Propositum tene



I got this tattoo in September 2013 - I had just finished my first Olympic triathlon and I got the tattoo the next day. The words themselves had been with me for a while. I borrowed them from Ovid's Ars Amatoria, from a poem I used to teach to my students that's basically a guide for what to do when your advances are ignored by the object of your affection  - they literally mean, "hold your resolution," but since that sounds too serious I usually just give people a looser, "don't give up" translation. Obviously I've taken it out of context, but I liked that that fact made it a little playful - as much of a reminder as it is to not give up, it's also a reminder to not take things too seriously. I'd been planning on getting it for a while, but I didn't have a timeline for when I might do it. Suddenly, on the way to the grocery store, the day after my longest endurance event to-date (at 3+ hours) was it. I was 2.5 years into my running journey, and after completing my first triathlon season and beginning to train for my first marathon, I had turned a corner. For the first time in my life I was able to not give up, to endure. I had a lot more not giving up to do in the near future. It was time.


It was a pretty pivotal point in my life: I had quit my teaching career 3 months prior and after a couple summer classes, I had been back in college full-time for about a month. At the time I was still covering pre-requisites and not even at the school where I really wanted to be (and where I'd ultimately graduate from). It was just the beginning and I had a long road ahead of me, full of more physics and differential equations than I really wanted to learn before I could finally call myself an engineer.

Six months after I started back to school, it still wasn't enough. I had chosen to go school locally, because quitting my job to do a 180 with my career seemed like a big enough risk without adding moving across the state into the equation. But I still wasn't happy - I was on the right track, but still not where I was supposed to be. Two Aprils ago - which feels like a lifetime ago now - I printed out a curriculum sheet from my dream school, and I pulled out a Sharpie and approximately 35 lavender post-its, and I wrote down all the courses I'd need to take to get my degree from said dream school. I laid them all out on my kitchen table, the same one I'm writing this at, in sequential order by semester (Ben and I had originally agreed that if I was going to go back to school, I'd need to be able to finish my degree in 3 years). I emailed the program coordinator to double-check all the requirements. I started sobbing when she got back to me and told me I'd have a few more classes to take than I thought because some of the classes I'd taken at my local school wouldn't transfer, potentially jeopardizing my 3-year plan. I met Ben for lunch to update him, and I sunk in my chair as I told him how I just didn't know how it was going to work.

But Ben - oh Ben, whose soul is the most beautiful blend of pragmatism and optimism - somehow convinced me otherwise. To keep trying, to not give up. A few more emails, some clarification about the courses I had already taken, some opportunities for summer classes and testing out of others, and within 3 months we were packing up and moving across the state to put the next piece of the puzzle in place.

The last almost-3 years have been an enormous leap of faith. They've been a constant battle between excitement, enthusiasm, and passion and doubt, worry, and uncertainty. As much as I've tried to remember to hold my resolution, to not give up it's been hard to do so when I haven't always been the one in control. I don't get to decide my grades. I don't get to decide if I get the job I want or not. Or if I get a job at all. Truthfully I think that's why I've clung to endurance sports so tightly during these last 3 years. I'm not in control of very many of my life circumstances right now, but my body and mind are two things that I can control. I don't get to decide what happens in my personal or professional life, but I do get to decide how fast or how far my body goes, and I need to have that kind of control over something in my life.

I left my job because I was unhappy and couldn't continue down the path I was on for another 30 years, and I thought I had an idea of what I could pursue that would make me happy, but truly I had no idea what was waiting for me on the other side. Or if there was anything there at all. It seems crazy and irrational now, but after sending out cover letter after cover letter, talking to recruiter after recruiter, and receiving rejection after rejection (usually tacitly - why are so many companies incapable of a simple, "Thanks, but no thanks"?), the little voice that's been asking, "Is this really worth it?" ever since the day I walked out of my classroom has gotten louder and louder.

Ten days ago that voice got so loud it was screaming, and then all of a sudden I was screaming, standing in my kitchen having the, "...but what if I don't get a job?" conversation with Ben for the hundredth time, crying and yelling and insisting it was a possibility even though he repeatedly insisted that it wasn't and that I needed to believe in myself. And - as he reminded me - I really needed to snap out of it, since the next day we were heading out of town for an interview I had on Monday morning.

