So, you finished reading Lean In, now what?
First off, I’d like to congratulate you finishing a book. You can now be one of ‘those people’ at parties to talk about all the reading you’ve done recently. Soak it in! It feels good.
Second off, let’s talk about realistically achieving your goals now that you’re on this Sandberg-high. When I finished her book, I was on vacation in Cancun. I was so fired up that I counted the hours until I returned home to pick out a new pencil skirt to nail interviews in. I imagined how different my life was about to become now that I had been ‘enlightened’.
Fast forward a year later, I’m not giving Ted Talks, or signing books, or being invited to Oprah’s garden for a Super Soul Sunday. Instead, I’m sharing the kitchen table with my laundry basket a Saturday night, taking a break from writing a very lengthy research paper. All this to say, I’m in the process of “leaning in” myself and, let me tell you, it sucks sometimes.
To provide some context, I’m currently in what I like to call “young adult purgatory”. I’m in between having a full-time job and being a full-time student. This basically entails being too tired for college parties on a Thursday night, and being too occupied with homework to enjoy happy hour with coworkers. It’s lighting the candle at both ends while still living off an hourly wage.
The purpose of this essay is not to rant about how weak my Instagram game has been lately, but instead to let you know that “leaning in” isn’t always glamorous. In the last year, I have missed more football games, vacations, concerts, parties, and dates than my first three years of college combined. But, weirdly enough, I’m not bitter about it. Instead, I’ve never felt more in control of my life. I’ve never had an emergency fund before this year. I now know the morphine-like comfort of accepting a job offer before even graduating. And, I can sing “Independent Women Pt. 1” by Destiny’s Child way louder.
One of the side effects of leaning in to your career and education that my girl Sheryl doesn’t really talk about is how much of a toll it will take on your social life. I don’t know if Sheryl was ever a party animal, and highly doubt she knew the joy of Quarter Night Tuesdays in Huntsville. But, If you’re like me, a ‘work hard, play hard’, FOMO-adverse, extrovert extraordinaire, this transition will be difficult. My work used to be just a way to pay the bills and was something to schedule around your Labor Day mixer. Now, my 40 hour weeks are beautifully exhausting and are more rewarding than a discovery of the perfect dive. (That’s really hard for me to admit, guys.)
Progress is hardly linear, and there will be times where you feel lonely. Accepted it. There will be times where you’re too tired to cook dinner. That’s okay. And there will be times where your friends get upset about your unavailability. Let it happen. Understand that these are signs that you are growing. Change always comes outside of your comfort zone.
Moving forward, I’d love to tell you how easily this process pays off. I wish I could say I was writing this to you from my high-rise penthouse and how well my index stocks are doing. I want to tell you all about the several promotions I’m up for and how my Forbes cover will be out soon. But instead, I’ve scored a managerial position at a company with a healthy work environment that has lots of room to grow. And that feels pretty good too.
So, dear Reader, if you’re leaning in to your career or education and felt the sting of having to decline plans because of your workload, budget, or newly prioritized sleeping schedule, do not feel an ounce of regret. Don’t let the space in between where you are and where you want to be keep you from working towards your goals. Leaning in can be dull, but it can yield great results. Trust me.
You want to know what feels better than getting a free beer at a bar you’ve been to twice in the last week? A comma in your paycheck.