I'm The Expert (Not You)
Get ready… this is an entry where I tell you that I’m good at what I do professionally but hope you don’t think I’m pompous simply because I go on about how I know what I’m doing because I have experience doing it. (You won’t actually think I’m pompous. I just worry about crap like that.)
Now, I don’t know if this is unique to work on behalf of nonprofits, but I feel like as I’ve made the transition back to working directly for a nonprofit business, I’m often being told how to do my job.
Also, I should note that I’m totally open to new ideas, being proven wrong (proven is the operative word – not just people assuming they are right and telling me they are pretty sure they’re right), and learning. So, it’s not just your average, everyday person trying to be helpful that I’m bothered by. It’s people in a room who are super good at what they do but attempt to give you advice on the thing you’re super good at doing.
Like, I don’t hang drywall (hang? install?). So, I can’t ever imagine a scenario where I would say to a drywall expert, “Oh, you’re still thinking about what brand of drywall* you should use? Well, I think you should get a brand that’s really durable.” Or, better yet, “Well, I think you would probably need drywall that’s yellow because yellow is the best, I would think.”
Two things just happened there. Let me explain it through some examples that are familiar to me and my career in development.
First, there’s the “obvious” advice. I don’t know anything about drywall, but I’m not a complete idiot, so I’m pretty sure you’d want durable drywall. BUT I DON’T NEED TO OPEN MY MOUTH TO TELL A DRYWALL EXPERT THAT. HE/SHE ALREADY KNOWS.
At my former job, I’d get advice on the regular that I should sit those baseball players down and tell them all about doing great things in Kansas City. Yes; yes, I should. But, I know that, and I also knew what barriers existed to accomplishing that. AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU THINK THAT I ALREADY THOUGHT OF THAT. I’M THE EXPERT at managing internal talent given that I’m the one running a sports team foundation.
Second, there’s the “ridiculous” advice. I’m pretty sure yellow drywall isn’t a thing. But, yet, I’m compelled to tell the drywall expert something completely off-base revealing that I have no idea about what I’m talking but in an attempt to look like I know something about the matter.
This one really throws me off. I have no idea how to politely say, “You’re 100% wrong about that, and I know that because I’M THE EXPERT on the matter.”
And, can I be really honest? I feel like this happens to me a lot. And, I think it happens because people make assumptions about other people (we all do!), and I fear that assumptions people make about me are bad. For the last six years, the word director or chief has appeared in my title. I used to think that earned me some type of credibility, but I’m pretty sure these days that nobody pays attention to or cares about my title. But, I’m fairly certain that because I look young (yay!), am super short, and don’t just talk to hear myself in meetings (for real, I try not to do it, and if I do, it’s because I’m insecure about something) that people don’t typically take me very seriously or make the assumption that I don’t have a lot of professional experience.
I suspect this because people often just CANNOT BELIEVE that I am 38-years old and a licensed attorney who no longer practices and ran a $3.5 million public foundation and is really quite good at the development work I’m currently doing.
Now, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t temper all of this boastfulness with a disclaimer… I am so open to learning from others. And, I have SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN about my profession. But, you know who I’m not going to ask? The drywall gal.**
*I’m not sure if there are different brands of drywall.
**Not because she isn’t excellent at drywalling. Because installing impeccable drywall isn’t super helpful to me as I grow in my career. Just like my lousy opinion on drywalling (verb?) ain’t worth a dime to her.
My Turquoise Jeans Burden
I have a terrible habit of supporting nonprofit businesses through shopping at for-profit businesses’ events that promise a percentage of sales proceeds will be donated to the chosen nonprofit. And, back in the spring of 2013, I found the most beautiful and burdensome turquoise jeans.
There is a local animal welfare nonprofit that I love because my adopted pups were waifs there. And, at one point, there was an annual shopping event at a Kate Spade store that benefitted that animal welfare agency. I loved this. What a fantastic excuse to spend too much money. “It will benefit the pets,” she said. I also distinctly remember that this was the second time in my life that I was actively trying to bring my weight back down to 120 lbs., which is about where I had hovered most of my life (save for end of college/law school when I was up in the 130s – that’s the first time I actively tried to lose weight to get back to 120ish). I recall weighing 127 lbs. at this Kate Spade shopping event. Seven pounds to lose.
