No Rain, No Flowers

I’ve been planning and saving money to go visit Malta for two years before I was able to afford the adventure. Most people will tell you that anticipation is half the fun of the adventure, and they’re usually right. I was mentally on vacation each time I checked out a rental, or planned which sites to visit, museums to frequent, food I had to eat, wineries I needed to stop by. In my head the vacation was already epic.

If I tell you the trip peaked in the executive Delta lounge at the Seattle airport, you should know I’m only half joking.

Sidenote: Honestly, the executive Delta lounge is a dream lounge. If you know someone who has a lot of air miles under their belt, travel with them just for this privilege. It felt exactly like being a wealthy snob in an 80s movie. That is to say it felt like the kind of rich indulgence that middle class people imagine goes on in exclusive places. They piped in classical music, the seats were spacious, leather, and private. An attendant walked around with a tray of freshly made complimentary smoothies. The water was infused. I spent about an hour giggling because I’d seen The Blues Brothers the night before and just wanted to turn to an old man and say, “sell me your children.” Seriously, watch the clip.

Fast forward to Malta and my friend trying to roll a bag broken by impatient handlers through several parking lots in weather about ten degrees warmer and a billion times more humid than anticipated. And it started to feel like another kind of 80s movie. Things went from sweaty to unfortunate after a glass-shattering misunderstanding at our rental, a canceled reservation for the last leg of our trip in London, and a busybody landlady.

We were only on day two.

The fourth day we were bound and determined to go out and be tourists. Come sweat or high water. I was walking down a flight of stairs and I stepped wrong. I don’t know how exactly, but I fell down about five or six stone steps, bruised my arm, hip, and lightly sprained my knee.

When you’re lying in bed, knee swelling, it’s very difficult not to get ahead of yourself.

Mentally I was trying to figure out how I was going to walk down the two flights of stairs to leave the rental. How was I going to sit in a car if I couldn’t bend my leg? The plane? Go to London? Would my friends have to carry me everywhere? What kind of vacation is that for any of us?

And of course, all the money I spent to get here and I would be spending the bulk of that time…in bed. In bed! I could have just done this at home for a lot cheaper and with less inconvenience. Why hadn’t I just stayed home?

Self recriminations follow once you have enough guilt built-up. I’d know the stairs would be tricky, had already had that conversation with myself once in the previous days. Why had I gotten so cocky as to think I could take stairs like a regular person?? Once you work yourself into a fine state of panic it’s very hard to come back down.

Thankfully I’ve had enough accidents of minorly crippling proportion to look back on to remind myself that premature panic is useful for nothing. It mostly worked. Maltese Netflix also did wonders (one of my guilty pleasures when traveling is experiencing shows and movies that aren’t streaming in the U.S. Who cares about seeing the sights when you can catch up on Brooklyn 99 abroad, right?)

It wasn’t the vacation I’d planned, and not remotely the vacation I’d wanted. But I’m a firm believer that God’s got a sense of humor. So I’m taking the proverb painted on the stairs outside our rental as a sign of that divine mirth that has become a sort of life hallmark; and perennial encouragement: no rain, no flowers.

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Historical Perspective

America’s a funny place to be from. We don’t really prize or value history, our own being so colorful and horrific. The history we do hold onto isn’t very old. Goes, back a couple generations, maybe but not a lot.

I think it’s probably a very American concept to demolish the old to make way for the new – raze to raise up. And it’s not a bad working concept really, there’s something to be said for flaunting tradition and creating new paths and methods for society.

But I traveled to the country of Malta recently and for the first time in my life I actually stood in a place that’s been standing for several thousand years. To be as specific as possible, 3,000+ years. The Ġgantija temples have been in their spot on the island of Gozo for lifetimes upon lifetimes.

And what struck me when I first saw the ruins was that, well let’s be honest, it’s not that impressive. It’s a few walls of rock. I could say that to you, and that thought certainly crossed my mind, but briefly.

Because I’m standing in a place that people have stood in, all through history, either for religious purposes, or after it fell into disuse, for accidental purposes, or for tourist purposes.

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And, a quick aside about other tourists. Back when this place was becoming a tourist destination again, in the 1800s or so, people carved their initials into the rock to commemorate their time at the oldest religious site on earth. In their defense, selfies didn’t exist, but also, let’s not defend these monsters who defaced the oldest known religious site in the world. Anyway.

