There was one thing I kind of forgot as I was weighing my feelings about going back to work, and it was, in in hindsight, a big one. It’s that I am very good at my job. And while it’s not my passion, I really do enjoy it.
I’m going to violate one of the internet’s prime directives and talk about my job, just a little.
I did admin work for the better part of a decade. I was good at it, and fast, given the amount of spare time I had compared to my peers. But I never really enjoyed it. I would put off tasks that I didn’t enjoy, like filing, for months. I always got everything that needed to be done, done, but my main interest wasn’t the day to day tasks that fill up admin support days. It was always the special projects. I’ve worked in a variety of different admin jobs, and the special projects varied along with them. I’ve done everything from organize a trip to New York for 30 people for a week with 30 different schedules, to cold calling people in France using what remains of my childhood french immersion skills to try and find a genealogical-minded distant relative for my boss, to becoming the group expert at a new piece of graphing software, to learning Access to update and QC a giant database. A huge range of things, and all much more interesting than putting in another stationary order. Although that doesn’t mean an absence of pens around the office wouldn’t be a problem, so it always got done too. Just, you know, given the choice to work on a special project or organize someone’s business cards, well… It was always easy for me to prioritize.
When I went on mat leave, I was officially a tech, but I was also still doing all the admin work, just due to the way things shook out in the group. I had no problems with that, of course. I’d been doing all the tech work as an admin, and there was no real difference doing all the admin work as a tech. But now there’s an admin to do all the admin work and she’s great and I don’t have to order stationary anymore. My entire job, in flux as it is, IS a special project. The last couple of weeks I’ve been working for an engineer who has been an amazing teacher, and I went from knowing basically nothing about this subset of our industry to being conversant in it. I’ve learned 601 new things in the last month, and that’s an awesome feeling that I had forgotten – how nice it is to learn something new. To tackle some new project that at the beginning feels so confusing, so far over your head that you don’t even know how to start, and then a few short weeks later you’re QC’ing someone else’s work as a second pair of eyes. To be an expert at something – to be the person people come to for help. To be good at something clear and tangible with immediate results. It’s nice. It’s really nice. And I had forgotten that going back to work didn’t just mean leaving J with someone else all day and getting a paycheck. It also means that I get to be good at something and get better at other things and to learn.
It also means lunch dates and coffee dates and yes, a paycheck. It means talking to grown ups all day, every day, and then coming home with my kid and my husband and eating together and playing together and enjoying the whole time we’re together, instead of those days spent simply waiting for naps or a play date. It means missing out on play dates, and long daily walks and spontaneous trips to Ikea for lunch. But right now, this very week, I can live with the trade off. Next year, or another kid later, or a different role at work? Who knows? But for right now, things are okay. Things are good.
It feels like the best deep breath I’ve taken in months.