The Annual Performance Review

This time of year, my birthday always seems to crop up, presenting itself as a key opportunity for “assessment.” Ah hem. More frequent evaluations of my Life Plan lend themselves to unhappiness because shorter time increments make it near impossible to measure real progress. In other words, for sanity’s sake, I try to limit my navel gazing to one day per year.


Overall, I’d say this was a pretty good year. While I haven’t managed to secure employment, other aspects of my life make up for this. Birthdays make me anxious because they remind me of how fleeting time is; I worry that I’m letting myself down by not accomplishing all the things I intend to do. I worry about being lazy or deluded or just plain lame. I’m not sure which I loathe more: worry-filled navel gazing or the painful ritual of workplace performance reviews. Either way, the boss is a bitch.


Of course, what we want to achieve and what we believe we should achieve, often varies significantly from what is right for us, right for our “particular journey.” Those rare times when we look back and realize that a specific struggle taught us something we didn’t know we needed to learn provides reassurance that the course of our life may not be quite as haphazard and disappointing as we think. And it is with this thought in mind that I have made a scary decision. My re-booting requires re-tooling. My decision is this: from here on out, I am setting aside my ego, setting aside my ideas of what an acceptable, “serious” job for me is and am simply going to seek out any and all opportunities that sound fun and interesting. This is actually a Very Big Deal—made more so by my sharing my decision with you. So, that’s my birthday present to myself. Freedom.


Lo these many years, I have tenaciously held onto a rigid definition of what my career (let alone my life) should look like. What others decided was fine for them, but I wanted respect–impressing others with the seriousness of my work efforts. “Wow! She’s hard core. Look at all the serious, important work she’s doing,” I fantasized. Of course, no one said this, let alone thought it. While, to be fair, I really cared about the work I did—I believe in the supreme importance of education, basic university research, and the democratic process—but I had never planned to toil in these fertile fields. So now, a handful of years after my life imploded, all this “impressive” work I did has garnered no respect here in DC. I’m tired of beating myself bloody again brick walls. I’m making a change.


So, to repeat, from this day forward, I am setting my ego aside. I am giving myself permission to consider types of work that would never meet my definition of important or world changing. I am even going to try to retire my ferocious competitive streak and simply look for intriguing prospects in whatever form they present themselves.


Has it taken all this struggle, disappointment, and agony to get me to a place where I’m willing to strip down to the most basic parts of me? To step from behind my protective shell of pride and ambition? And to do so in a city like Washington that exists only for those rapacious enough to play hardball? I have no idea what will come next.

I have a request for you, my fellow DR readers: I would appreciate it if you’d send me a few, short lines telling me what it is you enjoy about this blog, what you’ve gotten out of it. Sort of a feel good gesture to the birthday girl who’s trying her best to focus only on doing the things she loves.



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2 Responses to “The Annual Performance Review”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    Your blog is wonderful. I read it because I appreciate your candor, and the fact that you are willing and able to step back and look at yourself and your life so objectively. You are willing to be honest, not only with yourself, but also with others, which takes an enormous amount of courage. We all go through the same types of things in life, even if the situations and circumstances are different…it helps to hear what other people are experiencing, because it gives us insight, and inspiration. Often we’re afraid to admit openly what we really feel, or think. You are not. You put it all out there…and while it may make you feel vulnerable, it actually is a sign of real strength. Through your blog, I realize that we all experience the same fundamental insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams…We all seek meaning and purpose; we all want to be needed in this world, and we all ultimately want to be successful. Confusion comes in terms of how we define meaning, purpose, need, and success. We all face rejection, we all face uncertainty and bad times. What matters not is what happens, but how we choose to perceive and ultimately handle our experiences. You show that strength is something we must constantly foster and encourage in ourselves, and in others. That is the only way we can grow and evolve. Thank you for bringing a breath of fresh air, not only through your perspectives, and the topics you broach, but in your willingness to share on an intimate personal level with openness and honesty. You are an inspiration!

  2. dignitarysretreat Says:

    Thanks so much for your very kind words; your comment reassures me that the blog is achieving the goal I had for it. If I can alleviate some of the misery of others by sharing my own struggles, I am delighted. We all have to find a way to overcome our own, separate challenges but there is a unanimity in the experience.

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