How Getting Married Affected My Career
Fourteen (or so) months ago, during an interview for a lateral move within my former company, a male associate asked me what effect getting married would have on my career. I was without words for how to answer the question and, for a moment, felt a rare sense of being unprepared. It was bizarre. Driving home, it struck me that the question was completely out of line (not to mention irrelevant) and that, if I were male, the question most likely would not have been asked. As a woman who is used to being respected and taken seriously, I was disoriented. Does this really still happen? I repeated the question in my mind. "How will getting married affect my career?" Now I realize, it did.
For as long as I can remember I've been an arts-lover in one way or another. I've loved aesthetics, design, music, writing, decorating and photography since I was a child. I designed luxury housing for my Troll dolls out of twisted bed sheets. In college I was over-the-moon when I discovered Powerpoint. When I was 13 I created my own wallpaper out of magazine clippings I thought were cool (90s Absolute Vodka bottles and CK One ads = avant garde bedroom decor). Putting things together to create something else became a passion I was, at the time, unequipped to leverage. Then I grew up, had big girl dreams and got a big girl job. I did all the right things. I went to grad school (a few times), began working for the government and lived on my own, determined to make money doing something "acceptably intellectual", but the creative process (and a little bit of rebellion) was always begging me to attend to it from the sidelines of my life.
On March 25th, 2016 I got engaged and began wedding planning. Naturally (in hindsight) I went full speed ahead into all the creative aspects; I couldn't disengage myself from playlists, colors, nature-inspired decor and table designs for the life of me. After a few weeks I wondered how I became the person obsessed with their wedding, constantly in a Pinterest hole or sketching designs. I pulled myself back into reality and began wondering where the totally insane drive was coming from. Then I realized three things that changed the trajectory of my year as well as my career:
I was bored in my job.
I missed being creative.
I had somehow aligned my behavior to other people's values.
Wedding planning, for me, wasn't about making a perfect day or being the perfect bride. I actually wouldn't come to feel like a bride until I was literally standing on the aisle! This event held a special place in my heart, yes; but it was also a much-needed, open-ended, filled-with-possibilities opportunity to use my strengths and to operate outside the bounds of what I knew. I had the chance to learn, create and put effort into something in which I found purpose. It became an outlet for me to exercise the creativity I knew I'd lost in the midst of adulting with my mortgage and full-time responsibilities. Several projects I had lined up at the beginning of the year- projects that were exciting for me and more aligned to my values- had fallen out of my hands. I was needing to feel the sense of competency, excellence, achievement and creativity that I hadn't felt in a long time. Luckily, it was a magnifying glass for the trajectory of my career.
After getting over the feeling of being a totally lame cliche came months of change, clarity and "ah-ha" moments. I considered where I wanted to go from this awkward space I'd created for myself as someone whose career was totally out of alignment with what mattered most to her. A friend staying with us at the time sent me The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, a read I'm endlessly grateful for for getting me back to a semblance of clarity and purpose. I began exercising gratitude for where I was in my life and all the places I'd been instead of focusing on what it would mean if I could achieve this thing or that thing at work, a practice I'd lost at some point in the previous years. I made the vision board I'd been talking about and I started meditating every morning, just for some peaceful moments to think. I curated books and magazines and podcasts that interested me and I worked to realign my behavior to my values, looking at where in my life I was fulfilling or contradicting them. I immediately dropped whatever neglected to serve me, if I could, and unapologetically began other ventures that supported where it was I wanted to go. And that was way better.
I began writing this post in October 2016 after my summer of reflection, but left it unfinished because I didn't know how the story would end. I wanted to write about how that time pulled me back to creativity and living a value-aligned life, forcing me to evaluate my strengths and nail down where I was in the process of pivoting my future. Over a year later I like to think I'm better at living my values: authenticity, time, impactful and meaningful work, deeply rooted relationships and lifelong learning (travel and creativity are up there). I got married, explored Cambodia and Thailand with my new husband, left my job and spent another six weeks traveling. When I returned back to California I put into action a business idea that, until that time, spent three years labeled as the "Passion Project" in my various binders and notebooks. I relaunched my photography company, just to have a creative net. It's definitely a middle, not an end, to my story.
My new career requires vision, energy, motivation, creating a brand, marketing, navigating social media, working with different professionals, an eye for aesthetics, thinking outside the box, knowing your values, weighing financial costs, having grit and sometimes working long nights- all things I am exponentially better positioned to execute after my experiences last year. My endeavors also require the unwavering mental, intellectual and financial support of a loving partner. And, as I continue to learn, being married requires the skills to compromise, communicate clearly, have patience and return to your original goals after the dust settles- which are also traits I beneficial in entrepreneurship.
So if I'm ever asked another interview question on how getting married has affected my career...
I will craft an unflappable, professional response to convey that the question is offensive and irrelevant while leveraging the question to highlight my strengths and communicative prowess.
But, secretly? My answer is, "For the better."