Friday, August 09, 2013

Transition Complete...Almost!

Please bare with me, this is a long (gestating) post!!
In July I found out that I had passed the exam to earn my Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP) designation. I was ecstatic. All the studying and hard work had paid off. I could now put CHRP behind my name. I had a professional designation that businesses looked for and respected. I could now walk tall in the corporate world.

Getting this designation was the culmination of a year long transition plan I had set out for myself last May. At that point I was in a bad place both personally and professionally.Today I can say I have made a complete turn around. I, honestly, haven't been this happy and healthy in a long, LONG, time.

Last March and April were scary, frustrating months for me. I had been fighting with my doctor about going on blood pressure medication. This situation was not helped by the fact that she had zero bedside manner, and treated my attempts to deal with my high blood pressure through diet and exercise as if I was acting out a Monty Python sketch. But after 2 months of her dire 'you might have a stroke and be in a wheel chair' warnings, I was friggin' worn down. My anxiety was going through the roof with fear of what was going on with my health. My honest attempts to lose weight and exercise were going now where. I had managed to shed 15 lbs, but it made no difference to my blood pressure. It stubbornly stayed high and refused to budge. I started to wonder if something else wasn't affecting it.

Up until that point I think I was only peripherally aware of how unhappy I was at work. Actually, unhappy isn't the right word. I was mired in a negative, soul sucking sludge of an incompatible work culture and a profession that I had not realized that I had started to hate. But I did as so many people do, I solider on and spread toxicity everywhere I went. It, honestly, never occurred to me to cut my loses and get the hell out. I had spent 14 years slaving to get to where I was, and was working at a place I had dreamed being for years. Thank goodness, they recognized it wasn't a good fit.

So last April my employer and I parted ways with a golden handshake. At the time I would have described it as a grudgingly mutual parting. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure my unhappiness was effecting my blood pressure. So I thought the break would be good. Even though I was hurt it didn’t work out, I was also relieved. Truth be told I knew in the first 4 months I was working there I had made a huge mistake. But it is really hard to walk away from a career you have poured yourself into. I now realize that you are almost always the last one to recognize you’re in a rut. You're clueless. Completely in denial. This is where I was. What you don’t perceive is that you are wasting time and energy desperately trying to build up enough momentum to roll out of the rut. But the sides are just too high. So what happens is you get frustrated, and then bitter. You feel unrecognized, scrutinized, unfairly judged, and completely unappreciated, which leads to fear, then anger and finally impotence.  All the while that rut is getting deeper and deeper. I saw none of this. Until I walked out the doors I didn't even realize how negative I had become. I had a lot of soul searching to do. I couldn't continue to do what I had been doing. It wasn't working. And I was adrift.

As I often do, I fell back on an idea I had been toying with for a few months. Some reptilian thing in the back of my mind knew I needed to move on and find a new career, and it had been niggling me to get my CHRP designation for some time. As a teacher, unconsciously at the time, thinking of getting out of academia and into the corporate training world, I knew I was going to need a professional designation to springboard me. If there is one thing corporations don't like to hire, its academics. I speak from experience. I had sent out multiple resumes for corporate training jobs. Nothing. Nada. I ripped those resumes apart and put them back together to get through the HR scanning bots that all companies seem to use today. Still nothing. I tried again. Not once in all those attempts did I even get an interview. So I had to rethink how to get in. I decided to forget my PhD, I was done with academics. I would get my CHRP instead. I was on the slippery diving board of a career transition and I knew the further out I shuffled forward the more frightening and difficult it was going to be. But the time was now. I was going to make sure to take advantage of this break and move in a new direction. Hopefully, I would be making a smooth dive off that board into a new career that would make me happy. Rather than a painful belly flop.

So I spent all of May studying to write the first exam towards my CHRP. Every day I got up and spent 8-10 hours stuffing HR information into my brain, taking practice tests, and thumbing through text books. I then spent 3 hours (the full time given to write the exam) agonizing over every one of my answers. Finally, I handed it in. I could do no more. When I got my results last July, I let out a whoop, and called my Husband while simultaneously pouring a glass of wine. Then I crashed.

No one ever tells you how scary a career transition is. The nagging doubt. How horrible we are to ourselves in our estimation of our abilities. The slowly draining bank account. The shame of having to explain to people why you're not working. The deathly draw of your living room couch and Netflix. I had passed my first exam, but lost something else. I didn't know what it was. So I read books. Lots and lots of books on career transitions, on runaway adults, and on how to live a simpler life in a 3rd world country. I was still adrift.

Then finally something happened. I began to regress. I started to think about my earlier dreams and aspirations. What was it that I had originally wanted to do? I hadn't always wanted to be a teacher. I had to strip away the bullshit. The summers off, the flexible hours. What was it that I really, TRULY liked to do? Project work. Bam! I hated working on something with no end. I hated small iterations of change. I didn't want to be on a big ship with a small rudder. I wanted to move from one project to another. I realized I quit half way through most things because I'm a starter, not an ender. And I was most certainly not a continuer. That all seemed liked pure drudgery. Then a thought floated up. I got my Masters to do curriculum design. Work on set projects that were than left to teachers to continue. Why had I abandon that? I was flummoxed.
Alright, let's give this a try I thought. I applied for 2 curriculum design positions. I got interviews and was offered both. Something was happening. I hoped it was a perfect straight dive. 

On Aug 13, 2012 I started my new job as a curriculum designer. It didn't take me more than a month to fall in love with it and the people I was working with. I loved being able to work in my office uninterrupted for long stretches of time. I appreciated my boss could actually teach me something. I liked the fact my co-workers didn't spend hours bemoaning how awful their jobs were. But my anxiety continued to rage. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling for hours. I had panic attacks at work. Most days I dragged myself home to my couch and didn't have the energy to move. With one issue dealt with, I could no longer deny my health issues. 

I had been dealing with a lot of pain, complete lethargy, a ton of medication and I was spent. So I decided to use the gold from the parting of my last career to have weightloss surgery. I have written extensively about my reasons here

On Aug 13 I will have been at my new career for 1 year. Two weeks ago my boss when on vacation and left me in charge. Now that's a vote of confidence. I am growing and learning and feel like I have opportunties that I haven't had in years. Its a wonderful feeling. 

On Aug 13 it will also be my 6 month surgiverse. I am down 69 lbs. I have 11 more to go. But its hard to apply yourself when you feel great, have so much energy, and can wear skinny jeans. 

This is me last summer in Elkwater, and me this June in Palm Springs. 
 Me in New Orleans for my 'fabulous at 40' birthday trip and me in June in Palm Springs.

No comments: