It’s Super Bowl Sunday, so in honor of the big game, I’ve pulled together some motivational quotes from football figures:
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”
― Vince Lombardi
“Work isn’t work unless you would rather be doing something else.”
― Don Shula
“It’s not the will to win that matters. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
― Paul “Bear” Bryant
“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
― Lou Holtz
“Success comes in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t come with money and it doesn’t come with fame. It comes from having a meaning in your life, doing what you love and being passionate about what you do. That’s having a life of success. When you have the ability to do what you love, love what you do and have the ability to impact people. That’s having a life of success. That’s what having a life of meaning is.”
― Tim Tebow
“The Enemy of the best is the good. If you’re always settling with what’s good, you’ll never be the best.”
― Jerry Rice
“No matter the circumstances you may be going through, just push through it.”
― Ray Lewis
“A champion is simply someone who did not give up when they wanted to.”
― Tom Landry
“I may win and I may lose, but I will never be defeated.”
Last week, I talked about a prompt, asking people: “What is your story and how have you learned how to embrace it?” I thought I would spend this last week reflecting on my life and trying to draft my own story. But instead of looking back on the past, I found myself preoccupied with the future.
I’ve been pretty open about the fact that having a baby during this sabbatical was never part of the plan. And this big change definitely has me questioning this new path and the news steps in my exploration.
As I mentioned in my previous posts, it’s hard to imagine how I can dedicate time and mental energy to exploring new careers when my son takes up so many of those resources. And from a purely practical (and financial) standpoint, it may make sense for me to return to work full-time, even if it’s in my previous field.
I’ve been thinking about how easy it would be for me to get another high-paying job in the marketing/advertising industry for a few years. We could pay off debts and build up our savings again. And then maybe I could revisit this exploration of new fields after we’re a little more financially comfortable and when my son needs less care.
But as I’ve lamented in past posts — returning to my old field would feel like a waste of this sabbatical. I would be ending this journey without discovering the new career that energizes me.
However, my husband remarked today how he wouldn’t think my sabbatical was a waste. While the goal of the sabbatical was to find that new job I’m passionate about, it’s by no means the only thing I gained from this adventure.
And I’ve been reflecting on some of these unintentional rewards from my sabbatical. A lot of them are skills, mentalities or ways of working that would have served me well in my previous jobs. In fact, some of these things are abilities I had previously convinced myself I was incapable of.
I think the biggest gain from this sabbatical is my liberation from perfection. In a lot of ways, my past obsession with the ideal has been my downfall in previous jobs. It kept me from taking risks, as the unknown was too hard to control. It made me indecisive, so worried about making the wrong choice. It made me quick to anger and fostered a bad attitude in me when things didn’t go as planned.
But I went into this sabbatical knowing that nothing was going to be perfect. I was going to try completely new things. Things I may have no talent for. Things that may not turn out as expected. And that’s exactly what happened.
But it’s all about perspective. And every attempt, every failure was a learning experience. The achievement was in trying and getting something done. Even if it wasn’t perfect.
I think about if I return to my old industry, how different I would be in those roles. I would likely approach the work in ways I never did before. In turn, I may find that some of my previous frustrations with these jobs are no longer an issue. And who knows — with this fresh perspective and new way of working, I may actually find I enjoy that type of work after all.
This week was tough. Ryan went back to work on Monday, which means that this was the first week that I had to take care of Artie alone.
He was pretty fussy, especially in the mornings, and infuriatingly resistant to naps. I was tired and hungry (it’s difficult finding the time to eat when you have a screaming baby). And I felt imposter complex like I had never felt before.
I think what was particularly difficult for me, on a mental level, was knowing that this is going to be my life for the foreseeable future. I know that sounds horrible. I feel like a horrible mother saying it.
But I was faced with the reality that, given our circumstances, it just makes logistical and financial sense for me to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. I even emailed the interior designer I was working for to say that I really didn’t know when I’d be able to come back, and that I’d understand if she needed to find someone else.
