Just over five years ago I was sitting on a bench in Hampstead Heath, watching the dog walkers and feeling empty and little panicky inside. Who was I? I had just resigned from my top job building a branding business for a global advertising giant. I had resigned without any clear plan what to do next. Without a fancy business card to my name, I felt I had become a ‘nobody’. Perhaps I didn’t even exist!
Luckily I was saved from my misery by an egg that happened to split around the same time I was sitting on that bench. Couple of weeks later I discovered I was expecting twins. It was the best thing that could happen to me at that moment, because it gave me a reason to be. I had an excuse for not having a business card, though I never thought having a child (or two) would have been an excuse not to work. But as it turned out, I was so tired that the pregnancy literally ‘shut down’ my creative engines and I had to stop.
If it wasn’t for the twin pregnancy I don’t know what ‘branch‘ I would have held onto to save me from drowning, to save me from myself. I didn’t know how to stay still, I only knew how to go forward, very very fast. I would have grabbed something to feel worthy again. Worthy of love. But short term gratification would have stopped me from discovering who I am.
Why do people hang onto the first available branch they think might save them from the river? Why are some career women so reluctant to enjoy motherhood and want to return back to work too quickly? Why are we all so reluctant to sit on a bench for a while?
We think our worth depends on our job. We want to prove to our peers that we are tough, smart and – uh – driven!
We are scared to look at ourselves properly and afraid of exposing our ‘imperfections’, not only to ourselves but also to others, if we do. Many women seek validation from the tittle, from the number of appointments they have in their calendar or how many pitches they can close. We want to express that we are doing something important, that we are important.
It’s not only the career women who are guilty of the symptoms of grabbing something – anything – that creates an instant illusion of worthiness, and our place in the invisible ranking between women. The ‘Grab Any Branch, Quick’ disease is widely spread: women coming out of relationships hanging themselves onto the next available (or married, for that matter) man; yummy mummies driving cars the size of tanks on a school run (‘My husband’s love for me is BIGGER – the size of this engine – than yours for you!‘), or young 25-somethings injecting silicon on their upper lip for no reason (other than the lack of sitting on a bench). Sadly, none of the methods is going to cure the disease and bring the satisfaction they are so desperately seeking.
I was seriously scared to sell my stake in the company I built and leave behind the fast life in the advertising world. It was fun and I did love every minute of it, while it lasted. The twins saved me from myself, I had to stop, shut down my engines and poke my head through couple of unsuccessful ideas before creating DrivenWoman. But DrivenWoman wasn’t an accident. It was only once I really stopped and was honest to myself about who I was and what I really wanted, that DrivenWoman was born.
If you have a chance to take a break, embrace it! Dive in and explore. Don’t be afraid to say at a dinner party: ‘Ah me, I do nothing right now. But I quite enjoy it!‘ (Ps. I didn’t have the balls at the time.)
Stop, sit on a bench and take distance to what is going on in your life, the choices you have made (or which you think you have made). Stop and sit on a bench as long as you need. Stop and explore different avenues on your own, read a lot and research areas that interest you. Don’t rush. Don’t hang onto the lowest hanging branch. Just keep sitting on that bench and enjoy. Show a middle finger (if you have to) to the nagging voices that tell you you should be onto your next project, ‘Oh poor you, aren’t you already onto your next project?!’ Enjoy your babies (if relevant), enjoy the confusion (it’s a very creative state to be in), enjoy life. It will all come to you, in time!
If we define our worthiness through our career or the number of appointments we can book per day we will not be able to define who we really and truly are, and how we want to live when we grow up.
When you sit on a bench you will start wanting better things, you will start wanting more exciting things. You will start asking for a bigger life!
Have a fast and energetic week, sitting on the bench :).