In about an hour and a half, I’ll be sitting on a panel of speakers from local businesses as a part of Economic Vitality Day for Leadership Skagit. My talented husband, who graduated from the program in 2008, is the moderator of the panel and he asked me to be on it. Apparently, no one else who is organizing the day’s activities objected, a fact which I find hard to believe.
Do you ever feel like you’re faking your life? Here I have a moderately successful business, I’m in charge of a budget, paying bills, managing HR responsibilities, managing purchasing, and strategic management, among lots of other things. I went to school to manage a business, I have excellent advisors in the form of my husband and my parents and still, still I wonder, “who put me in charge?”
It’s sort of the same thing I feel when I really examine my life as a mother. Do those boys know that I haven’t the first clue about parenting?
My 10th college reunion is this fall, and the amount of mail, FaceBook messages, and email I’ve received about it has increased dramatically in the past few weeks. I’ve been thinking about those years at college, thinking about who I was and how I treated others and myself, wishing very hard that I could go back and give myself some advice (if I’d listen). Be nicer to yourself, I’d say. Be more forgiving of everyone here, they’re all under stress. Figure out a way to change your life that doesn’t involve upheaval and cutting out people who were your friends. Calm down and be kind, I’d say.
I still feel like the 19-year-old girl who thought her whole future would be written in those four years, who couldn’t help but strive for some undefined prize given to those who took the most classes and got the best grades (there is no prize). When I finally realized, in the year abroad after I graduated, that what mattered was not that I had graduated with honors but that I had friends to see me through the next few years of upheaval (and vice versa), I felt very lonely and very lost. I went from thinking I had it all figured out to realizing that I had nothing figured out. That feeling has persisted throughout the rest of my adult life.
There’s a small kernel of hope within me that no one else thinks they have it figured out, either. I have learned how to run my business over the past four years with an immense amount of help from friends and family. I know much, much more about running a business now than I did five years ago, when my MBA was fresh and my experience nearly nil. Perhaps that is the lesson I can impart during this panel today: surround yourself with experts and people who want to help you succeed and then try as hard as you can to incorporate their expertise into your actions.
I may have learned it late, but I did learn that the best thing to do was to be excellent to whomever crossed my path (thank you, Bill & Ted). In my life since college I have cultivated relationships, not sabotaged them. And perhaps I am much too hard on myself. Perhaps the few times I was unkind are much larger in my memory than they are in anyone else’s. That’s as it should be, I suppose. We remember our trespasses so we aren’t doomed to repeat them.