There’s not a lot I can tell you about the temples that wouldn’t be true of other ancient ruins. What people know about thousand year old history is understandably pretty limited, but you can’t quite deny the truly humbling nature of being around something that had a far greater lasting impact than probably anyone could have anticipated.

Certainly, a greater lasting impact than any modern person thinks of leaving behind. I don’t know. Maybe the ancients had a different view. Clearly based on their use of stone and the size of the stone they intended things to be built to last and to matter. But standing there inside Ġgantija, which means “giant” there is a sense of proportion to be felt, a historical humbling. And you do feel small. How can you not? Next to the ambitions and passion of a people with an enduring vision.

Of course, you leave the temple and you’re back on the street and around the corner looking for an ATM next to a Chinese food restaurant. And sure, these are in old stone and rock buildings that have probably been around for a few centuries too, but it’s nothing next to the thousand year old structure you just visited. But that restaurant wasn’t always for Chinese food, that spot in the wall didn’t always hold an ATM, and people didn’t use to visit that temple to get their picture inside of it.

History is transforming all around us, and it’s people that are transforming this world we live in, shaping the places we visit, giving them meaning, giving them purpose, making them beautiful, making them useful, making them work, or tearing them down to make way for something new, something that builds on the old and makes it stronger and more lasting.

Or at least I hope that’s what we’re doing.

 

Forty Someday

“And I’m going to be 40!”

“When?”

“Someday!”

“In eight years!”

— Sally and Harry from When Harry Met Sally

Sally’s emotional outburst is one of those fantastically absurd, and painfully relatable human experiences. Whether we panic at the thought of turning 25, 30, 40, 50, 70…there’s an age we have in our minds when we know we’re supposed to “have it together”. We’re supposed to be living the grown-up, adult life. Perhaps purposeful, intentional. Or at the very least, healthier, more responsibly, satisfactorily even.

All the things we envisioned for ourselves in high school should be realities now, surely. A life on track. I’m 32 today and that panic Sally prematurely experiences recognizing she’s closing in on a milestone is something I can relate to.

I never saw my life going in a “typical” direction. But I did think that by my 30s I would have gone confidently in the direction of my dreams. But instead I’ve fallen victim too often to the same problem that plagues so many of us, we go blithely in the paths of least resistance. And there’s any number of silly and valid reasons to justify treading water and floating upstream.

But I have that secret knowledge, and you might understand, that I’m just not quite the person I wanted to be. It’s possible I have too high of expectations. Or that I’m a fundamentally unreasonable person. Or that I’ve seen too many movies where people who dream great big dreams inevitably achieve them through sheer will and force of personality — surely those are cultivated skills?

But mostly I have to acknowledge that younger me didn’t really understand what it would feel like to age. To have high school memories close to the surface of consciousness, and the ones from two years ago feel like ancient history.

I suppose I trusted too much in the confident and authoritative faces of the adults around me that conveyed a settled sense of direction and contentment that I assumed was the result of maturity brought about strictly by age.

Sally’s panicked about “someday”. The someday of waking up and discovering you’re not the you that you were meant to be, and that maybe you’re even fine with that now. You’ve settled in whatever way that means to you. You’ve lost the anticipation of the better.

I’m absolutely terrified of settling. But am I terrified enough?

I don’t mean, you know, terrified enough to rebound into a one night stand with Billy Crystal…

But that fear which recognizes what I’m doing perhaps does matter. That choosing a direction, even if it’s not perfect or ‘right” or what I’d wish to be fated might be for the best.

To quote an anecdote from William Goldman’s excellent Which Lie Did I Tell:

“The choreographer sat in the audience alone, his head in his hands… “I can’t figure out what they should do next.”

Mr Abbott never stopped moving. He jumped the three feet from the stage to the aisle. “Well have them do SOMETHING!” Mr. Abbot said. “That way we’ll have something change.””

But probably not a tryst with Billy Crystal.

Reunited and it feels so weird

I don’t know if you’ve gathered this from previous posts, but I am very awkward when it comes to social interactions. Awkward to the point of sheer discomfort and reluctance to socialize at all.

Now you know.

This past holiday season I was at the local roller skating rink, as you do (especially at Christmastime), and I chanced across an old high school friend and bandmate. Against all reason and judgment that my social ineptitude cautioned against, I drew his attention. He’s one of those warm, friendly types that make people like me comfortable against better judgment. I skated — let’s be honest — wobbled over to him and we caught up after he caught me from running into him on four wheels.

