Saturday, April 12, 2014

Walking on Air

This morning I woke up, and everything was different.

I am not the same person that I was yesterday morning.

This is so much bigger than getting "a job."  The job part - you know, with a paycheck to do things like pay for food - is a big part of it, and an important part, and the difference between living and dying, of course.  I don't have a trust fund, and it was getting scary to think about what my next moves were, and I don't mean to say that doesn't matter.  It matters a great deal.

But it's bigger than that.

This is really my reclaiming of my life, of me owning my identity as a person, and as a woman.

Being a stay at home mom, a cancer patient, and then a divorcee altered my career path in ways I couldn't fully comprehend when I started my maternity leave, unaware of the changes to come in my life.  I can not regret being home with my beautiful daughter, and I refuse to play "coulda woulda shoulda" about it: it is in the past, and my daughter needed me, and I was not married to a man who could pull his share of childcare/housework/cooking in order for me to be a successful working mom, and that is in the past.  I have reached a peace about that: mistakes were made, but I am trying to correct those, and the divorce is a part of that correction.  I should never have agreed to be in the marriage with the "rules" of that marriage, and I have learned from those mistakes.

But coming out of that was no easy task.  Taking a decade out of the work force is not recommended for career growth, that's for sure.  And transitioning fields in one's forties is not for the faint of heart.  And pursuing one's dreams is never easy, with so much risk of failure, and the additional burden that others are quick to judge the feasibility or the desirability of other people's dreams.

My first job after all of this was a godsend, because it enabled me to get divorced.  I would have had to live in my parents' basement (horrors!) if I didn't work, and I was so unsure of myself and what I could handle: I'd never been divorced, I'd never been a single mom, and I'd never been a working mom, so to face all of that head on was terrifying.  It wasn't the "right" job for me, but it served a beautiful purpose, and I remain grateful for the opportunity.  That job set me on a new path, reminded me of what I could do, reignited my sense of self, affirmed my ability to juggle work and motherhood.  For all of those reasons, it was a success.

Even if it didn't interest me.  Even if it wasn't really that good of a fit.  Even if my relationship to my boss, who was also my friend, was dysfunctional.  (That is fuel for another post, another day.  I'm still processing all of it.)

And this second job?  This one isn't something I fell into, this one is something I fought hard to achieve.  This one is filled with intentionality, and it is a reflection of who I am and what I believe.  It draws on my prior professional experiences, but in a whole new way.  This one has a career path (with several branches for me to choose from, all of which offer interesting possibilities), and room for professional development, and a wide network of colleagues to support me in my endeavors and help me to grow.  It comes with a retirement plan, in addition to other benefits.

I worked hard to make myself a good candidate for this job, reading everything I could get my hands on, attending conferences and training sessions (all paid for out of pocket while unemployed - ouch!), and networking like my life depended upon it.  There is nothing accidental about this new job: I was highly selective about where I applied for jobs, because I wanted a job that I believed in fully, and I didn't submit applications anywhere that I wouldn't absolutely love to work.  It was a scary search philosophy, because it limited my choices, but ultimately I am proud of that choice.

Many people go to work every day as part of the daily grind, dissatisfied and uninspired.  I've done that before, and I didn't like it one little bit.  I refuse to spend my life dreading work: we spend a lot of time at work, with our colleagues, and I wanted my work to be meaningful to me.  I have fought hard for that right, and yet I know that there is luck in it, too: my masters degree helps, my network helps, my family support to make the bridge from unemployment to employment helps.  I have the privileges of education and community, and I do not take those things for granted.  Still, I know others with my same opportunities who have thrown their hands up in frustration, believing that the daily drudgery of jobs they hate is just part of being alive.  I don't believe that, and I refuse to believe that, and I'm proud of my insistence of fighting for something more.

For me, getting divorced has been a process of reclaiming my authentic life.  I want to live my best life, giving the best of myself to the world and to myself.  I had managed to stay alive in my awful marriage for years, and in some sense I could have stayed there forever...but not without denying the values that I hold, not without suppressing my authentic self.  I did not fight so hard to reclaim my life, enduring the pain of divorce (and never for one second forgetting the implications it has in Katherine's life), only to yield in other parts of my life.

I'm all in.  I am committed to living this life of mine to the best of my abilities.

Training for a marathon.  Being the best mom I know how to be.  Being the best friend I know how to be.  Being the best me I can be.

And that includes contributing my skills professionally in a way that is meaningful to me.  Checking off that box on my list of goals gives me a thrill: this is a big goal, way bigger than a marathon, and probably harder to achieve.

I am the new Director of Development for a nonprofit that does work I believe in deeply.  When I show up for work every day, the work I do will tangibly change people's lives.

What a joy that is to contemplate!  And what a responsibility.


I have struggled.  I have felt fear, pain, and insecurity so deep in my bones that I thought I would break into a million pieces, shattering into tiny sharp shards.  I have been lost at sea, swimming in the dark, exhausted beyond understanding.  I know what that feels like.

But today, the sun is shining both literally and metaphorically, and I am allowing myself to feel it fully in my bones, filling up those broken places with joy.  What is the point of knowing sorrow, if I can't know joy? 

I know joy.  She is my friend, and more a part of me than all of the negativity I have struggled with.

I will know pain again.  I will meet challenges, I will sometimes fail, I will hurt.  My life isn't perfect, and this new job won't be perfect.  Suffering is inevitable in life.  And yet...

Today is a day for celebration, for joy, for looking success in the face and shouting "I did it!  I really did it!"


If you are struggling now, lost at sea and so tired of swimming, please read my words and see that the shore still exists, that you will not have to swim forever, you just have to go a while longer.

If you are wondering if work is pointless and there's no chance to live your authentic life, the one that makes your soul sing, then please reconsider.  We all deserve to have authentic lives with our souls on fire with joy, and it's worth fighting for.  Please fight for it.

If your life is going well right now, please take a moment to revel in it, to smile ear to ear, to appreciate it fully.  And then take a peaceful moment to radiate that joy out into the world, where many people need to feel its light.


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