I'd been talking to the company since October so I had a good idea already that I might like to work for them, but after I left the downtown Washington, D.C. office I was sure. Ben picked me up from my interview and I refused to even talk about it - not because it had gone badly, but because it had gone so well I didn't want to get my hopes up (again). I'd made that mistake enough times, and by that point I'd adopted a more que sera, sera attitude since there was nothing else I could do at that point. They told me I'd hear back in a week, and I had other interviews and recruitment emails to address in that time frame, so I tried to focus on that instead.

But I really, really wanted this job. Not like the other times when I wanted the job because it could be a good fit for me, or the city where it was located was one I was kind of interested in, or because I was getting anxious and just wanted the relief of having a job at that point. No, I wanted this job. It checked every box on the list of things I was hoping to find in Career 2.0.

Tuesday was another one of those gorgeous, but not quite frequent enough, spring preview days we've been having: sunshine, bright blue skies, warm but still well under too-warm temperatures. It was a beautiful day and although I'd normally take the bus home in between classes, I wanted to be outside as much as possible so I walked across campus to grab a sandwich, then back to eat it overlooking our iconic Drillfield. For a few seconds I let the happiness take me away...what if I did get this job? And wouldn't this be a perfect time to find out? Just sitting here on this beautiful campus on this beautiful day?

And for the first time in, well, I guess since I started this journey three years ago, the Universe let me know it was listening. Ten minutes after I sat down, I was on the phone catching up with my sweet sister-in-law, and my phone pinged with an email notification. All I could see was that it was a response to the follow-up email I'd sent after my interview. I assumed it was a standard reply with nothing new or informative, but I was excited to read it anyway. It took my phone a good minute or two to actually pull up the email since I was on the phone and barely connected to Wi-Fi. Two short two-sentence paragraphs from the COO: the first one, the standard niceties I was expecting; the second one, an unofficial welcome to the team. An official letter followed the next morning.

I would be lying through my teeth if I told you I always knew I'd make it here. I didn't. Over the last few years so many people have told me I've brave for quitting my job, going back to school, following my dreams, and part of me believed that but the other part was scared. I hadn't actually proven myself yet, proven that it was worth the risk. Over the last 3 years I've spent upwards of $30,000 on tuition and forfeited over $100,000 worth of paychecks. What if I ended up unemployed, or having to take a job I didn't want or like, back in the same spot I was when I started?

But in the moments of self-doubt through this journey, just like my running journey, the thing that has always kept me going is the stubborn belief that eventually things would work out. Running is a little easier to believe that - there are no hard deadlines, no dates looming by which I need to have a goal completed...or else. There's more room for eventually to happen. But with a graduation date fast-approaching, I was starting to wonder what the "...or else" part of the career equation would be, and worried that I'd have to find out.

I'm writing this post from the same kitchen table that was covered in post-its and a few tears not even two years ago. I've stayed up late studying for finals at this table. I've strewn papers full of statics problems all over it. I've worked on construction management projects and taken environmental engineering quizzes on it. I've had AutoCAD crash while I was sitting here more times than I would like to count. At every one of those points I've wondered what I'm doing here and why, if this was a good decision. I've wished for a time machine so I could go back and never start over at all. But now, on the other side, I can stand up and look at the picture that was created by all the fears and the pushing through them anyway and the not giving up. It looks good. Really, really good.

17 comments :

  1. Love the meaning behind your tattoo-- and love that you shared this. What an inspirational thing to read first thing in the morning- I'm so proud of you for not settling and putting in all of the hard work to achieve what you really wanted.

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  2. I love the story behind your tattoo! It's so great to see that your decision a few years ago has paid off - I'm glad that you got a job that you really (really, really, really) wanted! Congrats again :)

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  3. This was beautifully written. I'm slow clapping it out over here for you, not for getting the job (congrats !) but because despite everything you kept trying and working even when it seemed like the universe wasn't listening. You give me hope that even when future dreams seems unattainable, good things CAN and WILL happen :)

    Also, shout out to Ben for always being awesome.