Honestly, this is mostly just a cautionary tale about going skating when you haven’t done in at least ten years, if not more, and you have at least one artificial joint.

At any rate, the only problem with the whole exchange was me. I couldn’t seem to cut out the self-deprecating jokes about my lack of a recognizable career, my lack of romance, my lack of having moved from home. Phrased in the exact wrong light, my life seems like one of those tragic tales everyone dreads in their own life. I have an awful tendency to sound like a dead end, especially on the surface of it.

If I could have another go at it, another go at explaining myself to old friends from high school, I might say something more like this:

I love my life. I’m happy in my small hometown, happy in my little perfect apartment that does happen to be within spitting distance of my childhood home. I’m happy with my job which consistently surprises me and challenges me. I’m extremely proud that I’ve stayed with the same company for close to ten years.

I have good friends, I have good family — by blood and by choice — and I am unreasonably happy not being married.

Trouble is, when you’re at a roller skating rink, wobbling around disproportionately sweaty to the effort put forth, there’s absolutely no way to say “I’m happy being single” without it sounding like I’m just completely lying to your face to avoid looking even more pathetic.

But I’ve been thinking a lot in the tail end of 2017 about my life and how fortunate and blessed I’ve been in the 31 years I’ve been alive, and frankly I’m sitting here now in my little apartment, drinking a hot toddy, putting away Christmas decorations and listening to Willie Nelson and I still can’t believe this is my life that I’m allowed to live.

Anyway, that’s what I would have said. But we said our goodbyes, hugged and then he hauled me to my feet because honestly I can’t even tell you how unstable I am on roller skates.

 

Ps It’s really important to me that you know I used to be really REALLY good at rollerblading. When I was ten I was ALMOST athletic.

Honest.

Attendance Awards

There’s this business saying, or maybe it’s sports, but whatever it is, the gist is “Showing us is half the battle”, or “showing up is 80% of life”.

That’s pretty inspiring, right? I mean, all you need to do is show up. Just be there.

As a kid I routinely got the “award” for spotless attendance. I was always at school, always in class. Never had a sick day. I had an impeccable record. Not much of an award, really. I mean no one WANTED it and it was kind of like getting a medal for existing. Yeah. I made it to school. My mom drove me.

But if we skip ahead to my Senior year of high school, you’ll find I was rarely in Band, infrequently in Spanish, and the Newspaper class let me write from home. I didn’t win any awards that year. I barely made it to my “necessary” classes before the bell rang. I had random absences throughout the year too. I was barely in school at all. In one class I remember my teacher told me “I gave you the grade you would have gotten if you’d been there.”

The phrase “showing up is 80% of life” is inspiring because it means even if you put in the least amount of effort possible something great can still happen. But I still couldn’t manage to show up to school as a teen. Was the least amount of effort too much effort?

It’s ironic, now that I think about it, how much I flippantly regarded those attendance awards. I can’t believe I thought going to school every day was “no big deal”. I’ve had arthritis every day of my life now for eighteen years. Eighteen years, or the age of a high school graduate who could have had perfect attendance for 13 years of standard US education.

13 is also my age when I was diagnosed with arthritis and when my perfection started to plummet. As someone with a high school graduate level of experience with debilitating illness, let me assure you of something: showing up is not easy.

Showing up is the hardest damn thing I have to do in a day. In any day. Showing up to work, showing up for friends, showing up for responsibilities…being anywhere is hard.

Almost everything I know about life is that the cards are stacked against your ability to show up. The weather can affect your ability to show up. Mechanical failures of any kind — from car accidents to power outages to malfunctioning alarms, an event in someone else’s life — a total stranger — can affect your ability to show up. All of those are externals, of course. And then there are the internals: you’re too tired, too stressed, too sick, too….something.

My birthday was yesterday. Now, half of all adults think it’s not worth mentioning. It’s just another day on the calendar, let’s not make a fuss, or they’d even rather everyone just forgot it entirely. The other half want to celebrate in some capacity. Perhaps a dinner out, a cupcake, a present they got for themselves, a card from a loved one, something to recognize the incredible accomplishment of another year on this earth.

A birthday is a milestone, a victory to be acknowledged. Another year of earth attendance.

