How To Go Back To Work Happy, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:02am


I am smiling a lot, kind of like a bookworm going back to school. Preparing to start a new job after two years of semi-retirement is such a pleasure.

I was thinking about how different this feels than going back to work after a vacation. I remember quite well the need for time off, and how a week or two would go by far too fast. I remember too how quickly the holiday feel wore off, once back in the office.

But I don’t want to blather on, “Oh aren’t I so lucky,” unless I can share. So I was thinking, how, back when I worked with no more than a two-week break over twelve years, how could I have given myself more of the feeling I have now?

I could perhaps have addressed all that stuff that haunted my to-do list. In the past two years I have:

  1. Put a will in place.
  2. Cleaned out all closets, cupboards and shelves except those belonging to my children.
  3. Sorted out and filed all my financial and legal papers.
  4. Installed sprinklers. Replanted much overgrown or dying vegetation all over the yard.
  5. Repaired the two areas of dry rot around a window and a French door.
  6. Upped my umbrella liability insurance to reasonable levels.
  7. Finalized all divorce proceedings.
  8. Fallen in love.
  9. Cut back my two glasses of wine a night to one. At least more often than not it’s only one. My sleep has improved enough to matter.
  10. Addressed the question of whether I want to be a writer via 721 blog posts and a rough book proposal. Your 32,000 comments have encouraged me more than I can say. [ed. note Meg’s comment below made me check. In fact there have been 27,000 approved comments, so 5,000 were spam. Now let’s say 1/6 of the comments were mine, that means ~22,500 were yours. Still a lot. Really a lot:).]
  11. Located my earthquake kits, and put them in the garage along with large quantities of batteries, toilet paper, and paper towels.
  12. Installed a safe.

These are things that settle one’s life and inner sentiments in quite profound ways. I  was always too tired when I came home to do them before. In part because much of my capacity was spent on maintaining the family, in part because I took jobs I didn’t quite know how to do, and grew my skills in situ. That’s a stressful and consuming way to proceed, albeit one that moves you up the ladder quickly.

Once my best friend and I cleaned my whole side yard in one day. I could have enlisted help to do the other tasks. To-do list buddies, if you will.

What else could I have done, back when, to enjoy going back to work more? Well, I could have done better choosing the jobs to begin with. It’s astonishing that as a reasonably intelligent person I didn’t figure that out sooner. For example,

  1. I will be managing a group in my favorite function – product management. I think we all have a favorite entry-level job. Mine was product manager. Highly interfaced throughout the company, heavy communication requirements, fast-changing, creative, but requiring disciplined analysis. Doesn’t get much better, for me. What was your first job love? Have you strayed?
  2. The team is smaller than some I’ve managed. Hands-on again, time to coach and mentor. I do love to give advice and grow people. Makes me think that one should always consider the ways in which you most like to relate to others, when choosing a job. As a coach? As a commander? As a peer? As a helper?
  3. The industry. I’m familiar, enough, to be able to learn the ropes quickly. But I also love learning the structure of new industries, the little quirks only understood through details. I remember a training in which they told us maximum learning happens when you’re uncomfortable, and at edge of what you know. But one can fall off edges. Finding the right balance of familiar and new is a joy. I suspect I will contribute more, and learn even so.
  4. The culture. Oh the culture. You feel it immediately. I took one job I knew would be painful, after an interview process where I was serially interrogated by several executives, then left waiting alone for 45 minutes while they argued about something outside the board room door. I suspect that in a culture suited to our native makeup we are more easily productive.

At the highest level, what these two years really did was reacquaint me with time and self. Give me back the length of a day and take away just enough urgency and hurry that I could see what how tasks left undone affected my particular nature. I think I also understand that I may have taken jobs in the past as awards, for their shine. These days I’d rather be useful than shiny. Reverting finally to type, then, as a Sturdy Gal. With all due foundation.

And now I’m off to the Stanford Shopping Center to buy new socks. Warm feet, I’ve found, are happy feet. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

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42 Comments

  • 10/15/11
    11:31 am

    Reply

    deb-u-naunt said...

    Happy Feet!!!
    Congratulations on the new job and the intuition to be absolutely giddy…well as giddy as one Sturdy Girl will allow herself. Let your hair down Lisa, this next ride ought to be with the top down!

  • 10/15/11
    11:33 am

    Reply

    deb-u-naunt said...

    (I really wanted to address you as ‘Skye Peale’, please insert where the word Lisa appears!)

