Through intense soul searching, Alex forms a new identity and path in both her personal and professional life
On Forming a New Identity and Finding Purpose:
"Originally, I went to school to become a director. I studied Stanislavsky and Shakespeare, took finals in mime work and stage combat. After graduating, I left for New York to do the scrappy young artist thing, I was directing shows in small festivals, assisting on new works, mounting my own productions, slowly making my way.
But then... it soured on me. Or I soured on it.
If someone asks why, I’ll tell them there was a ‘two roads diverged in a wood’ moment: I saw two distinct paths and I chose one. However, if we’re close, I’ll admit that this choice came after a show that I poured my heart and my health (and my wallet) into. It went... fine, but the incredible effort and lackluster response left me feeling empty. The passion, the fire inside, seemed to just die out. And if we’re very close, I’ll confide that it didn’t feel like the flame just died, it felt like the candle was ripped out of my chest, wick and all, burning wax splattering on me as it went.
"Maybe I gave up too easily. Maybe I was never good at this at all. These questions plagued me as I grappled with forming a new identity – what I did was who I was after all."
Maybe I gave up too easily. Maybe I was never good at this at all. These questions plagued me as I grappled with forming a new identity – what I did was who I was after all. I did some stints in advertising that, while creatively challenging, were not ultimately fulfilling. I gained new skills, finding that my directorial background was a natural fit for product work. When I found ways to volunteer for women’s rights organizations, I began to inch closer to something more meaningful.
Finally, after some intense soul searching, I enlisted the help of a life coach. This was so I was held accountable to someone else, while making a change. Working with her, I was able to identify the values and outcomes I wanted from my life and my career, rather than focusing on a specific job title. It sounds almost silly, but this revelation blew me away: I am not my business card. What I do for a job is only an aspect of who I am. Work didn’t have to be my everything – instead, it had to allow me to achieve my everything. For me that meant finding a job with meaning and broad reach because I valued working on that every day. It also meant that I didn’t have to be limited to only the non-profit women’s groups I’d considered. If I found something with a schedule or work- life-balance that allowed me to still put in considerable volunteer time with these organizations, I’d be much happier.
And I did. And I am. I now work for the American public opening up data sets and modernizing technology across the federal government. The scale and the impact of this work makes me stand a little taller. The remote work culture gives me the space to make time for volunteering for causes that matter to me. I still use my directorial training every day. Whether it’s orating for a large group or orchestrating a path forward for a project, I wouldn’t trade it -- or the transition that got me here -- for anything."
"Work didn’t have to be my everything – instead, it had to allow me to achieve my everything."
On Struggling to Meet Her Own Needs:
"I often don’t know how to ask for what I need. I am always the put together one, the strongest one, the most organized. The one who takes care of others. Interestingly, this makes me vulnerable – to overwork, to holding pent up anger inside. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s a struggle."
On Turning Fear into Motivation:
"My personal lodestone is “Follow the fear”. If something scares me, if I’m not confident I can tackle it, that’s usually a good sign I need to do it. A new position at work, signing up for a marathon – this applies to everything. Does that mean I don’t struggle sometimes? Of course not, but it makes being brave the default and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. This means that I haven’t often felt out of my comfort zone – there have been struggles and soul-searches, but I’ve always felt comfortable in them."
"If something scares me, if I’m not confident I can tackle it, that’s usually a good sign I need to do it."
On Being Strategic With Her Time:
Being strategic about volunteering is key. There are so many opportunities out there and I was burning myself out: clinic escorting; home hosting for an abortion access group; writing articles; serving as the communications director of WIN.NYC; and also putting in time with NOW-NYC. I had to take a step back and consider where I could give the most unique value add, where my specific skill set and time would be able to do the most good. Using that metric, it became easier to focus in on only a few of these areas.