On Learning and Starting Over

When I decided to leave my job to “do something different,” I met with mixed reactions. Some people were truly happy for me, while others couldn’t fathom why I’d leave a job that eludes so many—a tenure-track position at a Research I institution. The reactions I got from friends and family, however, didn’t compare to what I was feeling—the gut-wrenching realization that I was starting over. Not changing jobs, but changing careers!

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 5.40.14 PM
Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 5.40.14 PM

After years of hard work, I’d be back at the bottom of the mountain, pushing the rock up.

Some people like to romanticize starting over as a wonderful adventure with new and exciting people and places, and work that is full of high-speed action like we see on TV shows. The truth is: no matter how refreshing it might be to make a desired change, some degree of discomfort is inevitably part of the process.

My first month at Experience Institute has been just that—refreshing and eye-opening, with a healthy dose of discomfort. It reminds me of when I first started exploring Buddhist philosophy. I remember entering temples and being utterly clueless as I heard recitations in archaic languages like Sanskrit and Pali. Even when English was spoken, the words were still foreign to me. I found myself asking, What is a sutra? Sangha? The rituals bewildered me, too. Why can’t we just meditate in chairs? What is the symbolism of the number 108?

Despite feeling utterly lost, I stuck with it. I asked questions, talked to people, read books and eventually became very active in my Buddhist community. I loved the New Year celebration.  Rather than Happy New Year!, we proclaimed, Happy New Moment! It was a time to remind ourselves that every moment is an opportunity to respond to the world differently, to be new, to start over.

As I begin this year of transformational learning at Ei, I’m finding myself at that familiar intersection of being inspired and uncomfortable. But, I recognize that this intersection is where real learning happens. I’m asking lots of questions, just like I did then.  With each design nugget or tool I learn, each new person I connect with, and each visual story I tell, my gut unties itself a little more as I ease into this first term at Ei. Then, the process will repeat as I start over with a new project at a different company.  Each time, though, I’ll be a bit more adept for the climb. And, step by step, those initial feelings of dread will have faded and I will have become a confident and active member in my new professional community.

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