Tuesday, December 13, 2011


There are many issues I have with attention.

Issue Number One -- I am needy. Duh. The end.

Issue Number Two -- Span.

My attention span is incredibly short. For someone who can literally read books over and over and over again, and can dedicate incredible attention to the television shows LOST and West Wing, I am lousy at focusing on anything for a long period of time. I very rarely sit and do one thing. I always have to be texting/reading/watching TV/on the laptop, often all at the same time. Since entering my working life, I am really examining my attention span and how it affects my career.

For starters, I will say that my career is frankly, phenomenal. It is also a miracle. A phenomenal miracle, if you will. My best friend Andre'a (chime in and confirm this, buddy), will tell you that I did almost no homework in high school. Ever. I spent much of my time dancing around her room while SHE did homework, doodling on her homework pages, roaming through her house looking for chicken nuggets. You know - the important things.

Even in elementary school, my schoolwork left alot to be desired. I kind of half-assed my way through, and I really don't remember middle school in the least as far as academics go. I never had "homework time" or any kind of structure in the house other than doing math homework with my dad (while crying, so that's probably the only reason I remember that). I am terribly bad at math.

Side Note: Once, when I was having a hard time in Geometry or some shit, I don't know, my mom just sighed and said "Oh honey, it doesn't matter. Just get your C and get out." I guess that acorn didn't fall far from the tree.

Here's what I did in class: daydream. And I'm not talking about your normal daydreams, I had immense elaborate daydreams all about when I was an adult. Looking back, I realize how little control I had over my own life (obviously, as most kids do, but I had even less so) and I guess all that fantasizing about my future life was a comfort. I had all these children in my daydreams, and I had their names and outfits, and whatever, all picked out. I would play little scenarios in my head about things we were doing/places we were going/etc. I did this all.the.time. School? Eh. I absolutely could NOT care. My mind just skipped and wondered and jumped.

Sure, I rallied enough to pass and be average. But honestly, I thought I wasn't altogether that bright. My parents refused to tell me my IQ, and I wasn't in any of the honors classes or anything. I just skipped along, right up til graduation day, when I walked out with a solid 3.0 average thanks entirely to a senior year class schedule that had consisted of Parenting (yes, that was a class), office aide, and drivers ed. Oh, and English.

I got into a good college, probably only because I know my entrance essay was good. My parents always expressed a little surprise whenever I did things that were good, academically (see why I thought I was a bit dim?) My dad actually voiced that he didnt think I'd do as well as I did on the ACTs, and my mother voiced that she was surprised I got into the private, liberal arts college that I attended.

I did better in college. Pretty good, actually. But I very, very rarely did more than what was required.

What did I like? Working.

I started working at the chamber of commerce when I was a junior in college, as a paid intern to track legislation, do the menial stuff, etc. This job, while very basic, blew my world open. By 20 or 21, I was sick of college. I was sick of the sorority house, sick of the classwork, sick of my friends. Most of them graduated when I was still a sophomore, since I (then, now, and always will mostly likely) tend to gravitate toward people older than me for my friends. I majored in Sociology. I drifted around Denmark. I didn't have any career aspirations in the slightest, but I liked this. Government and politics suited me.

So, I kept going.

I interned at 3 places before landing my first job here in DC, and my career took off like a lightning bolt because of one lucky break. I was handed an issue (a particular piece of healthcare) that was in its infancy, and then Congress allocated nearly $80 billion to make this little issue into a big one. I'm not being coy (well, maybe a little), but I'm also saving you enormous amounts of time by not going into detail. I had already gotten into a graduate degree program by this time, separate from health but related to government and advocacy work. I was working at a great job, with this as one of my bigger issues, among others I was working on.

Then, the bill passed. Ka-boom.

All of a sudden, I was hot real estate. I was back in Kentucky at the time, but two years ago I was yanked back to DC and landed a fairly senior level healthcare position at 28 years old. Without ever having taken a healthcare course in school, received healthcare policy training, or any kind of training beyond three years of writing issue briefs, etc, on my little slice of the healthcare pie. All of a sudden, I was having to take big bites out of the other pieces, and in some cases, I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing. I spent a lot of time giving myself a masters in public health on my own since my own masters degree was basically useless.