  • 10/15/11
    11:41 am

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    Jessica said...

    Such words of wisdome Lisa! If we could just take care of all our ‘business’, then we could focus much more efficiently on our ‘business’…be it in the corporate world or at home with toddlers…an age old delimma I think, for millions.
    The switch from ‘shiny to useful’ is so fulfilling isn’t it? Takes a while to get there though, or even discover the need for it…I think it’s called maturity.
    So happy for your happiness & excitement…
    xo J~

  • 10/15/11
    1:07 pm

    Reply

    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    You have accomplished a lot in two years.
    Stepping back from a high paced career to take some down time took lots of courage, and you must have learned a lot about yourself in that time off.
    Going back to a new job should be relatively easy with all your experience in the field and with those innate Sturdy Gal sensibilities.

    My question would be what are you wearing for your first day on the job?
    Perhaps an OOTD post is in order!

    Best of luck Lisa,
    Hostess

  • 10/15/11
    1:24 pm

    Reply

    Mise said...

    Absolutely, Lisa. All those things you did in the two years of freedom will have given you the stability you need to surge upwards again. I moved to part-time when the children were born, and while it was by no means a quieter, easier life, it allowed me to maintain something of myself among the clangorous fray of academia and industry. To enter a new role, as you are doing, with enthusiasm and balanced zeal, is ideal.

  • 10/15/11
    1:27 pm

    Reply

    kathy said...

    I have always worked for myself, first as an interior and architectural designer, and now as a painter. I have no real familiarity with what it must feel like to be going to work in a company with a whole group of people you don’t know. I think I would be nervous. Are you? And yet, I imagine it must be fun in a way too – to be part of a “group.” I’m looking forward to hearing about all aspects of this in future posts (I hope), and like Hostess, curious what you’re wearing to work for your first day. Yes, you have accomplished so much in the two years you’ve been “off”, and it must feel good to have “cleaned house.” I hope you have a very happy first day, full of wonderful surprises and lovely people. Please don’t give up writing though – you’re so talented!

  • 10/15/11
    2:09 pm

    Reply

    Aleatha said...

    “I’d rather be useful than shiny.” Words of wisdom if I ever heard them. I’m always more comfortable with the realm of non-shiny things, be it clothing or people. There is something deliciously genuine about wools and tweeds, useful people, getting one’s hands dirty at the things one knows and does best. I love being on the edge as well, but am most pleased and proud at things I have mastered well enough to share, and even maybe to teach. Shiny things can be faked, but usefulness can’t.

    Enjoy the warm socks, and the new job! I hope it is everything hoped for.

  • 10/15/11
    2:48 pm

    Reply

    Sarah said...

    Love useful rather than shiny… Me too. And also rather fond of happy feet. And huge congratulations on the new job. They do know, I hope, just how lucky they are to have you? X

  • 10/15/11
    4:01 pm

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    RoseAG said...

    I hope it goes well.

  • 10/15/11
    4:16 pm

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    Meg said...

    Yes. Just yes.

    That’s also a rather HUGE number of comments for two years. I hope you realize that.

    Saturdays forever.

    x
    Meg

  • 10/15/11
    5:08 pm

    Reply

    Town and Country Mom said...

    Great wisdom, put into words. Numbers one and four are those that I have compromised occasionally, always with some regret. The comfort, of course, is that we learn and grow from the bad as well as from the good. I’m curious also as to what you will wear in the day to day, and I’d love to know what you wore when you interviewed.

  • 10/15/11
    7:42 pm

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    CashmereLibrarian said...

    Good luck, kiddo! Wishing you the best, but hoping you don’t neglect your readers! :-)

  • 10/16/11
    12:28 am

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    Amanda said...

    Congratulations Lisa, So happy for you, and it must be very exciting. I am very curious about the products you will be dealing with, but maybe I should just mind my own business… And we all love your writing, you should also know, that is why we all come back. And also the fact that your audience is quite varied in age says something. Have a nice weekend.

  • 10/16/11
    2:36 am

    Reply

    Marcela said...

    How nice! I am very, very happy for you. You remind me a lot of my last boss, so I have the feeling that those working for you are a very lucky group of people.
    My first job love was my last job: in-house lawyer at a small legal office in the country HQ of an international organization (in Ivory Coast). The job was exciting, challenging, and varied, I got to work with people I admired and who were not only great professionally speaking but also good persons, and I could practice what I call “ayurvedic law”: The kind of law that prevents problems (contract drafting,legal advise, review of agreements, etc) as opposed to litigation, which is what I had done before. Life took me elsewhere, but I still hope I can find another job like that in the future.

