In lieu of Michelle Obama’s amazing new book, Becoming, I wanted to share with you my “swerves”.
For staters, if you haven’t read or listened to Michelle’s book yet, stop what you are doing right this instant and go buy it. When you are done come back…
To those of you who actually listened to me and bought the book, you’re welcome! To those of you who read it, you get it. To those of you who didn’t you still have time, it’s 1,000% worth it.
With my long drives to work, I listened to the book on audible. I laughed, I cried (a lot), I was inspired, I was educated, I was hurt and upset. I was all of the things and had all of the feels. I am clearly not Michelle Obama if I can one day say I became a fraction of what she is I will be so proud, but while listening to her story, there were times I felt like she was telling my story. She was so raw and real and open that you could relate to so much of what she was saying.
One story she shared was how she was a “box checker”, always doing what she thought she was supposed to do to get to that next level. Get good grades, get into Princeton, go to Harvard law, practice law at a great firm in Chicago. She did it all. Then, when she met Barack he was different, he was “swervey”. He didn’t do things according to plan and in order, he was a risk taker. He “swerved”, he zigged and zagged. This idea of “swerving” was talked about a lot in her book and she went into a lot of detail of her own swerves and how they impacted her life.
Ironically, not long after I finished listening to that book, and finished crying because Michelle and I would no longer be BFFs every day even though she doesn’t know I exist, I was faced with a swerve.
I, like Michelle (because we are BFFs), have always thought of myself as / have always been a “box checker”. Get good grades. Go to college. Graduate with a triple major. Get a good job. Blah blah blah.
I am always trying to do the “right” thing. However, reflecting back a bit, I did have my fair share of diversions, sudden shifts that were not in line with the long term plan and checklist.
My first swerve in life was to run for Miss Wolcott/Miss Connecticut when I was in college. That was something I never planned to do or really had a true desire for. Then, one afternoon my old dance teacher approached me about running out of nowhere. She said I could get scholarship money and that my dance students would love it so I just said, F*** it and ran in the Miss Wolcott pageant. Once I won, I had to run in the Miss Connecticut pageant. I won that as well and went on to compete in the Miss America pageant. That whole experience was surreal, completely out of left field and it completely changed me. All this despite not being part of the plan, no box to check. And yet being Miss Connecticut and a part of a pageant system is a huge reason I am the person I am today. Life is funny in that way sometimes.
My second swerve was becoming a recruiter. After college, I graduated with a finance and accounting degree and was working at a good accounting firm, but I hated it. I hated being an accountant, I wasn’t good at it and I wanted out. After talking myself in and out of the idea for months and studying for and then failing the CPA 5 times, I finally waved the white flag and stopped pushing myself to be something I didn’t want to be. When I finally told HR about how I felt I was lucky to find that the company had a junior sales position open, and offered me the role. I jumped at the opportunity. I dove into the role head first, having no idea what I was getting into. Of course, almost immediately after my move, there was a sales reorganization and I lost my new job two months later. I was devastated and so embarrassed.
Right away I started reaching out to recruiters immediately about getting into sales roles because I knew that accounting was NOT where I wanted to be. Then, while talking about new opportunities, recruiters started recruiting me to be a recruiter. Odd. After being recruited by every recruiter who talked to me and interviewing at four different firms, I finally decided to take the leap of faith into recruiting. It totally sucked at first and I was terrible, but in time, with a lot of hard work and determination not to fail again, I became really good.
Fast forward to today, almost four years into my recruiting career, I, of course, have made a new set of boxes to check off. A new road map to follow, a new “the path” to get me to the ultimate goal. Along that path I came to an unexpected fork in the road, another swerve if you will. I was being recruited by my client to work for them and help them build their team internally.
This was, again, NEVER a part of my plan. I told myself a long time ago that I would NEVER work for a client and do internal recruiting work. I told myself I would NEVER want to, that would NEVER help me get to my ultimate goal and it would do nothing but RUIN my career.
YET, here I was being recruited by a client and I was very intrigued by the opportunity. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this could be good. The more I learned, the more I surprised myself by the fact that I actually wanted it. I was faced with another swerve, I took it and I am really excited about it.
One thing I am learning about life and my swerves is that it’s all about your perspective. You can look at any situation and label it as good or bad, right or wrong. The way that you label it and look at it, is what it will become. But, if you change your perspective, change your outlook to be about what you can learn from it and the good that could come out of it, the swerve, or the opportunity, will take an entirely different shape and meaning.
Every major swerve I have taken, I went into it open-minded, found the good in the situation, worked hard and those swerves turned out to be the best decisions I could have made at that point in my life.
Michelle said that Barack was “swervey”, but she also talked about his constant optimism and faith that it would all work out. I think the two go hand in hand. You can swerve, but you have to be optimistic at the same time.
I am also learning there is no “right” plan or “right” way of doing things. Have a goal and keep your eye on the prize, but be open to exactly HOW you get there.
So the next time you are faced with a major swerve try to stay open-minded. Be positive and have faith that it will all work out in the end, because it always does work out in the end.
And as my husband said to me, “Emily, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Take the swerve. =]