What makes this so hard is that for the longest time, this was the opposite of what our plan was. When Ryan and I first started trying to have kids, I was still working full-time, and I was the breadwinner. And we often talked about how Ryan might be a stay-at-home dad.
But that’s not how it panned out. I ended up finally getting pregnant during this sabbatical, when we rely on Ryan’s income.
Yes, I could eventually decide to just go back to work full time. Find another high-paying job that would allow us to afford daycare. But it seems like to do that without figuring out what I’m passionate about would be a waste of this sabbatical.
These are all the thoughts that have been going through my exhausted, overwhelmed, anxiety-riddled brain this week.
But you know something else? Each day was a little easier than the last. And by the end of the week, I was a lot more confident than I was on Monday.
I’m still tired. I’m still unsure of myself. I still worry about the future. But I’m just trying to get through it, one day at a time.
Anyone who has been on Facebook in the last couple of months has undoubtedly seen the decade challenge, where people post a snapshot of themselves (and their lives) from 2009 vs. 2019. It’s been a fun look at just how much can change in a decade!
So, as this year — and decade — come to a close, I thought it’d be fun to do my own decade challenge, both from a professional and personal standpoint.
Ten years ago, I was still a relatively recent transplant to the Bay Area. After dropping out of my Museum Studies graduate program at NYU the year prior and moving back to California, I was feeling pretty lost — in my career and in life. And being in the middle of the recession, professional opportunities were few and far between, especially in the arts.
So, my career — if you can call it that — began with whatever I could get. And in the summer of 2019, I started in the fundraising department at a health-focused non-profit. It was by no means what I had imagined myself doing professionally, but at least it was something.
In my personal life, I was single and living in San Francisco for the first time. I had just gotten back into theater, having done my first show in the Bay Area early in the year. By the end of the year, I had gotten cast in a production of Man of La Mancha at Altarena Playhouse — a show that would change my life forever.
This was also a time in my life when I still felt the pressure to follow a ‘typical’ path: graduating college, going on to graduate school or entering the workforce, and working my way up in the field, gaining higher and higher job titles and making more and more money. I felt embarrassed for dropping out of my graduate program and quitting my job at an arts center in New York. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been happy with that path — all I could think about was that I had given up the prestige of a Master degree and an impressive job title (Assistant Director).
It was a year of new beginnings but also a time when I was still figuring so many things out.
Ten years later, and it is interesting how drastically my life has changed while I simultaneously find myself in a very similar place.
2019 was also marked by new beginnings. Having quit my job the year before and being essentially unemployed for the first time in ten years, I found myself exploring different fields and taking on new creative projects. Among other things, I helped launch a podcast, I went back to school, and I dedicated myself to maintaining this blog to document my journey.
My personal life couldn’t look any more different. In the last decade, I met Ryan (during that life-changing production of Man of La Mancha), got married and had my first child (welcome, Artie!).
But the biggest change would be in my philosophy on life and career, my priorities and my definition of success. In 2009, I was focused on the prestige of job title and salary. I was a perfectionist who saw criticism as a sign of failure rather than an opportunity for growth. And I was pretty risk-averse, too scared to pursue the unknown.
Ten years later, I put passion over prestige. Mistakes are valuable lessons. And the unknown is still scary but also very, very exciting.
Ryan and I have been going to couples counseling for the last several months. It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for years, even before we got married. And it’s something I’d recommend to any couple, even if you don’t think you have any issues in your relationship. It’s just nice to have an objective person in the room to help guide you.
One of the first things our therapist focused on was helping me and Ryan identify our individual ‘core emotional needs’. As the name suggests, these are the top, most important emotional needs that must be met in a relationship in order to feel trust, connection and fulfillment.
The exercise was illuminating. Not only did it help separate the ‘must-haves’ from the ‘like-to-haves’, it also made it clear that Ryan and I have different core emotional needs. I would think that a lot of couples do. The problem was that we were giving to each other what we needed emotionally, not what our partner needed.
And this is where the exercise was also very validating:
I will admit that I am spoiled by Ryan. Whether he is taking a 2-hour public transit ride to surprise me at rehearsal or letting me get away with doing less than half of the housework, Ryan treats me better than most husbands treat their wives and forgives a lot more than most husbands would. And so I felt crazy and selfish that I wasn’t completely happy in my marriage.
