I have spent much of my life thinking that Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life. You will notice I did not say Today. My life choices were mostly safe, practical, responsible … with adventure and passion taking a back seat to the necessities of family and routine. But I always admired people who took the road less traveled. Hearing their stories allowed me to live vicariously through them with the hope that my future would “some how” be different.
Until that future was in sight, I figured I just needed to pay my dues. But what I have learned over the years is that you can’t conduct your entire life looking to the future. It is important to be present in today and to live your life fully each day. Easier said than done, right? With life comes commitments and obligations that influence the choices we make and though I’m not advocating chucking all your responsibilities, you also have a responsibility to yourself. Tomorrow may come and go until one day, you realize time is up and you never had the courage to “be” or “become” your authentic self.
Now, there may be plenty of people who will never experience such a dilemma, for me though, it’s an ongoing journey. Over the years, I have had internal urges for change or reinvention. In 2007 I left a lucrative, 10 year career in tech to pursue teaching. I wanted a new challenge and to feel an added sense of purpose. Life invariably got in the way and I did not have the fortitude to see that through. When a colleague gave me the opportunity, one year later to go back into industry, I took it. Looking back, I think I took the easy way out, but I don’t regret that decision too much. At that time, I was not truly ready and going back to software engineering provided enough stability such that I can make this leap of faith now.
It has now been 2 months since I left my safe job for a second time. Each day is an adjustment. We place so much self identity in what we do for work, especially if we are fairly competent in our jobs. When we are no longer in that place, some part of us feels lost. I am no exception, but the irony is that my identity as a software engineer, or even as a woman engineer, is not the identity I would have first chosen. It came about out of practicality and necessity. Still over the years, this identity has been ingrained in me and I do take some pride in it. I am proud that I worked hard to become good at my job. Also proud to be in the company of a minority of women engineers working and mostly thriving in tech. The current trends for women in technology are not so good, and in a way I feel that I have abandoned that cause, becoming yet another statistic of how women either don’t pursue or don’t stay in careers in science and engineering. But I am not really abandoning technology or throwing away the experiences I have gained. Rather I am looking to incorporate those experiences into new self development opportunities, managed on my own terms. For the moment, I’m not entirely sure of what the future holds, but I feel very encouraged about the possibilities.