    Good luck tomorrow!!!

  • 10/16/11
    6:47 am

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    metscan said...

    Wishing you a Happy First Day at your new job : )
    You have accomplished a lot during the two past years. Well done !!

  • 10/16/11
    8:36 am

    Reply

    Tabitha said...

    I loved Aleatha’s comment, so beautifully written.

    How exciting for you to be back doing something you love, my daily job is more like grunt work, still, needs must.

  • 10/16/11
    8:48 am

    Reply

    Kiki said...

    I am back to work after 10 years being a sahm and I am loving it! truly loving it. Part of it is now instead of working for Sun Microsystems in milpitas, I get to work for a non-profit in san francisco – my closets are still crowded and cluttered and I have no will to speak of, but I am still loving it. Don’t know how long this bubble will last…

  • 10/16/11
    9:51 am

    Reply

    Parnassus said...

    I admire and applaud all of your accomplishments, but only two years to clean out all closets and storage? Maybe I am accumulating too much. The one item I do not agree with is the warm socks–I cannot be comfortable or even think unless my feet are cool.

  • 10/16/11
    11:09 am

    Reply

    Lori Dominguez said...

    Enjoyed your list — happy Sunday !!
    Thanks for your words of wisdom –
    Lori

  • 10/16/11
    12:03 pm

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    DocP said...

    Enjoy the new challenge and please keep us posted!

  • 10/16/11
    4:09 pm

    Reply

    materfamilias said...

    This is a lovely post, and your happiness is inspiring, as is your list of life-sorting achieved during your time off.
    I’m hoping to keep working ’til 65, but I do wish I could have a year or two now, while I’m healthy, to get at a few minor life goals and to organize some clarity to see me into the next few decades. Worth trying to work at folding these smaller goals into the downtime that does exist, in small pockets.
    All my best wishes for a great first week back at work.

  • 10/16/11
    5:48 pm

    Reply

    MJ said...

    I love the going back to school analogy. May you be useful and even a little bit shiny.

    10/16/11
    7:49 pm
    Mags said...

    What MJ said so well :)

  • 10/16/11
    8:04 pm

    Reply

    Latha said...

    I don’t comment unless I feel that I have something ‘really useful’ to say. But I am learning through your post that acknowledgement of another person’s words is useful too:)

    As I was reading your list, I realized that how easy it is love you; it is so you! And then I realized that you remind me so much of my best friend who lives 10K miles away. You possess that undefinable but very tangible quality – grace and graciousness.

    BTW, your falling in love story would make a great post!

  • 10/16/11
    11:33 pm

    Reply

    ann said...

    best of luck on your first day. love the confidence you project in this posting. thanks.

  • 10/17/11
    2:57 am

    Reply

    Jessica said...

    Lovely post. Inspirational. Congratulations. Best of Luck! xoxo

  • 10/17/11
    6:04 am

    Reply

    Maggie [The Freckled Citizen] said...

    What a lovely post. I’m thinking of you on Day 1 today!

  • 10/17/11
    7:20 am

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    Mardel said...

    Your excitement and joy are palpable even through words on a screen.

    Congratulations.

  • 10/17/11
    7:25 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    deb-u-naunt – Thank you very much. And you are exactly right. Sturdies get giddy in their own small way. I will keep the convertible image in mind. Because in their hearts they dream of skye:).

    Jessica – Thank you very much. Sometime corporate worlds have reminded me quite a lot of toddlers.

    Hostess – I will certainly post my outfit. I sit on my sofa ready to go. Just hoping for enough light to snap before taking off. Ha!

    Mise – Balanced zeal. Another phrase to chant. And I hadn’t known you were part of academia, but it makes such sense.

    Kathy – Yes. I am a little nervous. But pretty much on the fun side of nerves. I will not give up writing, I will be here, and I thank you.

    Aleatha – “am most pleased and proud at things I have mastered well enough to share.” And there you have it. Also, am wearing wool:). Thank you.

    Sarah – Let’s hope it’s a lucky fit all around. xox.

  • 10/17/11
    7:25 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    RoseAG – Always the pragmatist, paring things down to their essence. So, of course, do I. Thank you for the good wishes.