But the thing is: while I was spoiled with a lot of great things from Ryan, some of my core emotional needs weren’t being met. And it wasn’t his fault — he didn’t know my needs; even I wouldn’t have been able to suss out these needs before doing the exercise with our therapist.
And this is a long lead up to say that I think this concept of core emotional needs can translate over to our professional lives, as well. When I reflect on my last few jobs, especially my most recent position at Facebook, I remember constantly beating myself up for feeling unsatisfied. I was being paid a lot, I had amazing benefits, I didn’t have work particularly long hours. What was wrong with me that I was so unhappy???
You know where I’m going with this — my core emotional needs weren’t being met.
I’ve done a lot of career exercises in the past, identifying the parts of my jobs that I like the most. These are the things that energize and inspire me. But now I’m thinking that I have to dig a little deeper. Maybe it’s not enough to itemize the aspects of a career that I enjoy; I must find those things that I need.
And a lot of my core emotional needs in my marriage probably translate into my career:
Empowerment: In my personal relationships, I like to feel like I have an effect on people. Whether that’s motivating someone or giving them butterflies, I get satisfaction from this feeling of power over other people. I can see how I might have this emotional need in the professional sphere, as well — this need to feel like my work is having some type of effect. It’s probably why I started my career in the non-profit sector.
Recognition as Special/Unique: This need was two-fold — not only does it entail needing to feel like I fulfill a unique role in my romantic partner’s life, but I also need public recognition from my partner for how special I am to them. I can definitely find parallels in my work life. I had always felt happiest when I have a special skill on my team that others didn’t and always enjoyed shout-outs at work.
Safe Danger/Adventure: I like fun surprises, exploration, trying new things … but without too much risk. And I know in my professional life, I definitely need that variety as well, but I get overwhelmed if I’m pushed too far outside of my element.
Security/Planning: In my romantic relationships, this need means that I feel like my partner and I are working as a team to plan for the future, and that it’s not just me doing all the long-term planning work. And I can see this group-planning aspect being a need at work. I always enjoyed brainstorming and working as a team in my past jobs.
I definitely want to do more reflecting on my core emotional needs in the professional sphere and see if more bubble to the surface. With these identified, I might be able to better navigate and focus my future career exploration in the upcoming year.
When posed with the prompt, “So, tell me about yourself,” I think most of us would dive in with a description of our job:
“Well, I’m a marketing manager at Facebook. I write about their advertising products for small businesses.”
It’s not completely surprising. For those who work full-time, the majority of your waking hours are spent at work. It’s no wonder that our job becomes so much a part of our identity, even when we don’t feel personally connected to our work.
It’s been interesting trying to fill that identity gap during this sabbatical. From updating my LinkedIn profile to filling out paperwork, it’s hard to decide how to self-identify.
Most recently, I had to fill out the birth certificate information for Artie. The form asked for the parents’ professions, and I didn’t know how to answer.
Though on maternity leave at the moment, I have been working as a part-time interior design assistant. But since I’m not sure if this is the path I’m going to pursue, for some reason it felt false to put that down as my profession.
I’ve been a student for the last year. But because I’m likely going to take the next semester off and am not sure if I’ll even continue the program, it also didn’t seem right to identify as a student.
I’ve been publishing this blog for over a year, so maybe I could identify as a writer. Or there’s also my work as a podcast producer, which I’ve also been doing for a year. But, I don’t make any money doing these things, so once again, it didn’t feel right noting those as my profession.
Well, I’ve been acting here in the Bay Area for over 10 years, and while it’s not enough to support me, I do make money from it. Maybe I’ll identify as an actor! No, no, the little amount of money I make from that is too laughable to be considered a profession.
The woman helping me fill out the forms stared at me as I mulled over my response, and I could tell that her patience was waning.
“Well, I’m not really working at the moment,” I blurted out.
“Ok, so homemaker?” she replied.
