September 14, 2013

Drishti Point. ~ Heather Champion

Photo by Wendy Keslick

They say that if you focus on a point on the horizon and move towards it you’ll eventually get there.

A sentiment repackaged by many self-help writers for those in hopes of finding their true love or true calling. Imagine the life you want and move towards it. In yoga we use a drishti point to draw our focus when attempting a difficult balance. Breathe, focus, and suddenly your body goes to a place you haven’t been yet. Don’t plan, leave the GPS at home and just go.

As someone who has made a career on plotting and planning, the idea of just letting go and focusing on the end product is nerve wracking, but that is just what I did, scary but true.

A few years ago, I was an IT business analyst, and a very good one at that. My career had been filled with plotting out processes and procedures and planning for making improvements to IT systems. I can see the entire process in my head, draw pretty pictures of what it is and what it will be, then work out a step-by-step plan of how we will get from one picture into the next. There were days where I absolutely loved what I did. I worked mainly with men in the IT world, and the fact that I most recently worked in a company in the manufacturing industry made it even less likely there will be another female on my projects. Traveling with the boys, planning and plotting as a team, and watching the whole thing come together is magical. Unfortunately, the magic is very short-lived.

My client forced me to accept a reality I wanted to ignore. I’ve moved from company to company hoping each new endeavor would be better than the next, that at this company I’d fit in and could stay on long-term, that I’d be happy to get out of bed in the morning and head to the office. No, this client caused me so much frustration I started taking boxing classes to deal with him without hitting him, and I realized wherever I went another version of him would come along. I’d dealt with many versions of him before and if I continued on this path I’d deal with many more.

Every morning the alarm would go off and I’d think “Is this all there is?” The answer to that question lead me to my personal drishti point.

As a Generation X-er I believe that if I identify myself as my profession, and not as a person, I may as well do something that inspires me. But what inspires me? Through each dark day on my last project I asked myself that question, “Where is my inspiration, what drives me to get out of bed in the morning?”

The answer was that I get out of bed because people depend on me. If I weren’t there things for other people wouldn’t go right. I’d spent my career making myself indispensable doing something I didn’t really like, but was good at—maybe I needed to make myself indispensable doing something I did like and was good at, then we might have something.

So, what makes me happy?

I wracked my brain. Snuggling with my cats makes me happy. Playing with my niece makes me happy. Helping people makes me happy, hmm, helping people makes me happy. Like when I solve a problem for a user, or help them to solve a problem for themselves. Or, when I brighten someone else’s day. Or, when I make someone laugh, help them to realize something they didn’t already know, get them something they didn’t already have. I started to notice a pattern and got an idea.

Just before my last project kicked off, the company I work for announced they would close my office and transfer all operations to home office. You see, I had been hired two years prior when the small, privately-held company headquartered 20 minutes from my home on Long Island was being acquired by a much larger publicly-held company headquartered in Georgia.

My first assignment was to begin working on transferring all IT systems from the small-scale private company’s systems to the much larger public company’s systems. With the announcement of the closure of my office, and no invitation to move with my position to Georgia, my new assignment was to complete the transition of systems by the end of 2011. My official Reduction in Force (RIF) date would be December 31, 2011 and I would collect a severance package and stay-on bonus if I remained with the company until that date.

My director was certain we would not finish the transfer of systems by the end of 2011 and promised me an extension. I figured I would wait it out until the end and then decide what to do next, but as one of the worst winters in Long Island history bore down on us, and my partner in crime decided it was better for him to leave, I felt I might do better on the open market as well. I too looked briefly for a new job but deep down knew no matter where I went the situation would never really change. Before I took that last position I had made myself a promise, if this one didn’t work out I’d walk away for good and pursue something that made me truly happy, it was time to keep that promise.

Before I knew what I was doing I had filed a Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) and two applications for admission into a Mental Health Counseling Master’s program. I feverishly pulled together all of the admissions requirements and got them out the door. Because I’d spent so much time trying to figure out what really made me happy, deciding on what to do next came easily. The next thing I knew I was registered for classes and signing a promissory note on $30,000 in student loans. I kept wondering how I’m going to survive after my position runs out, how will I pay my mortgage, my car payments, my electric bill? What happens if they decide to let me go early?

This is the biggest project of my life, I can see where I am and where I want to be, but I have no idea how I’m going to get there.

There is no project plan, no trusted sequence of steps that will lead me to the desired end product. There is only one thing—my drishti point— the image I have of myself doing something I love. As my thoughts swirl around my mind trying to plot something out I take a deep breath, focus, and just go, hoping that suddenly I’ll be in a place I’ve never been before but always wanted.

Previously published at womensradio.com

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Assist Ed: Wendy Keslick/Ed: Sara Crolick

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Heather Champion