I may not be able to show up to all the activities in life the way people think I should, but I’m 31 now, and I’m pretty thrilled about that. Just that. I’ve never understood (yet) the compulsion to lie about age. Aging is miraculous to me. There are so many obstacles to getting old.

Shoot, with my diet, miraculous doesn’t even begin to cover it.

If you ask me, showing up is 100% of life.

Bubble Popping

“Bubble” is a great word, for several reasons.

  1. It’s ridiculously fun to say.
  2. You can’t say it in an angry voice without laughing.
  3. Actual bubbles are super cool in all their sizes and shapes.
  4. Using “bubbles” metaphorically gets accurately at what you’re implying.

A bubble is by nature an ephemeral creation in a specific situation of air, water, and soap. Or gum, air, and saliva. It’s not long lasting and it’s easy to destroy. You can savor a bubble for a time, but it’s always going to pop. Not only that, but when it does pop? You’ve got something of a mess on your hands.

I grew up in bubbles, moving from one Dutch Christian ghetto to another. From one Christian school to another. From one suburban neighborhood to another. I loved my bubbles.

Bubbles feel safe. Bubbles reinforce information and knowledge. My bubble had Dutch bingo, olli bollen, banket, Catechisms, Sunday school, Bible classes, memorizing verses, reciting the Apostle’s Creed from memory and saying the Lord’s prayer out loud.

Bubbles in our youth can build stability, a baseline philosophy, and a frame of reference. In short, bubbles are something meant to be enjoyed for their duration, but every good bubble needs to be popped. Every good bubble dweller needs to learn to rebel.

Air gets stale in a bubble, ideas begin to bounce off the walls and get absorbed back in and reinforced as absolute truths, we start thinking the people we see are the only people there are, we begin to believe our experiences are the only experiences there are.

And if you think bubbles are for small towns and backwater burbs, think again. Most of us have to fight the compulsion to inhabit bubbles the rest of our lives. Bubbles in our neighborhoods, our churches, our groups of friends, the places we’re willing to visit, the books we read, the media we consume.

Fighting against bubbling is exhausting and humbling. Routinely. Because you’re always learning and growing and adapting and discovering.

When I was a teenager I distinctly remember rolling my eyes when my sister talked about feminism. How absurd a concept that was. As if we needed feminism anymore! Like either of us had been stifled at home. Like we’d put up with that from the men around us. Didn’t our Dad think we were strong and capable? Didn’t we get raised to think for ourselves?

It took me a long time to realize that protective bubbles only shield you, they don’t help anyone else.

Thoughtful listening is the best way to puncture your bubble. Compassionate listening is the best way to live outside your bubble. Learn to practice selflessness, humility, kindness. I know it’s not as shiny as the bubble, but it’ll be easier to breathe. Easier to grow. Easier to thrive.

Blanket Security

I’m in that time of life when people talk about how to plan for their 401K, long term investments, the pros and cons of blue chip stock, percentages, rates, interest, babies.

I know what like half of those words mean. I care about them only so far as they apparently mean that when I’m old I’ll still have some kind of financial stability if I know what I’m doing with them. This includes babies. There are people out there who I just KNOW have factored in their children in terms of “these things better take care of me in my old age”. I mean…well I don’t know that for certain, I just assume. What are the perks otherwise?

But I don’t have that kind of stability. Which therefore makes all the words terrifying.

My Aunt bought me a blanket awhile ago now. It’s the best blanket in the world. It’s what I always imagined as a kid that sleeping in the clouds would feel like, but with outer warmth of inward whiskey. I love it. I love it with a jealousy other people reserve for sports cars and honor student children.

My favorite blanket moments are those when other people aren’t around, because then I don’t feel compelled to share. And when I do feel compelled to share, I fight the impulse and hand them an inferior blanket. When I’m not using it, I hide it in my bedroom.

It lost some fluff yesterday and I experienced an overwhelming wave of sadness as I contemplated the reality that today it would not be as warm as it was yesterday.

At work I fantasize about curling up in it. Falling asleep on the couch and waking up in a cocoon of warmth.

I am an adult and for the first time in my life I have a security blanket. It doesn’t quite take away my lazy procrastinator financial stress, but it does nicely supplement the cold reality of life and my apartment (at a cozy and financially frugal 63 degrees).

When I’m in my blanket and averages and mean income float through my head I don’t get stressed, just sleepier.

I know I need to give it up, but just a few more minutes?

