A Three Part Journey. Part 3: Lessons Learned

 2011-12-06

A short note:  As I was contemplating writing this post, I realized that there was a strong possibility that the post could end up being quite lengthly.  As a result, I decided to tell this story in three parts: 
1. The Ego - provides background information on a struggle I recently faced at work.  
2. It's Complicated - a realization that we are human, and being human, stress can affect us in many ways 
3. Lessons Learned - summary of what I learned from the struggle


First, let's start with lessons learned from 'The Ego.'  


The night after I had the bizarre conversation with my mentor, I was telling my husband the story of what happened.  He encouraged me to just let it go, "It's just a saying, you're looking too much in to it."  Being the analytical person I am, I couldn't just let it go.  


I started thinking, "Ego, what would prompt him to say Ego?"  Coincidentally, a few days before the conversation with my mentor, I was flipping through channels on the TV and stopped on OWN, where Oprah was talking about the ego (bizarre, right).  She categorized an ego as one's association with material items, titles, status, etc.  Thinking back to her statement, coupled with my puzzling question, I started to ponder...


- Ah-ha 1: I recently gave a presentation where I introduced myself as VP of our local Society of Women Engineers chapter - the presentation was a dry run for my seminar at our National Conference, so naturally, I would introduce myself with my affiliation with SWE.  Now, how could my association with SWE be mis-intrepreted?  Basically, a lack of understanding for why I am involved.  When I graduated 'high-school', I was certain that an engineer drove a train.  I had no clue the vast nature of the engineering field and was gradually exposed to it through my higher education.  SWE has provided me with so many opportunities and has inspired me in many ways.  I feel that it is now time for me to give back, to introduce young girls to the field (young girls who may be confused about engineering), and to do my part in trying to make sure our country can reverse our decline in math and science national rankings. 


- Ah-ha 2: I've created and presented numerous presentations discussing 'Negotiation Strategies for Women', 'The Diary of a Working Mother', and 'Benefits of Engineering Rotation Programs.'  In every instance, I was faced with a difficult situation, a situation I didn't understand and immediately realized that there may be others at my level who are in similar situations.  That realization prompted me to put together my knowledge into a seminar and share my knowledge with others.  In every instance, I caveat that I am not a professional negotiator, or a registered psychologist.  I'm just little ole' me sharing my lessons learned with whomever is interested in listening.  As I was waiting for my MRI last week, I picked up and read the article in The Oprah Magazine that referenced Maya Angelou's quote 'When You Learn, Teach."  And I realized that is exactly what I do...I don't wait until I'm a dominant force in the particular field, I share knowledge as I go.  


Now let's assess 'It's Complicated': 


- Ah-ha 3: The combination of my work responsibilities and my extra curricular activities definitely heightens my stress level and I'm more aware of it now than I was before thanks to the migraine.  I've come to the realization that there are things in life that you have to do, and things in life that you want to do.  If you can minimize the gap between the two...essentially, if you are fortunate enough to find your passion, you no longer have a gap.  Your 'have to do' will become your 'want to do'.  


- Ah-ha 4: I am not perfect, I am not invincible and I am not exempt from stress.  Stress effects everyone and I'm grateful for this experience, realizing that I need an effective way to manage stress so that it doesn't impact my future plans with my family.  


- Ah-ha 5: Passion is good, but don't be too passionate.  Recently at work, I was given feedback to 'not take things so personally.'  Initially I thought, 'How is this possible? How can I not take this personally? I spend 40+ hours a week at my job, it defines me as a person.  I spend more time at work than I do with my family, so how do you not take it personally?'.  I don't have an answer to this, but I am making an effort to work through it.  At the end of the day, people are just trying to get the job done in the best way they know how.  I'll keep you posted as I learn more about this one...I think this one is an ongoing process.  If anyone has any advice on this subject, please chime in! 


As far as the customer goes, I really have no hard feelings against them.  And in fact, I'm grateful for the experience.  I've learned a tremendous amount about myself as a person over the last year.  And in an effort to 'not take things too personally', I realize that there may be circumstances on their end that cause them to act or react the way they do.  I have no control over that, so all I can do is to do my best.  


A big thank you to Oprah on this one, too! An unbelievable teacher with amazing insight.  

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