I spent a glorious week in New York City earlier this month. My best friend from college lives in hipper-than-thou Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I spent a few days with her getting to know that neighborhood and its denizens pretty well. Then I spent a weekend in the middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, where my best friend from high school got married. As we toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house marveling at the architecture, and biking the Laurel Highlands that surrounds it, I struck up conversations with intellectuals from Japan, Russia, Israel, France, Italy and the UK. When I returned to Brooklyn, I ate up my favorite Middle Eastern delicacies and gobbled up conversations about great works of literature and laughed my ass off as artist-musician-writer types joked satirically about mass American culture.
Here I am, this corporate ladder-climber, who could honestly be no-less-thrilled unless Guy Kawasaki himself had sent her an email. And I write this crazy blog that I might be a little embarrassed by if anyone I worked with actually read it, which I’m pretty sure has even kept me from getting a second-round interview. And I want to get my MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, and I eat up books like Groundswell, Rich Woman, and E-Myth with the sloppy voracity of a pig in a garbage dump. Two of my friends refer to me as “career lady” and my hair stylist knows we have to toe the line between cutting edge and work appropriate. I’m trying to figure out how I can dress J. Crewish without looking so damned yuppie.
Then there’s this other part of me, the part of me that would be happy to be a coffee-slinging barista for the rest of her life, the part that oh-so-briefly dreamt of making the leap to a shared apartment in Brooklyn with four part-time jobs to make ends meet. It’s the part of me that sits in cafes for hours blogging, reading Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway, and attending political rallies when I’m not supposed to since I work for the media.
How these two halves of myself possibly be at peace with another?
They usually aren’t.
When I had my weekly call with my life coach and told her about my promotion, she heard the hesitation in my voice. Is this at odds with who I am, who I want to be, I asked. What happens when I’m 40 and I look back and wonder how I got caught up on this corporate ladder?
She reminded me that this isn’t forever. I’m not making some huge statement about who I am or what I believe in. Just because I got a promotion doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still be looking at business schools and applying. This will lead to other things, as every previous position has led to new opportunities.
What’s a different perspective you could take on this, she asked me.
“I could be like, a bohemian corporate climber?” I asked more than stated.
I could be the blogging, intellectual, semi-rebellious analyst, the manager who challenges the old way things are done, and bringing a new kind of savvy to the business table.
Isn’t that what this whole Gen-Y thing is supposed to be about? Changing the face of achievement in the workplace, challenging the definition of success, and infusing our workplaces with new ideas?