A couple of years ago, my roommate was working on a five-year plan. The idea frightened me: What should my goals be? Where did I want to reside? How would I get from point A to point B?
I’ve achieved most of my career goals earlier than I expected. When I worked in newspapers, my aim was to report for the Birmingham News by the time I turned 30; I started work there the month before I hit 25. I interned at Birmingham magazine while I was in grad school, and when I left I thought it would be a great job if they were ever hiring. Tomorrow is my six-year anniversary. After I’d been at the magazine for a while, I knew I wanted to become managing editor someday. I assumed that role in July 2009 (days after my 28th birthday).
Now, my career goals focus more on what the magazine can achieve than what I can achieve. We were finalists in the general excellence category for the 2011 City and Regional Magazine Association awards, and I literally danced with joy around Urban Standard when I found out. Earlier this month I submitted for the 2012 awards, and I can’t wait to find out if we’ll be finalists in any categories this year. (Finalists are announced in the spring, and the winners are announced at the conference in May 2013.)
And, OK, I do have some career goals left on the table: Someday I want to see my byline in Esquire and the New York Times Book Review, and I want to write a book, like almost every other writer out there. (Yesterday I saw the fruits of another dream come to life: Charles Buchanan, who I hired in 2010 to write an article about the “ghost signs” in town, has published a book on that subject. The publisher approached him after the Birmingham magazine article. I am ridiculously proud to have made some small contribution to this book.)
However, I’m no longer willing to compromise my personal life to achieve those career goals. For years, work came before everything else. You know you have a problem when you work in a 17-story building that includes multiple law offices, and yet the security guard recognizes you well enough to lecture you about working too much. I love my job, and I work hard. But my work isn’t the primary mark I want to make on this earth.
While discussing this with a friend about a year and a half ago, he asked me a few simple questions: “What neighborhood do you want to live in? What do you want to be known for? What does your life at home look like?”
My answers were equally straightforward. I want to live in Birmingham. I want to be known for caring about people. I want to have a family (whether that’s a husband or a husband and kids–we’ll see). As I said to that friend then, “I’m more concerned with the quality of my work than the details of it. I want to do something that’s meaningful to me. (I’m) more concerned about caring for people than having my name recognized.”
In recent years, I’ve gotten better at maintaining that balance, but I believe I’ll walk that tightrope for the rest of my life.
The 13th #bloglikecrazy prompt was about leaving a legacy. I am slowly but surely working my way through these topics!