Jimmy Carter before and after: Jimmy Carter before he became president and Jimmy Carter four years later. Talk about a job that wears you down.
Back in 2001 I worked for a legal publisher as an editorial manager. I had recently completed due diligence to pave the way for the corporate purchase of a small Seattle firm. I learned the firm’s business, helped hire 35 direct reports, trained them, and built a department from scratch.
Heady stuff. (And super resume-y. Sorry about that.)
Now, I recall meeting with my boss one day when he was particularly stressed. What if we don’t hit our numbers? What if we lose some clients? What if we miss this deadline or that deadline? What if …
Not even a year into this work, my boss was aging rapidly. Shoulders hunched, he took shorter steps, ran his hand through his hair manically, constantly adjusted his glasses. During our meeting, he rocked back and forth, his palms pressed together as if in prayer.
Boss: Carolyn, I know this is the hardest job you’ve ever had. I hope it’s not keeping you up nights.
C: Actually, it’s not the hardest job I’ve ever had. And it’s not keeping me up nights.
Boss: You don’t have to pretend. You’re under an insane amount of pressure. I want you to know I understand.
C: Really, I’m fine.
Boss: You’re putting on a strong face. Very brave.
C: Okie doke.
See, that job, though challenging, wasn’t even close to the hardest one I’ve ever had. But my boss never believed me.
I took that job after spending 12-14-hour days in a dog-eat-dog grad program. Four years of writing, reading, studying, teaching, and competing against some of the smartest, most driven students of literature in the country. That was the hardest job I’d ever had. Hands down.
And the second hardest job I’ve ever had? Novel writing. It’s not quite as hard as grad school because I enjoy it more. And because these days I’m ever-so-slightly more patient and loving with myself (emphasis on “slightly”). I’m more forgiving of my shortcomings. I may not be the best writer in the world, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to be the best writer I can possibly be.
Thing is, no coworker, boss, employer, or client has ever expected as much from me as I expect from myself.
And Jimmy Carter over the last 30 years? Well, he looks younger and younger as he ages, Benjamin Button style. Maybe that’s what happens when you walk the talk and give something your all while simultaneously loving what you do.