Of course this designation was probably the most ridiculous thing I could put down. I, by no means, keep up the household. Ryan probably does more around the apartment than I do. But I couldn’t think of anything else, so I let the answer remain.
I blamed the incident on being utterly exhausted, but even now, being slightly less sleep-deprived, it’s hard to know how I’d answer that question. Of course, why does our work even have to take the primary position of our identity?
Maybe I should embrace this period when I have no full-time job as a time when I can finally be liberated from the profession-based identity.
“So, tell me about yourself.”
Well, I thrive and really get into “flow” when I’m doing something creative, especially some DIY project. Also, when dancing to ‘90’s hip hop. It’s all about those throwback jams.
I love being social, but can be pretty lazy about organizing social gatherings myself. I’m much better at just being invited to the party.
And speaking of being social, I get along with people pretty easily, but am slow to really be close to people. So, I do great in groups but can be awkward in 1-on-1 interactions until I trust you enough.
I’m prettyreally bad at just letting myself relax and be unproductive.
I’m more likely to like your cat or dog more than your baby. Except my baby. My baby is the best.
I love trivia and word puzzles. I identify as a foodie but wish there was a better label than “foodie.”
And for better or for worse, I like to think that I live honestly, even when the truth hurts. Not particularly good. Not particularly bad. But at least honest.
We talk about our jobs and let that speak for our identity as a whole. But maybe we should be doing the opposite — really digging into the many facets of our identity and letting that guide our careers.
So, what’s a cat-crazed, Jeopardy-obsessed, food-loving creative weirdo shaking her booty to “No Diggity” to do?
I never expected to be following up a blog about new additions with a post about loss. But that’s how quickly the world can change.
This past Tuesday, December 3, my aunt Donna Lee Domingo passed away unexpectedly at the age of 58.
I got the news Tuesday afternoon, and by early Wednesday morning, Ryan, Artie and I were in the car, making the journey down to San Diego to say goodbye.
I thought this post was going to be my long tribute to her … that by now, I’d be able to gather my thoughts and tell her story. But I still find myself struggling to find the words.
To sum up someone you knew your whole life, who was such a big personality, is a gargantuan task. I’m not sure a blog post could truly capture her spirit and the impact she had on my life. Hell, a whole novel could hardly do the trick.
Auntie Donna was someone you just had to experience. And I’m so lucky to have experienced her for 35 years.
She had had health issues for years and even some scares, but she always bounced back. We had even recently talked about going to Hawai’i for her 60th birthday. Now, all I can think about are stolen futures that will never be.
I’m devastated that she never got to meet Artie. But I’m happy that she at least got to see pictures of him and that I got to speak to her on the phone after he was born.
Right now, I’m dealing with “what ifs” and guilt.
I had thought about calling her the night before she died, as she was in the hospital (for what we thought was just another scare that would quickly be resolved). But the baby was fussy and I thought maybe Donna had probably already been inundated with calls, so I decided I would call her the next day. When I called that next day, I got her voicemail, and later that day, I would find out it was because it was too late.
Not everything in my life needs to tie back to my sabbatical or be some big life lesson. But I can’t help to think about two big messages that are coming through to me in the wake of this tragedy. The first is inspired by her life and that is to live big, fully, and honestly. And the second comes from the loss and that is to never put off the things that your gut is telling you to do.
Maybe some day I’ll be able to sit down and write my story of her. But for now, I just will say, I miss her more than words could ever convey.
Well, it’s been a busy week. A busy life-changing. So busy, I’m posting this week’s blog two days late.
Why so busy? Well, exactly a week ago, we finally got to meet this little dude:
To say this last week has been one of the hardest in my life is an understatement. Slowly healing from a tough delivery while desperately trying to care for an often fussy newborn has been exhausting and, yes, humbling. There have been sleepless nights. There have been tears. But every day gets a little better. A little easier. A little more self-assured.
What’s been really interesting is how much one week has been able to so strongly reinforce some of my biggest learnings from a whole year of my sabbatical:
Some things are simply out of your control
I’ve written a lot about coping with things that are out of your control. Well, it turns out when it came to hurrying along our little guy’s entrance into the world, I did have a little bit of control, as we ended up scheduling an elective induction. But that is where the control stopped.