    Meg – Ha! Can you tell numbers are not my forte? I fixed it. That said, I’m damn happy with the comments. Probably my favorite part of it all. Here’s to Saturdays, and Mon-Fri. x

    Town and Country – Oh, thank you. We do learn and grow from the bad, it’s just painful, and the periods of good are required, I believe, to consolidate what what has learned. I will be posting wardrobe shots, and I can tell you I wore Armani navy linen pants, Armani stretch wool jacket, and a white tee for the first interview. Something less formal for the second one:).

    CashmereLibrarian – Plan A is to be here twice during the workweek, and every Saturday. Plan B would be to tell you if I simply can’t keep it up. There is no plan in which I forget you:). Too much part of my life at this point.

    Amanda – I plan to keep the specific company off the blog, to be careful of confidentiality etc. Thank you for the nice words about my writing.

    Marcela – Ayurvedic law. That is a great term. I am pretty sure you’ll have another job you love, in the future.

    Mette – Thank you very much.

  • 10/17/11
    7:26 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Tabitha – Aleatha is a gem. And work is always work, that’s why they pay us. Or so I like to say:).

    Kiki – Ha! I worked for Sun in Menlo Park. And congrats on your return to work.

    Parnassus – The divorce helped the process of cupboard clearing. I do not recommend that as a method for anyone, however…

    Lori – Thank you very much.

    Mater – I suspect you will be healthy for quite some time. And beautifully put, the process.

    MJ – Thank you very much. Now I just need someone to pack my lunch:).

    Latha – Thank you very much. Such a lovely comment. And useful because it is your true feeling and perception. I send good wishes to you and your best friend.

    Ann – Thank you!

  • 10/17/11
    7:26 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Jessica – Thank you, and to you too!

    Maggie – Thank you. The thoughts are very nice to have in my pocket.

    Mardel – And here we go! Thank you.

  • 10/17/11
    7:27 am

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Mags – I remain so impressed by the literacy and eloquence of the readers here.

  • 10/17/11
    8:51 am

    Reply

    Mouse said...

    Okay, but just so you know, you are very very shiny.

    (Not oily. Shiny from the inside out)

  • 10/17/11
    11:00 am

    Reply

    Danielle said...

    Good luck, Lisa! Thank you for your insight.

  • 10/17/11
    11:25 am

    Reply

    Stacy said...

    I was particulary please for you regarding #8 on your first list. After a divorce, I imagine that task may have been tough. And love does indeed make for a cheery heart and disposition. Best at your new adventure,

    StacyfrPgh

  • 10/17/11
    1:22 pm

    Reply

    Susan Tiner said...

    Lisa, I don’t really think you stopped working! You have accomplished so much in two years. I didn’t realize how much you missed managing a team and am so happy for you getting back to what you love to do. I hope you’ll keep writing.

  • 10/17/11
    1:55 pm

    Reply

    Mary Jo said...

    Lisa, I’m so happy for you! You sound so happy! That’s what it’s all about, doing what we love! Sending you all my best wishes and prayers for your new job!

    xo Mary Jo

  • 10/17/11
    6:29 pm

    Reply

    landlocked mermaid said...

    Wonderful News my friend! and what a great post. Congratulations on peace, happiness and gratitude fo this time in your life. I love it. And am so looking forward to posts and stories about all the adventures that are to come… Best Wishes! xo

  • 10/17/11
    7:05 pm

    Reply

    Pam said...

    I hope your firat day went well.

  • 10/18/11
    6:48 am

    Reply

    hijabeng said...

    Hope you got artsy cousin socks =).

  • 11/06/11
    4:10 pm

    Reply

    alice said...

    I enjoyed this post so much. It always sounds weird to the people I know when I say I love working. Part of it is loving what I do (which is so lucky), but I also love making my own money and being independent. For me, work helps carve out a separate life and identity of my own. Much luck and happiness to you!

  • 11/12/11
    11:21 am

    Reply

    belle de ville said...

    Congratulations Lisa on your new job. It sounds wonderful and I’m very happy for you.
    I agree with Susan Tiner, over the last two years you never really stopped working, you just did other things with your time, such as creating one of the best blogs ever.
    Obviously you will be busy…but I hope that you will somehow find the extra time to write a book because you are an amazing writer.

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  1. […] of both space and tasks. The two years I spent working wreaked havoc on my paperwork and closets. Stuff overflows, tasks niggle. Time to complete and […]

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