My career, and life, so far has involved a series of fairly radical changes. Another one is fast approaching, and as it comes speeding ever closer I am struck with a desire to get everything in order, to have matters neatly organised so I’m ready to launch myself into this next phase.
If I work my way through my lengthy to-do list, says this logic, I’ll have the perfect blank canvas on which to begin this new chapter. If I accumulate the ideal work wardrobe (read: a number of inconspicuous black suits and shoes with an appropriate heel) and an excessive amount of pens, highlighters and post-it notes I will look and feel oh, so organised and nothing will stop me. If my relationships, familial and friendly, are all subsisting with absolutely no drama then nothing can distract me from getting on with the job in hand. I must also, says my inner monologue, be perfectly lithe, fit and healthy so those black suits sit better, and thus complete this pristine image of a woman with her life together.
My name is Jen, and I am a perfectionist. From the horrifyingly vivid memory of recording my year nine science results in a Powerpoint, to aiming to be the best [insert job title here] my office has ever seen, I have always harboured a burning desire to lead an overtly successful, blemish free existence.
I am not unaware that this will to push myself, to be the best that I can be, has got me where I am today. Girls from failing comprehensives in rural East Anglia don’t become lawyers unless they put the work in. But when that desire to achieve all that your potential suggests is possible, to completely conquer whatever it is before you, takes over it can be crippling and has nearly swallowed me whole on numerous occasions.
In setting this out, at the start of our foray into the world of blogging and my leap into the unknown career-wise, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with it. Perhaps this conflict is one more universal than the internal battle I appear to be waging would suggest, and perhaps this desire to conquer the world is not uncommon amongst twenty something Londoners…
If, like me, you were raised in a church and prone to panic at the slightest hint of things not going entirely as expected, you will be familiar with Jeremiah 29 v 11:
‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ (NIV)
At varying times in my life I’ve looked at this and given up, asking God to carry on formulating the plans he has, and I’ll just be here waiting when He’d like to put them in place. And, if that prosperity and hope could come about with next to no pain, effort or inconvenience required on my part, that would be ideal.
But I also know that God made me driven, that my determination to succeed is at least in part motivated by a passion to make significant and meaningful change in my workplace. That those who fight to be a positive change in the world, fight hard.
Perhaps then, we carry on, harnessing that God given desire to work and to see its results, but not becoming consumed with the pursuit of perfection. We remember that Jeremiah 29 was a letter to exiles in Babylon, and that in v 10 he informs them they won’t be returning home for seventy years. That the plans the Lord had for them were not going to be launched out of comfort and excellent organisation, but rather He urged them to put down roots and increase their number in a place where they felt deeply uncomfortable and out of place (v 5 -7). But as The Message has it (v 11): ‘I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you’ and, significantly ‘not abandon you’.
I am, of course, going to forget this and hurtle through a significant portion of the next six months in an almighty panic asking why on earth it has to be this difficult, cursing myself for the mess my room is in, for the significant amount of chocolate I stress-ate and with a lot of other stuff going on in the periphery. But no one’s perfect, and I certainly don’t have all (or, any) of the answers. I hope, however, that you’ll join us as we try to ask the right questions.