At one point, I wasn’t dilating as fast as expected. And throughout most of my labor, we were dealing with issues with regulating the baby’s heart rate. When it came to the actual delivery, we had do a vacuum-assist delivery — turns out our not-so-little guy was 9.5 lbs!
I ended up having some major tearing, leaving me a lot more incapacitated post-delivery than I expected. And my recovery will be a longer road than originally anticipated.
It’s been frustrating having to balance my own healing with caring for a newborn.
But when things are out of your control and don’t go according to plan, the only thing you can do is adapt and pivot.
The plan will change
Ryan and I spent months getting our home and ourselves ready for the baby. We revamped the apartment. We got all of our baby supplies. We took all of the available prenatal classes. We had a plan in place about what the routine would look like when little Artie joined us.
But you know what? Newborns don’t give a fuck about plans.
That carefully planned breastfeeding schedule? Yeah, it’s kind of hard to follow when your baby throws tantrums every time you try to get him to latch.
The fancy bassinet you bought? It ends up going unused for those first few nights when your newborn seems to only be able to sleep when you hold him.
We’ve had to adjust and try new things. And we will no doubt have to continuously change up the plan.
It’s all about prioritizing
As I mentioned above, we’ve had some issues with breastfeeding. It’s been difficult to get Artie into position to breastfeed without him crying his head off.
Any new mom can attest to the fact that everyone will hammer in the idea that “breast is best” and how important it is to breastfeed. You’ll also hear things about holding off on bottle feeding for at least the first couple of weeks in order to avoid nipple confusion.
Yes, all very important. But you know what else is important? Making sure your baby is being fed enough!
This was especially important for Artie because his bilirubin levels were high and the best way to bring those down is to feed and poop them out (yes, you get to hear about poop in this blog).
My original plan was to exclusively breastfeed in the beginning. But at the end of the day, the biggest priority was making sure Artie got the sustenance he needed. So, in the end, we’ve needed to supplement with formula and bottle feed him with pumped breast milk.
And you know what? He’s perfectly healthy, his bilirubin levels got down, and he has even gotten better about latching onto the breast.
The road ahead
Having a baby is really like being pushed into the deep end. Nothing can truly prepare you for the realities. But I’m looking forward to seeing how the experiences, challenges and trials from this crazy adventure will manifest in new skills and perspectives that I can apply to my career exploration.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about impatience. Specially, I discussed my natural habit of getting impatient when activities take longer than I think; when things don’t go to plan so I have to shift gears, delaying my end goal; when my energy or motivation don’t match the rigorous pace I’ve set for myself, making me quickly fall behind on my original schedule.
It all centered around action and activity. But recently, I’ve experienced a type of impatience that has stemmed from something 1000x more frustrating: knowing an end result is on its way (eventually) but that its arrival is out of my control. In short, knowing that I can’t do anything but wait.
Today is my due date. And our little guy has shown no signs of exiting.
For the last week and a half, I’ve tried almost every trick in the book to try to induce labor. I’ve bounced on the yoga ball. I’ve done squats. I’ve taken evening primrose oil. I’ve gone on long walks. I’ve gotten foot reflexology. I’ve listened to hypnosis videos. And on the TMI end of the spectrum (sorry, mom and dad), I’ve tried nipple stimulation, sex and orgasms.
But none of these actions have contributed. He doesn’t seem to have moved any lower. I haven’t had any contractions. And other signs that labor is nigh are nowhere to be seen.
It appears my son has inherited my stubbornness and is staying snuggly in the comforts of my uterus.
For someone like me, it’s difficult to resign myself to the fact that some things are simply out of my control … that there is really nothing I can do to influence the outcome. No pivoting. No adjusting the plan. Just … waiting.
This has been and will be a new test for me — what to do when there is nothing to do. How to cope with having no control over anything but my own mindset. Learning how to just wait.
And it will be interesting to see how I can use this experience — and the skills that I (hopefully) gain from it — in my career exploration and sabbatical.
