When I grow up, I want to be…

Throughout my youth, I would have answered one of the following: pediatrician, teacher, aeronautical engineer (thanks to Apollo 13 and a visit to space camp in AL), psychiatrist (until I realized they really only dole out drugs and don’t do much counseling), therapist, policy-maker (vague, I know), and of course, lawyer (though not something as specific as Illinois public finance). But now, I have no idea how to complete that sentence. The answer could very well be bond lawyer extraordinaire, but as one of the most amazing and respected partners in my firm told me when I told her I was quitting to go on this trip, “you can always come back, but you aren’t going to want to after an experience like you’re about to have. You’ll find something that fits your new self better.” She might be right (I suspect she’s always right).

Now, I realize we’ve only been gone for 11 weeks, and I have plenty of time to self-evaluate and work on my resume before we re-enter “Real Life.” But since I posed this year as a chance for me to really step back and think about what it is I want to do with my life, friends and family can’t help but ask my thought progress on the subject. And Tyler, bless his heart, knows exactly what he wants to do in life, and is (literally) presented with job/career opportunities on a weekly basis. So I understand his frustration when he asks me what I’m thinking and all I can do is shrug my shoulders. So Tyler gave me homework.

First assignment: download the book “What Color is your Parachute?” which I had never heard of but is apparently the premier figure-out-what-you-want-to-do-in-your-professional-life book. I’ve only read the first chapter (I just downloaded it yesterday), and it’s already giving me anxiety. I’m sure it will prove to be helpful, but the first chapter is all about not losing Hope and making sure you job search via multiple avenues.  Hope, I have (at the moment anyway), so no worries there. Job search? I have absolutely NO idea how. I kind of already knew I didn’t know what to do, but Chapter 1 made it abundantly clear that I am currently a job-searching novice/moron. To be fair, I’ve never actually really job searched. Law firm recruiting in law school (at least in 2005-2008) is its own weirdly nuanced monster and doesn’t remotely resemble how normal people find jobs.

Chapter 1 also discusses how you should define yourself – not just limited to title like “lawyer” but key descriptions on what your strengths and skills are, especially the ones you actually enjoy. That’s how the chapter ends. <insert anxiety attack> Um, I’m sorry, can you give me some examples? What are useful strengths and skills to have? Not the usual bs “team-player with a strong work ethic and positive atitude.” Is the fact that I know how to cry silently in my office when a client yells at me on the phone a skill? I think so, but I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t market myself that way. Below is my attempt at defining my strengths and skills (with a little of what I’m looking for in future employment thrown in for good measure), but I would LOVE if you, family and friends, would add to this list as you see fit. I can take constructive criticism (strength)!

I’m a punctual perfectionist. I like working with people, but sometimes I like escaping to my office and just working alone. I can use Excel, but I hate it. I like explaining complicated things to people in a way that they can understand it. I’m a good listener. I used to be pretty patient – I lost it over the past few years- and am working on getting it back. I’m not particularly creative, but I can be innovative in how to improve on a method. I like making other people happy or at least making their lives a little easier/better. I like having structured goals, but want flexibility on how to attain them. I don’t mind a desk job, but I think I’m going to have to get a treadmill desk. I won’t tolerate working for a company or person that makes me feel bad for taking a vacation day/sick day, especially once I have kids. When I say I’ll take care of something, you can trust I will, and will do it well. Sometimes, I care more about the details than the final product – makes it more fun/interesting. I like to laugh, and I like trying to make other people laugh- humor in the workplace is key. I know how to prioritize. I’m an efficient worker- and if you need something done quickly, I’m your girl. I like talking on the phone, generally enjoy client meetings, and am an e-mailing queen. I love to travel, but I’ve never business-traveled. I like writing and am pretty good at it (I think)- just don’t make me write a poem. I want to be challenged and work best when I am. I like proving people wrong, but don’t tend to rub it in. I’m proactive. I’m SUPER organized. I am rarely spontaneous, but have been known to surprise people. I want to work for people I respect as human beings (not just in their work role); if I don’t, I lose respect for myself.

So there, homework assignment #1 complete. On to Chapter 2 (of the book. Chapter 13847 of my life). Awesomely enough, Chapter 13847 of my life begins on a sailboat tomorrow. We are currently in Portobelo, Panama, a tiny tiny town on the coast, staying at a hostel called Captain Jack’s.  Our boat was supposed to leave on Monday, and then again today, but somehow Colombian immigration keeps delaying us, so we’re leaving tomorrow. We sail through the San Blas Islands and land in Cartagena on May 23rd. We spend 3 nights on the boat and 2 nights in hammocks on 2 different islands. Our ship is called the Luka, and if you’re more curious about the trip/our crew (including our Guinness Book of World Records holder captain), check out their website at www.skipthedariengap.com. Thanks for indulging my self-evaluation. I have a feeling there will be more of that in the coming months, but I promise the next post will be about our much more interesting and exciting sailing adventures. See you in South America!

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