That was overwhelming. A few short months on the job, healthcare reform (Obamacare, for all the Fox News watchers) passed. I actually cried. Cried. Not only was I going to be learning how things were going to change, I still hadn't figured out completely how things already were. That job sucked on many levels and spiraled me down into a lovely bout of depression, made my self esteem plummet and I honestly don't know if I ever should have taken it.

But luckily, I got out.

Even more overwhelming? My new job.

I'm now responsible for things that are almost entirely new. I was glad, in a warped way, that I worked for the first several weeks from home so that I could start wrapping my brain around these incredibly complex issue areas without having to worry about office politics or where the bathroom is. But, that's changing now (and that's a good thing). I went into the office for the first time this week, and am settling in okay. My commute is longer, but that's okay. My ankle is holding up well. I'm in the boot for another week, and then I can throw it on the burn pile. I have an office that has scratched up furniture, but I have a TV and that makes me feel like a very cool person :)

When they sent me the job description (I knew some of them over here already, and I'm not sure they interviewed anyone else for this job), I initially turned it down. See, I have absolutely no experience in alot of ways for this. Yes, I've been around this stuff for years. But now I'm doing congressional and federal affairs, and it is an entirely new ballgame. I'm expected to wear a LOT of hats, and I'm frankly feeling like I'm in a sinking boat in some ways because I'm constantly trying to scoop water out of it with too many buckets. I have five aspects to this job that are each at least a part time job in themselves. I'm working late. I'm thinking about work at night.

Until I'm distracted by a shiny object, that is. I am finding it almost impossible to sit down and do many of the aspects of my job--of course I'm doing them, but I feel like it's not good enough. It's all still so new to me, and requires me to do a ton of reading, and alot of thoughtful analysis that I'm expected to provide. I'm worried that I'm going to let my boss down. I'm worried that I'm going to let my clients down. I feel like I'm already screwing up seven ways to Sunday, and I resort to navel-gazing and wondering how in the world I managed to charm these people into offering me a job for which they knew I wasn't the ultimately qualified candidate.

I'm making it. Faking it til I get there, I guess. But damn. I am overwhelmed and scattered and I wish I could just focus. Just stop leaping from one thing to the next, sit down, and read the damn bill or analyze the damn report, or whatever. Stop procrastinating. I'm applying these school habits now to my work (since that's how much learning I feel like I'm doing) and it's not a good thing. It's like I never learned study habits or study skills -- and now I need to study at work. I need to do it fast. I need to be doing it instead of updating this blog, but hey, I needed a distraction.

Time to buckle down. Can I take a nap now?


TheAbsolutPINK said...

haha - this blog makes me laugh in some way. I knew you'd turn out okay, even if you did serve as a MAJOR distraction for me completing MY homework growing up. Any new job is overwhelming, scary, and mind boggling - eventually, it will settle down and you'll have a firmer grasp on at least a FEW things so that it doesn't feel quite so un-doable. I have a hard time focusing as well - but i think that is just the way life has always been for us. Multitasking, IM-ing while writing a paper, watching tv, im-ing and texting while looking at a magazine. You've got this!

Ms. Moon said...

I didn't learn to study until I went back to nursing school at age 27 or 28. Seriously. And I did it because I had to. I'd never had to really study before.
You can learn. You can teach yourself and honey- you will and you are and EVERYONE in this world feels like they are the "fake" in a world of genuines.
Believe me.
I am so proud of you. I swear, I am.

liv said...

I don't really know you, just the picture that I get from reading you. That picture tells me you are...smart. Smart girls can make things happen.
Someone once told me that life is part making and part letting. You just have to know when to use each one. When things come easy to us, we're letting. When they come hard, we have to make. You can make this happen. You will, you'll find a way. And then someday you'll slip into letting and you'll look back and think...that wasn't so hard and you'll be so glad you made it happen. :)

Mel said...

I'm so late in commenting, but I love what liv said. You are smart. That shines through loud and clear.
Maybe you feel like you're faking it, but that's not why you're where you are. It may not be as much what you know as who you are. You can learn anything, but you can only be yourself, and you have the tenacity and the heart and the smarts to get things done. That's why you're where you are. At least that's what I see. You are rising to the occasion. We're cheering you on, and sure you'll do just fine. It's good to be a little ADD or blog on the side to let off steam. Part of the package.
If I were you, I'd be pretty proud of the career you've earned for yourself. You done good.
Hope you have a nice Christmas and do something nice for yourself.