For weeks I've been thinking that I need to write a blog post. I knew it had been far too long, but I was shocked this morning when I realized it had been six weeks since I'd last posted here.
For the most part, I have been silent because I've been busy. The boys are constantly on the go, and it seems half my waking hours are spent transporting them from school to an appointment to a team practice to an event... assuming I'm not in class or doing homework or working. Emotionally I've been pretty even-keeled, which is in-part attributable to Rango, who brings far more romance and comedy to my life than drama. Sometimes I freak out about the stress of it all, but he and the Castration Committee are always available sounding boards when I need to vent.
Last week I sat in on a series of paralegal continuing education sessions. While I don't need the CLE credits yet, I knew there would be useful information and excellent networking at the all-day event.
The day was filled with talk of entity management and legal investigation of security breaches and e-filing processes. The last speaker of the day, though, made me come home and cry. (Yay, networking.)
Mr. Worthington is a senior human resources manager at a law firm. He manages paralegals and sometimes teaches through a local paralegal education program. He spoke about appraising your value in your job. Value, he said, is derived from the benefit you provide to your client, whether they may be internal or external. I'll go further to add that the value is benefit net of cost. He asked each of us to examine the services we provide with a series of threshold questions:
- What do I do?
- How do I do it?
- Why do I do it?
There is the basic description of your job, then the mechanics of how the job is performed, and finally the beneficial applicability of the services provided by the job you do.
"If you're doing something and you find yourself thinking, 'No one cares that I'm doing this,' then stop doing it."
I spent years doing shit no one but me cared about. I am a perfectionist who is prone to overachievement. No one but me gave a damn that I perfected my bathroom cleaning skills and kept my CDs alphabetized and sub-categorized by genre. It didn't matter to my family how I folded the towels; they just cared that there were clean towels when they got out of the shower. All that homemade chicken stock in the freezer will make delicious soups, but were the hours spent making the stock instead of playing video games with the boys of more benefit than the cost?
How I took care of my family and managed my household was the entirety of my value for a very long time. Three years ago, I wrote about how I was a financial liability to my family, given the fact that I didn't work outside the home. According to the LIFE Foundation's Human Value Calculator, I am now worth about $232,490, though that's subject to change now that I'm working one unpaid internship instead of three part-time paying jobs.
Much of the last four years has been about assessing my personal value, both to myself and to other people. Now that I'm transitioning from stay-at-home mom to full-time student to gainfully- and professionally-employed, I have moved from the red into the black. Hopefully I will continue to appreciate over time.
Even three years ago I knew I was worth more than the laundry and the cooking and the dishes.
Given the self-exploration I've written about, Mr. Worthington's words were fodder for thought. What is my job? How do I do it? Why do I do what I do?
The job for my external clients—my family, my professors, my employers—is easy to address. I take care of their needs with the skillset specific to each job, in a way that it fulfilling to me. I get personal satisfaction from taking care of my sons and Rango, from apply my critical thinking and writing skills to an excellent case brief or legal document.
But for me, the internal client, these are harder questions to answer. My job is to hone myself into the best possible version of me that I can be. I do that by applying my natural skills and talents—analysis, resourcefulness, creativity—to everything that I do, whether it be caring for my family or writing an essay that only I will ever read. I do this, because I am not content to be stagnant, because I am driven to explore and experiment and test myself. I am determined to shine my own light into every darkened nook and cranny of my soul, to shatter every warped looking glass, and to shape those pieces into the unique mosaic that can only be Stephanie.
And that is my job, to create something beautiful from something ugly, to use it to reflect light back into the darkness for those who need it, not to be the spotlight but to use the spotlight to be brilliant and kinetic, even if it is me who needs the light to dance by.
I am a disco ball unto myself.
The past couple of weeks have also included prepping for an interview for a Student of the Year award. I had to appear this week before the judging committee, to tell them my story in three minutes. While practicing with my advisors prior to the interview, I teared up again.
"It seems almost... dirty," I croaked. "It feels unnatural and uncomfortable to toot my own horn, to tell people all the ways in which I am good. I'm supposed to be quiet and modest, not boastful."
"That is a woman thing," one of my female professors replied. "That's also a Southern thing. You're taught to smile and nod and be quiet in the corner."
"We know how to put the lipstick on the pig," I said.
Screw that. The pig is a pig; it's going to wallow in the mud, no matter what I do. The pig is not my client. No one cares if I make the pig look pretty.
But me? Stephanie?
I nailed my interview. Even if I don't move forward in the judging process, I've won a lot over the last few weeks. I've decided it's time for a raise.
So now I have to touch up my lipstick. It's time to go dancing.