Until I turned 21 – my plan was to become a vet. Play with kittens all day long. That is, until I started in veterinarian school in Paris and felt totally out of place. I dropped out, only 3 days in. Took biology for a year (and cried myself to sleep regularly) until I decided that it was not for me.
When I think of this, I also remember that I never meant to become a journalist, until I became one. Or how I promised myself never to work with computers again after 2004 – and here we are. What I tell young people is that sometimes you have plans but then life happens.
Enters working girl.
I never thought of myself as super serious, in fact, in high school, I felt pretty stupid. Sure, I knew my stuff but I could not have imagined that one day, I would work for one of the world’s biggest corporations. And doing things that matter. Because, in all seriousness, your life choices are a serious business and if I can contribute to more young talents chosing STEM careers, I think that’s good for them and it’s good for the world. But sometimes I feel like I’m an alien in this corporate world. Because things are not so black and white. Choose this – reject that.
I might think I appear serious to people – but others might not see it that way. Trust me, there are much more serious people around me. But I don’t think its about added seriousness necesssarily, its more about having lost the rest.
To be fair- modern society doesn’t make it easy either. With constant focus on identity (or multiple identities depending on the platform), you are measured on performance (or maybe more on perceptions of performance), how you present yourself and the image others have of you. That is at least how professionalism works for most people. And Linkedin. And the school collaboration with other parents. So you are constantly trying to give the “right” image, and its exhausting. Saying intelligent things, dressing right (because you often end up looking like a little girl in a dress), using your time right, remembering to constantly update your personal brand and your professional add-ons . Sometimes you do jobs that don’t inspire you as much as you had hoped (What happened to all the kittens?) because you have mouths to feed, student loans to pay or you don’t know what the next step might be. Sometimes your work is inspiring but there are so many politics to take into account that it’s hard to navigate. When somedays all you want to do is just drop everything and not have to answer to anyone. Just be silly and not overthink every decision.
“If you judge a woman as “unprofessionally” dressed, remember that she’s doing the best she can in the face of ambiguous guidelines and the body she’s been given. Remember that she’s attempting to navigate the professional world while striving for the most honorable thing of all — staying true to herself.”
I also think my level of seriousness increased when I moved to Denmark. There is something about the way you sound in different languagues – I think in French I sometimes sound childish, in English – perhaps more serious than I intend to be. In Danish – good but probably never good enough as I’m not a native speaker and so I really try – but I’m probably never funny and end up sounding like a serious person all the time. I hardly speak Icelandic anymore unless it some sort of weird mix of scandinavian pronounciation and tainted by everyday Danish to my kids. It used to be the language I was the strongest in, so its not without mixed feelings and melancholy I realize that it isn’t anymore and that brings back memories of days when “we were young” [Queue in Adele and a few tears]. Could this serious business thing feel like this because my silliness got lost in translation?
Or was it motherhood? No more time to be childish now that you have kids yourself. Now that is some serious stuff – getting a job – keeping a job and trying not to mess up your boys childhood while you’re at it! (Good luck with that). Everything becomes so practical and all day long, serious decisions need to be made. Can’t always blame it on parenthood though. You dont have to buy into the perfect mother myth. Granted, you need to give kids stability. But in parenthood there are also plenty of opportunities to be more silly. And playful. I think I am finally coming to terms with that being a mother isn’t always about being serious and/or educative. Sometimes you can say silly things and do whatever you feel like, also with your kids- without it damaging them forever (Am I taking them to this music festival so we can party all night long? I mean, they’re almost 10!). Most of the time, we have no clue what we are doing anyway. So why so serious?
I have been thinking about whether this is about being female? The structures might simply not be built so it’s easy to be your authentic self. Can I be “me” all the time, with all that goes with it when pre-defined structures don’t fit my thoughts, my needs or my style?
It sometimes feels like my real full time job is this: not letting my full time job consume me. To worry, to perform, to impress, to be so goddam serious. I constantly remind myself that life is also had to have fun. To talk more icelandic, to be more silly, to play with kittens, to stay up late, to laugh, to be wrong, to ask stupid questions (not the correct journalistic ones), to tease my kids, to smile more, to watch Zack efron movies – (see post below) and to embrace it all. And dont give a rats a** about what others think.
And then its monday again, and I roll up to the company carpark, wearing a blazer and matching heels…