Friends with Boys

Even before I saw When Harry Met Sally I’d been intrigued by the question of “Can men and women be friends?”

I distinctly remember hoping and praying in high school that I’d have boy friends and no actual boyfriends because I didn’t want the drama. I wanted boy friends more than girl friends too, and it took me years to appreciate the female friendships in my life. That’s a blog post for another time.

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For example, men don’t take pictures of their feet. This is a female phenomenon. I can’t get behind this. Why would I want to show off one of my not-so-great features? Women, what is this about??

But ever since I’ve had male friends I’ve been getting the side-eye from strangers and acquaintances, and even close friends. Come on, men and women can’t ever REALLY be friends.

One of my best friends in my teens was a boy. And I still remember the looks from church people when we’d sit together, and I remember the one time we wore the same clothes to church (I was wearing a skirt, version, but otherwise…) and freaking out that people would think it was some kind of sign. I remember having to defend every time we arrived anywhere together and having to cheer lead all his romantic relationships because otherwise I’d look jealous.

I remember having one of my married male friends pick me up at work to get lunch together and the knowing glance I got from the receptionist.

Going out to dinner with a man is a problem, having dinner at his house is a problem. Driving is a problem, movies are a problem…

Romance potential is literally everywhere.

I keep asking myself the question “Can men and women be friends” and I keep hearing – from women and men – that this is not possible. Even men I am actually friends with tell me this. There’s this underlying feeling that the opposite sex is too enticing once you reach a certain level of intimacy. That sex is the inevitable obstacle to co-ed friendships. That men and women will naturally fall in love when they get to know each other really well. Thanks Harry and Sally.

No matter how much adamant agreement there is on this topic, I just can’t believe that God would create men and women to have relationships between the sexes that are only passing acquaintances, familial, or romantic. I can’t buy that I’m only allowed casual friendships with men. I can’t buy that God intended me to keep all men at a distance of several feet unless we’re planning on marrying.

I’m a single woman and  I need men in my life. I need the influence of men, the conversation of men, the viewpoint of men. I need these as much as I need the influence of women, the conversation of women, the viewpoint of women. I’m aware that as a single woman it’s far too easy in this life to simply lose touch, lose connection with a large quantity of the people in the world strictly because they are male.

I need to be careful in my relationships with women as much as I need to be careful in my relationships with men. And this is what we forget. Sure, perhaps you’re guarding against different things with men than with women, but any relationship ought to be entered into with carefulness, watchfulness, and openness.

Can men and women be friends. I have to believe yes. Are there overwhelming obstacles to making a friendship between a man and a woman work? Experience and others tell me definitely, 100%, yes. Naturally, any true friendship faces some pretty tough obstacles. It’s the nature and essence of relationship.

Is it still worth it? Is it worth valuing friendship with men as more than a gateway to romance? I believe 100% yes.

Have more movies damaged this theory than assisted? Yeah. Just. All the movies. I mean Just Friends. It’s in the title! How could that go wrong? Anyway, that’s a rant for another time. Until then, as always, I’ll remind myself that movies are a work of fiction, and relationships are real and really hard work. Woman to woman, man to man, and woman to man. It’s difficult because at the end of the day it turns out, we’re all people.

Look at that. Perhaps we have more in common than we think?

Hello, I Have a Disease

I dislike meeting new people. For a number of reasons–I’m terrible with names, I’m already “full” on people I do know (and I’m not confident how well I like most of them), I’m an introvert, I’m tired. Just, already tired thinking about it. I know I’m not alone in this. Here’s an idea: Why don’t we all carry cliffs notes around of relevant pertinent information for consumption?

I don’t mean show them your facebook page, I mean like a note card with a brief background bullet-point list.

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These guys probably wish they had pockets to carry around note cards of information instead of barking it out to each other.

So in case I meet any of you in the real world:

  • Christian (but probably not considered “Conservative” by most)
  • Reformed (but mostly just a big fan of total depravity)
  • Feminist (I really don’t feel the need to explain this one)
  • Despises small talk and bores easily with discussions of weather.
  • Also not a fan of sports and car conversations. Will purposefully derail these conversations.
  • Will purposefully derail any conversation deemed “boring” or “inflammatory” or “for fun”.
  • Rants about irrelevant pop culture nonsense. Gleefully dislikes Taylor Swift, Forrest Gump and anything that’s your favorite.
  • Does not respond well to “Get to Know You” questions like “What’s your favorite book?” or “What do you do for a living?”
  • Responds very positively to “Did you see that dog?” or “What’s your favorite form of potato?” or “I hate that guy” (insert random person here)
  • Will not respond positively to attempts at bragging or showing off on your part. Will probably attempt to hurt your feelings if you do.

