I hate to do this, but we need to break up. I need some space. I need some time. It’s not you. It’s me. We’ve just been together so long that I’ve forgotten who I am. I’ve gotten lost in our relationship. I’m not saying it’s forever. I love you. I do. I just need to find myself.
Break-ups hurt. But sometimes they are necessary. So I’m breaking up…with my industry.
We’ve been together for 25 years. Call it a midlife crisis, call it a mid-career crisis (although “mid-career” might be generous), but I need some time to think about whether I’ve done all I can with and for this industry or whether I still have something to contribute. I feel spent, worn out.
There is a wonderful supplier who contributes “Has Been” ribbons to wear on conference badges. I always look for them and wear one when I can find them. I wear it as a joke, but beneath that joke is a serious concern. Am I a “has been?”
I have been a member of a variety of professional associations. I’ve served on committees, I’ve chaired committees, I’ve done research, I’ve contributed to the education, I’ve attended the conferences, I’ve been given awards I value greatly. And I’ve loved it. Until recently. And recently, I’ve begun to think “been there, done that” a lot.
I’m seeing the same issues come around for about the third time since I joined the industry at the still-wet-behind-the-ears age of 23. And I’m seeing many of the issues come and go again without resolution or significant progress. It’s a little depressing. I’m a huge advocate of “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” And that’s the thing–I feel like I’m part of the problem because I don’t have the energy (motivation, wherewithal?) to be part of the solution.
It is difficult to figure things out with so much “noise” around, so this year I’m not renewing my association memberships or my magazine subscriptions (apologies to my journalist/editor friends who read my blog!), I’ve taken many of the industry people off my social media lists and tried to populate my Twitter account with more variety, and I’m not planning to attend conventions (this is a big deal since my industry is meeting and event management).
What I am doing, though, is taking the opportunities that come my way–but ONLY the ones I really want to do. The ones that allow me to grow and explore, professionally or personally: the opportunity to do presentations on fresh topics, to combine business with family time, to speak to groups that I haven’t spoken to before, to teach a class on a subject I’ve never taught.
Some people think I’m crazy (they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong). I’ve spent 25 years networking and building a reputation in this industry. They say now is not the time to say, “Meh, not sure it’s for me.” A wise friend told me I just need to find a new way to do what I’ve been doing. Freshen it up but don’t lose momentum. And that may be exactly what I do.
But for now, I need to step away from the noise. Get quiet. Spend some time listening to the voices in my head (see: crazy comment) and in my heart. This scares me (not the voices – they are my friends). It scares me to get off the train. I’m scared if I stop, I’ll never get started again. I’m scared I’ll be forgotten. That I really will become old news. But I still have to take this break.
I may come back in a week, a month, a year and jump right back into what I was doing…but if I do, it will be in a reenergized, revitalized, reassured way. Or I may do a stint as a starving artist. Or go into a completely different field. Or a related one. Whatever I do, it will be the next right step for me. As this one is right now. No regrets.