My daughter started kindergarten this year. For the first time in eight years all of my babies are in school full time and since they are also going to private school for the first time this year, it was established that it was time for me to look for a job – my first job since becoming a mother in 2006. I looked around at a lot of different types of jobs, not really sure what I wanted to do – just what hours I was looking for.
I ended up finding a great job working at an optical store. The hours are perfect – casual part time on a few weekday mornings and some weekends, with just enough flexibility that I still have time to run errands and do all the things. And I get plenty of downtime, too, to unwind after a stretch of busy days – I can volunteer in my kids’ classes or go to the gym or watch six episodes of America’s Next Top Model in a row – you know, whatev. The girls I work with are pretty terrific and although I’ve never worked in an optical store before, it’s been fascinating to learn the field and learn more about optometry.
So that’s the good. This job has plenty of good. But it took a long time for it to feel like this. A lot of the things that I love about the job are also things I sometimes dislike. Having a different schedule each week is both a blessing and a curse because I never have a firm idea of my availability and sometimes I feel like I’m just racing from one thing to the next in circles. Between work, dropping off and picking up the kids and then taking them to their afternoon activities or goading them through their homework, then making dinner somehow – suddenly it’s bedtime and I feel like I’ve gotten nothing done – which isn’t true, but my brain tries to think it anyway.
Then there is the job itself which is so much harder than I anticipated when I applied. I’ve had to learn a lot of new skills and information and it requires a level of multitasking that does not come easy to me. In some ways it’s like I have four different jobs:
- I’m a retail girl selling people glasses and contact lenses – making sure they are happy and can see well – After some training I’m now basically an expert in all the different types of lenses and frames and coatings and contact lenses. I can speak the mumbo jumbo, read your prescription and help you find what is best for you.
- I’m also a quasi-medical professional. I actually do the prescreenings for our doctor, operating those weird machines that measure your eyes and poof air into them. Guess how weird that is to learn.
- Then I’m a scheduling, billing and insurance specialist, taking care of when our patients see the doctor and how everyone gets paid.
- I’m also a repairman – doing adjustments and repairs on glasses.
And a lot of times I’m doing it all solo as we tend to have only one or two employees working at a time. Because I don’t work every day, it took awhile to feel confident enough to operate the store by myself and for a few weeks it felt like every day was an ocean of me not knowing things and having to frantically text my boss. I felt thrown into the deep end and I was drowning. I wanted to excel but it felt like I was doing lots of things poorly instead of doing one thing well.
Despite my boss assuring me that I was doing great and learning quickly, it didn’t feel like it. I was really worried that I would never be good at this job. I wanted to give up sometimes – to go get a job that was just retail or just answering phones or something. I was horrendously overwhelmed by the sensation of not knowing everything and not being good at my job right away. I sulked frequently, as my husband can attest but he wisely advised that I stick with it and rise to the occasion of learning something new and difficult.
Sometime in the last few weeks, something clicked. What changed? I’m not sure. Maybe I just heard the right words at the right time from my boss or friends or husband. Maybe I finally got enough practice at all the aspects of the job and felt things fall into place. I had enough “wins” and less “losses” throughout the day to boost my ego.
I think a big part of the reason that things improved though is just my outlook. Somehow I found the courage to “fake it until you make it” – while watching all those reruns of Top Model, I noticed that the girls who lacked confidence and doubted themselves rarely made it far into competition. Tyra and the judges would tell them to find their inner confidence and inner fierceness. Some of them overcame their self doubt and everything changed. The others went home. I didn’t want to be the girl who goes home.
I made the decision to stay and see this thing through – to learn the job and try to do better. I gave myself permission to fail, too. But I didn’t voice my fears out loud. I smiled harder, worked my smize and “made it work” as Tim Gunn would say. And as I took that initiative to try things even if I wasn’t sure I could do them, I found out that more often than not I actually knew what I was doing after all or learned it on the spot.
I’m so grateful to have a boss that put up with all my insecurities and waited for me to find myself in this job. I’m grateful to my husband who didn’t say, “that’s okay, just get a different job” – his tough love advice to suck it up and try harder kept me from walking away and letting me talk myself out of succeeding. I’m grateful to ridiculous reality television for being my therapy and my inspiration when things got real.
Sometimes life gets hard. Sometimes we feel like we are going to fail and our instinct is to quit before we reach that failure. Find your inner confidence to ignore that voice inside your mind that says you won’t be good enough and do it anyway. Decide to be a winner. Decide to try.