This is what I’d share with anyone I have to talk to for more than ten minutes, but less than an entire day, ie. friends of friends I have drinks with.

But let’s just say we hit it off and start hanging out and getting chummy. At what point do I start detailing the intimate personal stuff? When do we begin exchanging the private life-defining information?

I’ve had arthritis since I was 13 and I’ve gotten pretty used to everyone knowing it. But I’ve had to consider this conversation a few times when I’ve met new people I’d like to keep talking to. An autoimmune disease that’s degenerative, chronic, and invisible needs to get brought up in conversation whether I like it to or not. But I’m not capable of handling this with any finesse. Usually it goes like this:

“Can you help me move that table?”

“Oh, no I can’t. I have arthritis. It’s a nice table though. Have you seen The Golden Girls?”

I should write a card for this. For the arthritis conversation. But even if I did, it’d only say two things:

  • Arthritic.
  • I’ve probably been better.

Not exactly chatty about it, am I?

It’s been my experience that telling people the thing about you – that unique thing which colors your whole world – isn’t something you can ever tell anyone. It has to be lived to be believed. This is why people that experience life with us are the ones we hold on to.

I started this post with a fun idea of when do you bring up the uncomfortable topics in life, as it turns out, there’s never a really good time. But I’ve discovered good friends, really good friends, understand the things they can’t see and never need proved. I’ve made a few of those friends over the past years and in those early getting-to-know-you times I can’t remember having “the conversation” because it wasn’t just something we addressed and moved on from, it was something we both agreed to live with.

When you reach that level of intimacy and relationship, believe me, there’s not a note card in the world that could hold everything they understand about you.

Dear Working Girl: Don’t Do Just What They Ask

“Did I ever tell you you’re like a duck? That’s how James and I think of you.” Matt was a partner at the audacious startup branding firm that I had recently begun working for. We were at a swanky launch party at a very cool “secret” loft in Capital Hill. I must have looked surprised, because Matt grinned at me over his second Negroni and explained, “It’s because you look all calm on the surface but you’re working away underneath.” He spotted someone important across the room and said “I’m going to mingle over there. Have fun.”

I laughed about it at the time. But when I lost the job 6 months later, I imagined the myriad ways in which I could have changed the situation. One of the things that has stood out to me is that I let the things they complimented me on become my measure for success. Did I let my “quiet duck” persona turn me into a meek pushover? This is dangerous. Don’t try this at home (or at work), kids. If you need to write your own job description before you start getting swayed by compliments (like I do), then do that. Whenever someone says “It’s so nice that you always empty the dishwasher. It really makes a difference to have a clean workplace,” you can feel good about it, but if it isn’t in your job description, it doesn’t count as success.

I worked with a great team at that agency. But it seemed like the thanks and affirmations they often gave me focused on my quietness, my team-player perspective, and my transparency about admitting when I didn’t know things. Maybe I should have raised a ruckus more often, voiced my disagreement more vocally.

And those things they affirmed most often were some of the same things they discussed with me when they let me go:

“I wish I could afford to keep you on just to think about things, to do research.”

“You’re not cut out for project management–this role is too chaotic.”

“It’s nothing wrong with your work. We might need a different personality type.”

It’s not the only time this kind of situation has happened. In another job, I had the idea that I could provide some value in a certain area by doing research for some different branches of the company and giving them one-pager summaries on some different topics. Because I received very little affirmation at the time, I felt like it didn’t matter and stopped spending time on it. FIVE YEARS later, I ran into one of my former co-workers, who told me she still used my one-pagers. I wonder, if I had not run after affirmation alone, if I had stuck with my idea just a little longer, where would that program be now?

Affirmation is one indicator of approval and success–but it is only one. You’ll get into trouble if you focus on that alone.

Dear readers, I hope this saves you from the years of heartache I’ve walked through. I hope you never have to think to yourself, as I have, “I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me and more for x years, and now? Now you tell me it was all wrong? Now none of it matters? Now you’re letting me go, or telling me I’m not worth a raise?”

Don’t do just what they ask. Don’t let affirmations be your only barometer.