Black, White and Shades of Gray

I always thought…used to think?…was conditioned to think?… (I’ll get back to that). At some point, and for a very long time, I was a black and white kind of person and had a fear of confusion that came with areas of gray so I made every effort to avoid it. Personally, professionally, emotionally, cognitively…

A formative shift happened around 2005 when I was going through one of many professional transitions. I remember having a conversation with my then-manager. My role was about to enter an area of ambiguity (which meant change, of course) and I was passionately advocating for clarity and delineation of ownership.

His response was something like: if you are going to continue to chose this path, this industry and this trajectory, nothing is going to be clear-cut black and white. You are going to have to be comfortable with constant change–to do that effectively, you have to settle into the gray area.

At the time I was horrified. How could someone I was looking to for reassurance and guidance be advising me that stability was not and would probably never be in the cards? Sensing my horror, my boss calmly (he’s known to always maintain his composure, it’s a lovely quality) went on to say something like: why don’t you take a moment to consider what we’ve spoken about and truly decide what you want–there are options if you decide you want to have a more ‘black and white’–this is mine / that is yours kind of role…

But I knew what he didn’t say… That this kind approach wouldn’t last in this climate very long… For anything.

What he didn’t know was that my first marriage was beginning to end. And in that very moment, he could have been giving me the very same advice about that aspect of my life as well. In a way he was…

At work, the ground in media was shifting under us literally every single day and that was immensely energizing and inspiring… also a little scary because there was so much that was unknown… but it was new to pretty much everyone. At home, the walls were closing in and it was suffocating and agonizing.

At work, we were experimenting, trying new things sometimes failing but often winning. I was working in a place where creativity, ideas and quality reigned supreme and were rewarded. I was given opportunity and access and I excelled. At home, I felt I was just losing–my marriage was failing and because of that, I believed I failed my children. It was not my sanctuary, but with two small children, if I was not at work, I was home with them. They were my comfort in the chaos of change, and I believe I was theirs. We were finding our way to adapt, recalibrate and renew as our world was changing shape.

What was crazy, during that time… I did more than survive change, I learned to thrive in it. Over the next bunch of years that conversation back in 2005 would often come back to me–like a mantra “find comfort in change…”–only this time it was more of a fact, and had evolved a bit, because often I was not only in the midst of change, I was part of change or even bringing change–and this was hugely empowering and very humbling (yet still a little scary). The weight of this responsibility was never lost on me–whether it was transitioning my children to their new life with a step-father or introducing a new, disruptive business concept; fear of the unknown did not hold me back, even better… I learned to feed off that energy and let it propel me farther than I could have gone unaided. It’s now part of the frequency I enjoy. So…

I always thought
I used to think

I used to avoid situations and relationships that did not have clear and concise demarcations and courses, until that stopped working for me and I had irrefutable proof that the unknown wasn’t an abyss. Then I got used to shades of gray…and then I decided to add some color of my own.

Related Posts:
Flipping The Switch
Spring Essentials and Welcoming Change
The Greatest Gift
Where I’m At: Getting Real
A Dance With My Father

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