the universe knows he can handle.  So at least I’ve got that going for me!

According to Campbell, as humans we all operate in relation to a system that is governed by our minds.  The key is to operate within our humanity, governed by our heart and spirit.  From a young age, we are conditioned to align with a programmatic life: sitting still in our school desks and raising our hands to speak, while learning to play by society’s rules.  I am particularly susceptible to this, and Mr. HalfFull often jokingly refers to me as a robot, while trying to bring me back to the human side.  [“Robot is a bit cold; she’s more of a cyborg,” says Mr. HalfFull.  Darth Vader would approve!]

Empty Coffee Cup

Nirvana? Maybe I just need a refill!

Apparently, the goal of this whole heroine’s journey is to find a place of rest and repose within myself.  To allow action to come from my center, so as not to create tension.  Campbell explains that ideas like Nirvana are not actual physical places, but rather a psychological state of mind where one is not compelled by desire, fear, or social commitments.  Sounds like a tall order for Ms. HalfEmpty, but definitely a worthy goal. Perhaps this suggests that my quest for passion might culminate within myself as well.  For now this heroine remains content with her current itinerary, searching for Nirvana with Mr. HalfFull along some of the world’s loveliest beaches or perhaps at the bottom of a cup of coffee.

Campbell mostly speaks to the hero’s journey; I’ve read that the stages of the heroine’s journey are similar, but the circumstances are different.  The journey of a female hero

…does not involve swinging a big, phallic sword like a man (or Joan of Arc), nor defying patriarchal oppression. She does not run away from her evil father, pretend to be a man, or move off to an Amazonian commune. Her struggle is to find her own way at a time in her life when all her previous duties and roles are gone, when she doesn’t know who she is anymore, and is in a spiritual crisis.

Wow, that last sentence really resonates with me.  Let’s break down my current existential crisis:

  • Struggling to find a path that works for me (check)
  • At a time when my previous professional role is gone (check)
  • While feeling like I don’t know who I should be (check)
  • Spiritual crisis (well, I’m more of an agnostic, but sure, check)

It has been suggested that the final return phase is also different for heroines.  Crossing the return threshold often involves a meeting with the heroine’s parents.  Coincidentally, my parents will probably be picking us up from the airport when we return in August.

Mr. HalfFull, perhaps I really am a heroine on a journey…

  • Where did you travel as a youthful backpacker?
  • Do you enjoy ancient mythology, fantasy, or science fiction genres?
  • Have you embarked on a hero or heroine’s journey?
  • Is Mr. HalfFull getting me swept up in his flair for the dramatic?
  • Can Nirvana be found at the bottom of a cup of coffee?
  • Is simply traveling enough, or does a framework of meaning add value?
  • Do you tend to follow your mind or your heart/spirit?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion

Mr. HalfFull and I plan to spend the summer traveling around the world.  We’ve dubbed this trip “30/40 World Tour:  Quest for Passion.”  What does that mean???  I am 30-years-old and Mr. HalfFull is 40-years-old.  These are supposed to be big decade birthdays, so we decided to do something big — namely, travel around the world!

We have been thinking about this trip for years and even did a more local honeymoon in anticipation of this world tour.  We are both very excited and rather “half full” about the trip.

The “Quest for Passion” part of the trip is more of my personal goal as Ms. HalfEmpty.  I read many blogs that encourage pursuing your passion and doing what you love.  But what if you don’t know what that is?

I know what I don’t want to do and have been transitioning my career, but the right path for me has been elusive.  I hope that a change of scenery including new people and cultures will provide me with some clarity.  Even if that does not occur, I know it will be a memorable experience and add many coffees and stories to my life.

We plan to travel for 10 weeks from June to August and will be posting here all summer to share our adventures with you.  We will start in DC and fly to LA.  Our original plan was to move time zones slowly and get acclimated, but sometimes flight schedules change plans!  We will only be in LA for 12 hours and plan to take the Big Blue Bus to Marina del Rey for lunch, a nice walk, dinner, and the sunset.  Then we will head back to the airport to leave the country!


View 30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion in a larger map

Our first international location is Fiji.  We are looking forward to relaxing on the beach and sailing between the islands.  This will be a great opportunity to recharge and get in the travel frame of mind.

After a week in Fiji, we are off to New Zealand for three weeks.  We will be visiting during their winter season and are a bit worried about the clothing situation.  We are each taking one carry-on bag, which does not provide much space for bulkier winter gear.  We may stick mainly to the warmer North Island, but hope to visit the South Island and maybe even rent some gear to ski.

View over New Zealand

We will log many flight miles!

Then we fly to Noumea, which is known as the Paris of the South Pacific.  The city is located in the island country of New Caledonia.  Mr. HalfFull read about Noumea as a kid and always wanted to visit.  We plan to sip delicious coffee and munch on baguettes in cafes.  As an added bonus, we will both get to practice our French!

After realizing we forgot more French than expected, we head back to the English-speaking land of Australia.  We will fly into Sydney and discover the city for a few days before joining a “bus safari” to Melbourne.

Our flight from Melbourne will take us to Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar.  My cousin got married in Mauritius last summer and after seeing the photos, we had to go!

After a week of sun and sand, we will head to Dubai for more sun and sand!  We only have a quick layover in Dubai, but hope to get a sense of the place and avoid temperatures over 100 degrees for too long.

The remainder of our trip will be in Europe, starting in Munich for a few days to see family.  Spain is the final country of the 30/40 World Tour.  We will fly into Barcelona and eventually make our way to Madrid to meet up with Vaugan Town, an English immersion program for Spaniards.  The program (including 4-star-hotel accommodations and food) is free for native English speakers, who are there to help increase the fluency of Spanish business people.  I first heard about this program from The Professional Hobo and was intrigued.  Mr. HalfFull and I applied and were accepted for a session in Barco de Avila.

After our adventures in Spain, we will head back to Washington, DC with a trip around the world under our belts and perhaps a new perspective.

  • Have you ever traveled around the world?  What advice do you have for us?
  • Have you visited any of the countries on the 30/40 World Tour?  Are there must-see locations or foods you highly recommend?  Do you have housing recommendations?
  • Have you found your passion?  Did it require searching?
  • By calling it “Quest for Passion,” am I putting too much pressure on the trip?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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