While I was shopping, I found the most beautiful turquoise jeans, and I’m pretty sure they were on-sale. That’s good news. I wasn’t paying full-price, AND I was supporting pets. But, the jeans didn’t actually fit. I mean, they almost fit. But, they didn’t fit. I decided that they would be my goal jeans. Besides, I was about to start a new job, and I just knew that my new schedule and lifestyle would help me easily lose seven pounds.
Instead, I gained 40. 40 pounds. I weighed 167 lbs. at my worst. (For context, I’m 5’0” tall.)
When I started my new job, I stopped working out… like completely. I worked long hours. I was getting sick on the regular, and I was eating food served in a press dining club to mostly men who ate a lot of hot dogs and popcorn and nachos. Oh, and then, I’d have a cookie. Every night. Because everyone else was doing that, too. And, lordy, do I love cookies.
And, I’m not totally sure what stopped it. Although, I did recall reading somewhere that while a person might owe her employer a lot of things, she does not owe that employer her health.
I finally figured out that I was, in-fact, giving my employer my health. At the beginning of 2016 and after gaining 40 lbs. in three years, I started going to barre and Pilates classes. I had started to get back into working out before that time, but it wasn’t enough to combat the overeating habits, the dips in blood sugar because there wasn’t consistency in the timing of my eating, the fact that I started adding artificial sweetener to coffees and teas (which didn’t make sense because I was proud of liking teas that tasted like “dirt”), the eating when a migraine started in hopes that it would help the pain stop, and the unbelievable anxiety at my job in October 2014 and October 2015 (never mind the ongoing stress I experienced). I liked Pilates. It was just hard enough that I had to think about doing it, which allowed me to clear my head from the job stresses. But, it was something I could do, which kept me coming through the door.
I stabilized my weight that year, but I wasn’t losing it. So, in 2017, I signed-up for Hitch Fit’s online weight-loss program, and I followed it. And, I lost weight. I was right at the 140 lbs. mark, and I had learned some really great eating and nutrition habits that I’ve carried with me since I stopped following the program. I changed my workout during the Hitch Fit time to do what was recommended, but I also knew that the routine wasn’t something I enjoyed. So, I headed back to Pilates and barre, and I loved it.
I still love it. But, I weigh 152 lbs. now. I had told myself at some point that it wasn’t going to be super important to me what the number on the scale said as long as I was eating-well and being active. But, that’s not true. I care what that number says. I care how plump my belly is, and I care that the doctor writes in her notes that in order to lower my cholesterol I should work-out at least three times per week. I AM WORKING OUT AT LEAST THREE TIMES PER WEEK.
And, throughout all of this, these perfectly turquoise Kate Spade jeans that had helped support pets hung in my closet and burdened me. I kept them there because they were my “goal jeans.” My goal was to lose the seven pounds I had gained at the time I tried on the jeans so the beautiful things would fit. I would have been 120 lbs. and walking around in turquoise jeans. It never happened.
And, as I got back to about 140 lbs. through Hitch Fit, I was super proud of myself. But, I realized that those damn jeans were still in my closet telling me that I wanted to weigh 120 lbs. The idea of having to lose another 20 lbs. sounded impossible, and honestly, that wasn’t even my goal. My goal now was to reach 130 lbs., but I still had in the back of my mind that 120 lbs. was ideal because, ‘ya know, the “goal jeans.” So, the jeans remained. They survived A LOT of closet cleanings.
So, just a few days ago, at 152 lbs. with a desire to lose another 22 lbs. but not to weigh 120 lbs., I took the jeans out of my closet preparing to donate them.
Because, goals change. And, it’s worth reassessing what your new goals are vs. goals you had more than five years ago (ten years ago, three minutes ago, 40 years ago, etc.). And, there’s zero reason to be focused on something that has become a burden because it doesn’t even represent what you want anymore. Now, if I could find those jeans in a size that would fit a 130 lbs. person, I might just buy them again… but, at least, they would represent what I wanted.
So, the jeans and I took a ride to an event that required either a $5 donation for entry or the donation of a gently-used clothing item. My never used Kate Spade, perfectly turquoise jeans that were purchased as goal jeans to support a local animal welfare agency had now been donated at another shopping event to support another local animal welfare agency. Hopefully, it sets me free from an old goal and gives me the strength I need to set and attain newer goals. And, if for nothing else, the pets of my community continue to benefit from my shopping habits.
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