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What it's like to to realize that you'll never become what you had always wanted to be

February 4, 2015, 4:51 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 1377

By @mariocantin

Written by Davis Smith -- originally posted on Quora.com

For me, it happened very slowly.  I don’t know when it started.

It feels like sitting on top of a very very tall bubble, 500 feet high, and it is leaking air.  You don’t know where the leak is coming from, and it is very slow.  But you know you are sinking and you cannot do anything about it.  Your whole body is sinking.  But you cannot get off without falling.  So you sink.

You adjust to your new height a few feet lower, a few feet lower still. You keep sinking, you keep adjusting. 

YOU haven’t changed, you’re still on the bubble.  But your view has changed, you cannot see the things you used to.  You miss those things.  You feel sad. You see new things, unknown things. You feel scared.  You don’t know what to make of these new things.

Sometimes the bubble deflates faster and you get sick, lose your orientation and sense of self.  You panic, you think you are falling.  But you are not, you’re just sinking.

Then, finally, the bubble deflates entirely. You are on the ground.  And for the first time you can get up, step off of the bubble and walk around.  You can walk away.  You have no idea what awaits.  Perhaps another bubble, perhaps not.  It is a brand new world, one you always saw, but never knew.

I just stepped off my bubble. 

I’ll tell you the story.There is one thing I have wanted to be, for as long as I can remember.  An elected official, U.S. President to be specific.  Scoff all you want, but that has been my dream.    

I think it was the fourth grade when someone first said, when can I vote for you for President?  Those early compliments stick with you.  They inform your identity.  I promoted myself in roles that were leadership roles and they fit, they made sense.  And I received positive recognition that reinforced these feelings.  As I matured, I developed compassion and empathy, a deep desire to do good and help people. 

And I repeatedly saw being an elected official as a way to use my skills and fulfill my desires; 

I saw the job as someone who takes all of the pain around them, all of the misery, fighting, squabbling, insecurities – absorbs it, and then leads people to be their best selves.

I saw the job as someone who makes decisions, who can bring calm to chaos and noise.  I saw the job as someone who can be the punching bag she needs to be to make the right choices.

I saw an opportunity to test this theory a decade ago when a guy named Mitt Romney ran for Gov. of Massachusetts.  What a guy, smart, talented, business-y, commonsense.  I quit my job and walked into the campaign.

I stayed with him his entire term. I loved it.  I loved government, I loved the politics.  Seeing how things worked make me more eager, not less, to be involved.  That being said, I did become a little less idealistic than I had been. Just a little. 

So then it became an issue of where would I fit?  Geographically I mean.  I’m a very moderate Republican.  There are only a few places I would fit and be elected.  I’m from Michigan, but did not want to move back there.  I did not really feel motivation to run in Massachusetts. New Hampshire?  Possibly...

I got advice; move here, study that, volunteer for this, donate to that.  Lots of advice.  But I never pulled the trigger to start this career.  I convinced myself I would be better as a politician if I knew something of the private sector first. Understood how it worked. 

So I went to business school.  Getting there was a nightmare, I had to take the GMATs 5 times.  But I had convinced myself that analytics and management skills would advantage me in my pursuit.  I did not respect lifetime politicians; after all, what do they know?  I talked about being Republican at school, a compassionate Republican.  A few people told me to “let them know when I ran.”  I felt a rush again. 

And then, love came along. I was tethered to someone, in a good way, in a new way that compelled me to make sacrifices.  He didn’t ask for them, but was willing to do the same for me so it seemed fair.   And still again, I didn’t know the next step to take.  So I did consulting, it’s a little bit of everything.  Easy right?

No, not easy. McKinsey was not easy.  It continued to kick my ass.  But I stayed until I was promoted, and promoted I was.   Not directly working towards my dream, but not veering away from it either. 

Then, flushed with success, I quit.  I was available again, top of my game.  But still….I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger.  I didn’t want to waste precious time either though…inertia ruled me.

So decided to do something to avoid making a life decision and yet, not waste time.  I hiked the Appalachian Trail.   People tell me how hard this must have been, or how brave it was.  My husband and I know the truth, hiking alone in the woods, day -in day- out is easier for me than to pursue a dream that I think I won’t achieve. I cannot explain it, but that is the truth.

I finished.  I was available again, and even more confident!  But I needed a few weeks to process what I had been through.  And all of a sudden, my dream wasn’t as clear from my new perspective.  Politics seemed dirtier, heavier, I didn’t know if I could be who I needed to be to do it.  It was still there, just warped.

And then, a life decision was made by someone other than me.  It was made by us, this new us that I was part of.   My husband got his dream job in London.  So we moved here.  And he is doing something that is the best of the best in the world.  And I couldn’t be more proud.  But here I sit, developing a cheddar addiction, Quoraing all day…wondering what is next. 

I have always asked myself “could I do that and still become President?”  If the answer was no, I wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t say it.  Simple as that, it was principle, it was what governed me.

Recently, however, I have asked myself that, said no, and then…still did it.  Quora has helped.  I’ve talked about things that “Presidents” don’t talk about.  I’ve opened up about being things “Presidents” don’t open up about. 

And goddamn it if I don’t feel like I’m screaming outloud for the FIRST TIME EVER!!!  Holy shit I was constipated for 30 years.  And now it just pours out left and right.  It feels honest, it feels true, it feels ME.  (And a lot of it is crap, sorry about that)

.I realize, I might be the only person in the world who attended a top business school, applied and worked at a top consulting firm, walked 2000 miles AND moved to a new country – all to avoid failure.  I couldn’t kill my dream but couldn’t pursue it.  I was trapped.  Trapped on the bubble.

But along the way, these things that happened had a way of changing me.  Letting go of this dream is no longer about failure, it is about what is right for me.  Being President (or attempting to be such, since lord knows I would never actually get the job) isn’t right for me. To do that job, and do it well, I would have to make sacrifices I am not willing to make.  I cannot lie, I cannot cover things up about myself, I cannot compromise what I believe to win a ticket, and I cannot subject people I love to a life of scrutiny  and judgment they did not ask for.  Frankly, watching my old boss go through all that when he ran for President was pretty seminal.

I found a new principle too.  Whereas previously I applied honesty and integrity to my dream, at the expense of giving it to myself and others, I now do the exact opposite.  And it feels much better.

I don’t know how to incorporate the best parts of myself and my desires and principles into a life, no idea.  But I know I will figure it out and I will nurture my new dream because that is how I work.  But I think it will be different this time.    

Yes, I just stepped off the bubble.  And as I did, I made a very important discovery, perhaps the most important discovery.  I opened my hand.  Inside, I found something, something that changed everything. 

I found a pin. 

Subconsciously, even consciously, I deflated my own dream.  I choose to believe I knew what I was doing all along.

The background/backdrop you see (with the trees and mountain) is actually created by tens of thousands of people holding large colored flipcharts- they flip them constantly to change the backdrop of the show. This happens hundreds of time during the event.

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Source: www.quora.com. Link: http://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-realize-that-you-will-never-become-what-you-had-always-wanted-to-be

Republished with permission, as per Quora's Terms of Service, under the subsection titled, "Quora's Licenses to You".

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