The Question I Couldn’t Answer

The Question I Couldn’t Answer

Written by Emily

I was in hibernation for the winter. Like the flower bulbs snuggled into the dirt now making their way to the surface, my random thoughts and interest in pie are making their way back to the pages of this blog.

My team at work just finished reading Lean In by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Women, work and the will to lead. No loaded topics there. Surprisingly, Sandberg’s message didn’t resonate with me as I had expected. The conversation about women in the workplace is very real and always worth having, but the honest truth is that I found myself a bit exhausted of the discussion. That being said, I did take away a very important insight that helped me address something I’ve been wrestling with for years.

The opening chapter asked a very simple question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I was stumped. I usually love questions that require thoughtful, self-reflective answers but I could not answer this one. There MUST be something I would do if I weren’t afraid! What am I afraid of? Failure? No. Losing money? Been there, done that. Being alone? Not so much. This question is similar to the other one I can’t answer – where do you want to be in 5 years? Alive. I just want to be alive in 5 years. Other than that, I have absolutely no idea.

This has been my ongoing problem – what is my passion? I continue to wonder what I’m meant to do. I’m a fundraiser right now, and while I love my job, I’m not certain that I’m going to raise money for the rest of my life. I don’t look at my career as a linear journey and my goals are not around climbing the corporate ladder in predetermined steps and titles. I look for open doors, not open positions.

Then Sheryl Sandberg hit me with the perfect analogy – picture a jungle gym not a ladder. Yes! Life is a jungle gym through which you can go over, under, sideways or even hang upside down. A dynamic tool that you can use to move through your life and career. There are no bad moves on a jungle gym. If you don’t like where you landed, you can correct yourself with another strategic move. Hate hanging down by your arms? Fine, pull yourself up and sit on top. Bored with the view from the top? Hang upside down by your legs and see how the world looks different. Climb down, jump through – the possibilities are endless.

I was in my friend’s office processing my conflicted feelings about the book. He was kind enough to entertain my need to work through my inability to identify with much of the book and my excitement for the jungle gym analogy. As I was talking, I finally answered my own question. What would I do if I were not afraid? Nothing. That IS what I do. I do the things that make me nervous and uncomfortable. I tried on Las Vegas, I tried on Oregon, I took a promotion while on maternity leave, I took a new job, I learned to make pie, I welcomed an exchange student into our home, I karaoke like I’m a rock star. The moments when my heart beats faster, when I’m scared and uncomfortable, when my conscience begins to question my decisions are the greatest gifts I have given myself and my family. If you don’t feel a little nervous and uncomfortable, you’re not being the catalyst for meaningful change and experiences that you could be.  I’ve been spending my energy wondering how I will ever find my passion in life. When, in reality, my goal is not to find my passion, it’s to live passionately.

Life is not about finding one passion, it’s about living one life passionately.

And that is where I land after reading Lean In. I “do it all” because I approach my life as one whole entity and avoid segmenting it into separate parts (work, family, friends, etc). I get up in the morning and charge head-on into my one life that so fortunately includes an incredible partnership, joyful children, meaningful work and inspiring friends with a baseline of laughter and fun that creates the rhythm of my days. That, my friends, is my perfect passionate life.


One thought on "The Question I Couldn’t Answer"

  1. Cindy Biggs says:

    Hi, Emily,

    Appreciated the re-posting – knew there was some reason I froze lots of rhubarb this summer.

    Also, your posting about your thoughts on an integrated /passionate life were very timely. I am working with a woman on creating a “She Shows Up” leadership retreat at the Inn at Honey Run in Millersburg the first week of December. Would love to either have you look over some information on the retreat and comment via email/or schedule a call with you to review some info. as part of a “focus group” we are doing to make sure that we reach the intended audience with what we are trying to create…YOU GET IT, so let me know if you would be willing to help us out! YEAH! for jungle gyms and living each day wholly and passionately!

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