We’ll all just have to WAIT and see.
…..No. Oh no. I can’t end with a cheesy line like that. Let me instead end with a comment I recently made to a friend:
“It’s definitely humbling realizing that there is so much about this that I don’t have control over.”
I sat in a check-in meeting with my manager at Facebook, going over a gargantuan project that was completely overwhelming me. I was leading the creation of a brand new internal website that was going to be used as a resource for a number of our ad sales teams.
There were pages upon pages of copy to be written. A brand new design to be developed. Special coding needed to be used to let us display different content to different people based on their location and sales team. We needed to find a sustainable way to make sure the information we included was staying up-to-date, as our ad products were always changing. Some of the content needed to be translated into 20+ languages. Oh, and everything needed to be reviewed and approved by numerous people.
Like I said — a gargantuan task.
I rattled off the large list of to-dos, hoping to get some guidance on how best to proceed (and yes, maybe a little sympathy). My manager replied, “Ok, but what’s the MVP?”
I stared blankly at my manager for a minute. Hadn’t I just outlined the long list of needs for this new, revamped, ideal website? I started in on the list again, when my manager quickly interjected: “No, what’s the MVP?”
Now, here’s something you will quickly learn if you ever work in the tech industry: tech people love to use acronyms. And they love to use them without explaining what they mean, assuming everyone else already knows what they mean (we don’t). I don’t know if it’s to save time or just to create some exclusive culture with its own language, but acronyms are de rigueur in the world of tech.
Having grown up in a sports family, to me, MVP stands for “most valuable player.” The best. The top. So, when I hear MVP with regards to this project, I think of what the perfect, ideal product would be.
But from the context of this conversation, I had a feeling my manager meant something different. So I slowly countered, “I don’t think I understand. What do you mean by MVP?”
“Minimal viable product.”
According to Wikipedia, “a minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development.” So, you know, the opposite of what I originally thought.
I sat there shocked. The perfectionist in me was appalled at the idea of releasing something that was just the bare minimum. Nor did I expect this to be something that was encouraged in a company with seemingly limitless resources.
But upon further reflection, I started to understand the sentiment. Facebook used to have an internal mantra: “Move fast and break things”. The idea was to just get something released (even if there were bugs or we knew things wouldn’t work perfectly) in order to test and iterate. With so many people using Facebook, it would be quick to get enough data to see how to update/fix things. Of course, this didn’t really account for the damaging effects on public opinion, so I should mention that this is no longer a motto (now, it’s just “Move Fast”).
After the meeting, I begrudgingly revisited the project and tried to “trim the fat”, figuring out what was the bare minimum we could do to get this website released. I hated it. But we got the project completed. Well, a version of the project. And it was another thing I could check off my list.
So, why am I talking about some project I did back in my days in tech? Well, it hasn’t been until this sabbatical, and really in these last few months as I’ve prepared for the arrival of our little guy, that I’ve finally understood the value of just aiming for the minimal viable product, the MVP.
Because working toward the MVP isn’t necessarily about compromising and accepting less; it’s about prioritizing and really identifying what’s most important.
Here’s a big example:
When Ryan and I ultimately decided that we would stay in our current apartment rather than moving, we knew we had a lot of work to get done in order to fix up our place and make it comfortable for our expanding family. In my head, I had this picture of what our perfect, redesigned apartment would look like and set out to make an extensive project plan and schedule.
But, of course, life got in the way. And we quickly got behind. I soon became overwhelmed balancing the apartment revamp with other obligations like school, theater, work, etc. This undertaking seemed daunting, and I had no idea how we were going to get everything done.
Then, I realized. We don’t need to get everything done.
So, Ryan and I sat down and sorted our to-do’s into four categories:
And like that, a weight was lifted off of my chest. This task was suddenly conquerable.
And with the baby due any day now, I can say that we’ve pretty much made it through our ‘must-haves’ and have even checked off some of the ‘love-to-haves’ and ‘like-to-haves’.
It’s not that we won’t get to the other items on our list. We just don’t need to feel the pressure to get to them right now.
Because when everything is important, nothing is important.