Earlier this week at a staff meeting at the Cal Academy, we did this ice breaker activity called "Back Writes" that was surprisingly insightful. Basically everyone in my department had a piece of paper taped to their backs and you were tasked with walking around and writing some kind of affirmation on it, either about the person's work or the person in general.
We're a pretty tight-knit, friendly department, so of course the comments were going to range from professional to completely silly.
Here's what mine looked like (click to enlarge).
The silly ones really made me laugh, particularly "sweet moves yo". But the ones that emphasized my "positivity," cheerfulness, and fun nature made a deeper impression on me.
Surprisingly, I think I'm a lot more upbeat and positive in my 40s than I was in my 30s and 20s.
In the past, I think that friends and co-workers would describe me as "perpetually cranky," moody, pessimistic, aggressive, and even unfriendly. During my angsty-poet phase in my 20s, I would wear a lot of black and could be kind of a dark, dour person. In my early 30s, an anonymous survey of my co-workers rated me as "cold" and a bit too serious.
I guess a lot has changed since then. I think I've become less angry at the world and more accepting of other people and their quirks. I've almost always enjoyed whatever work I was doing. But now I feel like there's a much stronger congruence between me as a complete human being and the work that I do. I don't have to "put on" someone else at work.
I also really love the people I work with and the place I work at. I do get inspired on almost a daily basis from work and my co-workers and especially our kids. Finding a place in my heart for our teens I think has really helped smooth out a lot of my edges and connect better with others no matter their age.
Other important factors are dancing, my Quaker practice, being back in California, and having a relatively stable, comfortable lifestyle. I'm just incredibly blessed and fortunate, which makes me want to kick up my heels and dance!