I have been on the job in my new position for three weeks, and it never fails--I walk through the door to my house and declare, "I love my job!" I mean, that's great, right? Everyone wants a job they love. But I don't just love my job. I love the opportunity it gives me to be myself to the fullest extent possible. I really feel like I have been waiting for this nexus of opportunities for my whole professional life.
I've always had a mind for big things. In high school Anne and I sat around dreaming up "Spirit Week." Fast forward 15 years, and "Spirit Week," (with it's class competitions and bright, enthusiastic displays), is a veritable institution at my high school. In college I successfully convinced the Academic Dean to let me design my own major. It was 2002, and people struggled to wrap their brains around "Community Health." Today, the First Lady has taken on the mantle of promoting how important the built environment and the amenities therein are on the health of the residents. After college I participated in a variety of clubs and programs for up-and-coming nonprofit professionals. From our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed twenties, we have evolved into 30-something leaders of our respective industries. In grad school my friend Liz and I would take the theories we learned from the likes of Frank Hritz and the late, great Ted Bradshaw and extrapolate on the amazing things we would do to apply those lessons to the real world.
And then I got to the real world.
I applied for four jobs at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency during my last year of grad school. Needless to say, I REALLY wanted to work there. I learned all I could about the 13 redevelopment areas and the dozens of projects. I was so excited about the synergy of the joint powers model that pooled both human capital and financial capital of six separate entities. I finally managed to land a job, (which ironically was the bottom one on my list), and started the same week I celebrated my 27th birthday, did my thesis project defense, and bought my first house. It was a momentous week, to say the least.
I was in for a rude awakening, though. I was stunned to find out that the ideas of a junior analyst fresh out of grad school didn't carry the kind of sway I naively thought they would. Surprise, surprise. But in my five years there, I learned many important lessons. I developed tenacity from surviving the worst economic downturn of my lifetime--and STILL managed to close deals. I cut my teeth on incredibly complex projects, with intricate financial layering and numerous feasibility hurdles. Most importantly, I cultivated patience and humility. Being the youngest and least experienced in my department within a large bureaucracy, patience and humility should have been a forgone conclusion.
I think that all those lessons were just what I needed. I learned tenacity, patience, and humility, AND I gained valuable technical skills throughout. Armed with my new personal and professional skills, I have now been given the opportunity to exercise all those qualities that are so very me: enthusiasm, optimism, sociability, and ingenuity. I have been waiting my whole professional life to get totally juiced about an idea, see the possibilities for it, bring in the players who can bring it to fruition, and create something that has not been done before. However, 20-something Bernadette just did not have the knowledge, life experience, or personal fortitude required to bring projects of this scale to fruition. It just wouldn't have happened.
I was watching "Family Feud" one day, and the top answer for "The age at which a woman is most fascinating" was 30. I think there is something to that. But maybe 30 is just the starting point. Like a fine wine, I think I have just turned the corner from glorified grape juice to a smooth spirit. Hopefully, I too will only get better with age.