Feed Your Gifts

I am a creative in a data and numbers world. From third grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. In middle school, I found I had some skills as an artist. I’ve loved to dance my entire life, and in my late teens and twenties, I made some money singing. Suffice it to say my gifts or talents have continuously resided in the arts.

My dad was a blue-collar worker with old-school company values. He voted Republican as long as I knew him, and while he was thrilled to come to the bar where I sang every weekend and let everyone know I was his daughter, there was never any question that I would still maintain my regular 40-hour-a-week job. He may have been a fan of Jim Morrison’s music but had no love for the starving artist, at least not in his own family.

The goal was known to me very early. Find a good company, get your foot in the door, and work your ass off until you get where you want to be. He did this when he worked at Eastern Municipal Water District from when I was 10 or 11 years old until being forced into retirement. Starting as a meter reader, he took classes and, over time, worked his way up to being a water operator. My dad was very proud of his achievements, and we were, too. Everyone at his company had a great deal of respect for him. I couldn’t help but want to follow his example and make him proud of me.

So, when my vocal cords gave out on me, and retail wasn’t cutting it, I worked to find myself a good position. Fast forward to today, and here I am, a Project Manager for a subcontracting company. The job is numbers and logistics, which have never been my strong suit. I have to work hard at them. But it’s also relationships and communication that I have in spades and is what I lean into.

It isn’t that I don’t belong in the environment. I have always been a little scrappy and can talk trash with the best. I could drink most men under the table in my prime and have never been offended by a swear word. I’m also not afraid to ask stupid questions. These things are fundamentals for much of the construction industry, you see. I think it helped me earn the respect of our skilled labor partners early in my career. I was and always will be one of them at heart.

Despite feeling comfortable in the construction environment, there have been times when I wondered if I hadn’t made a mistake. I had focused so hard for years on being the best I could be at my job and being promoted. When I achieved the project manager position, my goal, I felt something else was missing. It was. I forgot to feed my creativity in a meaningful way. It had been stuffed inside a small, stifled closet for so long that I wasn’t even sure I had any left. Looking back, I think this contributed to my eventual depression.

I like what I do and find great satisfaction in solving problems, forging relationships, and learning. But I still have to create. I had to become mindful of making time to write, to paint, and to sing (albeit with a much more limited range). All work and no play makes Mandy a very dull girl, after all. Unsurprisingly, I became much happier once I started making time to do these things, even scheduling time for them. I made other changes, too, but I feel much more like myself since I’ve let my Creative run around outside her closet again. My professional work is better, too.

Most of us are not fortunate enough to do what we love as a career. That does not mean we should ever stop doing those things. I had to make a scheduled commitment to myself to do what makes me happy because I forgot how to do it. As thankful as I am for my career and what I do for a living, I am not my job. We do what is necessary to do the things we love. If we don’t, we risk losing ourselves.

Music I relate to this post is What A Shame by Shane Smith and the Saints and Fader by Temper Trap.

Featured image by Aaron Baw on Unsplash

Author: Mandy

Your basic American primate, searching for magic and meaning.

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