    I'm so happy and excited for you !!

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  4. Way to go, lady! Life is tricky and tough and sometimes we take a round about way of getting where we need to be, but sticking through and propositum tene to those dreams makes it all worth it in the end. I'm proud of your resolution and of taking that chance, well done you!

    btw, sorry if I'm a bad reader and missed it in another post, what field are you going into now?

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  5. I'm having so much trouble crafting a response to this because I'm at once SO happy for you and so envious of you and your ability to be sure this time that the universe is hearing you...which is a sureness I wish I had myself right now. I'm happy you were so real in this post—not that I've ever caught you not being real for even a moment—and sharing all the moments of doubt and uncertainty that made that first moment of clarity, I'm sure, so much more worth it. And while some of dreams coming true has to do with luck of the draw—you can't control who you're up against, or what someone else will think of you, or who will even pick up the phone for you—the reason you're here is because you earned it and worked for it. For that, I'm so proud of you, and not the least bit surprised you had the wear-with-all to make it happen.
    Again, you're inspiring to me in all the ways a person possibly could be. Just waiting on the edge of my seat for the next way you're going to shake up the world, turn it on its ear, and defy gravity.

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  6. *slow clap* *fist bump* You go girl.

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  7. I love this entire post! I feel like simply saying, "Congratulations" is nowhere near enough for everything that has brought you to this point. You are an inspiration----even more so that you show all the sticky, hard, not-so-happy parts of the journey!

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  8. Yay! This gives me a lot of hope for going back to school. It IS worth it. Congrats!

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  9. This post is so happy and inspiring! I want to say congratulations but that doesnt feel like enough, you worked hard and earned this and kept working at your dream even when it felt like you might not get what you wanted, I need a word for that. As someone else that quit a career that just wasn't what I wanted in life, this post is incredibly encouraging. So happy for you! Hope you had a celebratory run or dinner or something like that!

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  10. I love all of this... I love most of all you took chances in life. That right there is what its all about! It'll make the next 'chance taking moment' even easier ;) haha

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  11. i wish i had proper words to convey my feelings right now. first, i love your tattoo. one of my tattoos is taken out of context as well, when i first learned what it translated to, it meant so much to me that i guess i wanted it tattooed on my body. then i learned what it really meant, and i like both meanings, but i like my take on it more, for me personally.
    ANYWAY. i can't imagine how hard everything has been for you, and it's all good and well for all of us to sit on the sidelines and call you brave and tell you it will work out, but shit is scary when you do it yourself. but i'm glad you finally got what you deserved - that sounds bitchy, but hopefully you know what i mean. because you took some crazy leaps and made some hard decisions, and now you have this amazing job in this amazing city and you so so so SO deserve it. yay!

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  12. Congrats!! That is so exciting! I totally know how it feels to worry you won't get a job after quitting your job, moving, and going back to school for a completely unrelated degree (I switched from communications to statistics, so I understand the leap.) I'm so excited for you!

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  13. I always admire your ability to share your fears, your doubts, your obstacles and the way you relentlessly push past them all to summit those personal mountains. Keep climbing and best wishes for the changes ahead!

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  14. I love everything about this! Congratulations on the new job! I'm so glad everything worked out for you!

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  15. I 100000 million times love the meaning behind your tattoo!! And girl, you know you can never get rid of that kitchen table now right???? Lavender post its are my favorite color ones too, btw. I am so proud of you!!! Congrats on the dream job!! You have worked so hard and had so much faith over the last three years that you deserve this pay off. I hope this is everything you want it to be and more. Cant wait to hear about your first day!!!!

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  16. Gosh I love your writing! I'm so so excited for you that you landed this job!! I can't wait for you guys to be up here and the adventures we will for sure go on! Enjoy your last few months at Tech for me!!! :)

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  17. Oh goodness, Tracy. You wrote this with so much passion and beauty. I'm so proud of you for always looking ahead and staying the course! You're an inspiration!!! :)

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