This ironic hashtag was used today by a coworker during a moment of expressing my frustrations at work. My email wouldn’t open and I couldn’t get the tools I need to complete some of my job and so on and so forth. It was all related to the internet and technology. His reply was simply #firstworldcorporateproblems.
I don’t think he meant it to be quite as profound as it turned out to be, but in that instant I realized a few things about who I am, was, and yet to become.
This photo is one of my favorite from one of my 3 trips to Tanzania. After this trip I had considered a move to that country and was sure I would raise my children there – at least for a period. I never imagined a day that I was likely to not return. It has been 6 years since my last trip and my return is not in sight.
My visits to Tanzania were for service related and religious in nature. Say what you will about faith and religion and those who believe in those things but my reply is two fold – 1.) does it matter if I believe something that you don’t if I am not hurting your life and 2.) if it makes me a better human being, keeps me honest and caring, isn’t it already serving its purpose? But I digress.
I helped people, I made friends, and I grew as a human being. I saw things others can only dream of and learned things like Tutaonana kesho – which means see you tomorrow. I was charged by an elephant, made new friends, tried new foods, and taught little kids the chicken dance. I thought I had learned what it meant to be a citizen of the world and what was truly important to me.
3 years after my last trip I took a corporate job sitting at a desk all day. It was supposed to be a change that would allow me to live the life I wanted to lead and simplify my schedule for my future family. The flexibility of a corporate desk job is far above and beyond a retail pharmacy rotating schedule.
Instead it changed me in ways I didn’t imagine.
Slowly I noticed:
- I didn’t wear the right clothes
- My hair was the right cut and wouldn’t lay the right way
- My low maintenance preference for my glasses and no make-up didn’t leave me feeling like a had a simple morning routine but rather that I was frumpy and unworthy
- I always thought that I was pretty – not stunning – but pretty and now I try to hide because I don’t measure up to those other corporate glamorous people
- I went and spent $250 on a watch because I needed the ‘right’ accessories
- No matter what I do I will not measure up
- My introverted, limited social tendency was no longer a source of pride and difference by has become a liability
- My ‘network’ and fitting in has never (I mean never, not even in high school or middle school) been so important
My job suddenly started to define me instead of me defining it or how defining my place in this corporate world.
The reality is that I care about people more than I care about numbers and strategy and problem solving. I slowly prioritized that latest ‘it’ bag or necklace over traveling. Going out to lunch with the team became a bigger priority than growing my savings. Making a morning stop for coffee became a must before I could even start my day with purpose and of course that couldn’t be done alone.
Slowly but surely it is time to take back my control. It’s time to show keep in mind what matters to me and put my priorities back on top. My employer hired me because of me, my values, and the uniqueness I could bring to the position – not because of all the things they could make me be.
Monday morning my cube will be getting pictures of my Tanzania experience and maybe a #firstworldcorporateproblems note to remind me what really matters.