Sideways. Besides being the title of a disappointing Alexander Payne movie in 2004 (whose review of mine you can read here), it’s a word in our current vernacular that defines several things. For our purposes here, it means undesirable, wrong, or straight messed up.
Do you remember the first time something went sideways in your life? Share it in the replies, if you want. The first for me was when I failed the Ohio Bar Exam. That news came down on Halloween in 1999. Having spent three years of my life preparing (or so I thought) to become an attorney, and having begun to define myself as and believe I was one, I was up shit’s creek.
Now what? I pondered. HOW what?
So I asked myself questions I’d been ducking for, it’s safe to say, 18 months: how do I find a job doing all the things I now do well – advocacy, analysis, research, client facing, writing – that I will enjoy? Where is the place where I’ll work with real, kind people? What is the job that will have me doing things for meaningful, creative, purpose-driven reasons? Where can I be set up on the path to or aligned with whatever my purpose is? At age 25, I was still figuring out why I was on this planet. Heck. I think we’re always asking ourselves that question as things change and we evolve.
By the grace of who knows what, friendship, and synchronicity, I was hired by an advertising agency and went from being a consultant to a “real” employee.
The five weeks between the Bar results and the job offer were unpleasant. That’s an understatement. Between fear, doubt, disappointment with myself, the dreaded comparison to others and my “ideal self,” and figuring out how to present myself to everyone, including my family and my classmates, I was lost.
Over time, I learned (and went on to apply as other things in my life went sideways, including breaking up with my fiancé and being laid off) that while you’re in the missed, the hammer drop, the struggle, the blindside, the catastrophe, it does indeed suck.
And when you exit it, or straighten out your path, you’re clear. You’re better. You’re smarter. You know yourself better. You are more powerful. What had happened was a gift from your past self to your current self.
We may not see the forest for the trees when things are sideways, because we’re not looking up. That’s the trick: look around and look up. Act up, the way leaders do: ahead and forward as far as we can see and believe.
See you soon.