Realizations come in many sizes and flavors. Some are superficial, like the realization that you are too old (and not nearly thin enough) to wear pencil jeans and halter tops. Some are epiphanous, like the realization that yes, you are in fact getting better with age (despite not being able to wear aforementioned pencil jeans). Some are humerous, like when your life runs parallel to characters from Must-See-TV sitcoms. And, some are more of your garden-variety “adult” realizations…more painful and tough to swallow than others.
I have experienced quite a few “Aha Moments!” over the course of the past couple years. Whether humorous, superficial, or painful — they have helped to elicit laughter, gain perspective, evaluate friendships, and make some major life changes. When you finally take the blinders off, it is amazing the things that you see! I am more cognizant of the quality of my relationships, less inclined to “waste” time on things that are not of importance to me or my family, much more driven professionally, and increasingly at ease with life in general. I am also stronger, more confident, and much wiser than I was a short time ago. I feel like I am back in the driver’s seat again.
For me, one realization led to a domino effect of more and more realizations. Which can be scary and unnerving when you have spent the better part of the last dozen or so years in the same unfulfilling, often toxic scenarios. Sometimes, in the giant thumb-wrestling match of life, a sense of safety and security (regardless of how false it is) wins out over scruples. Change is hard for me sometimes. I am a “committer” — once I commit myself to something – a job, a spouse, a friendship, parenthood – I am in it for the long haul. Oftentimes, that level of committedness comes at a hefty personal pricetag.
The first epiphany was that something was amiss. I seemingly had everything: a wonderful spouse, 2 beautiful, healthy children, a steady job in a terrible economy, a roof over my head, etc. I felt like that John Mayer song, “Something’s Missing.” Friends? Check. Money? Check. Well slept? Check. Opposite sex? Check. What the hell was wrong with me then?! As it turns out, it is really draining to sell yourself short day after day, month after month. It was your typical give-it-your-all-and-get-next-to-nothing-in-return. With work. With some of my relationships. But, especially with work. Time for a change.
My second epiphany occurred after I quit my job and moved on to greener, more lucrative, and much more flexible pastures. I realized that once you start to have form and function in your life once again, your dysfunctional relationships do not stand the test of time. There are some people who like you much better when you are miserable. You know why? Because they are miserable and misery loves company. And because some people are “fixers” and they think they can rehabilitate you. Some have Dr. Phil envy and thrive on the fact that they are your go-to in times of crisis. And sometimes people are just plum threatened by you and they really don’t want you to be happy or successful. Some relationships, unfortunately, are built on a foundation of unhealthy co-dependence. Sad, but true. And, when you decide to move on, you fracture the delicate common bond you once shared.
When people don’t understand what you are doing or why you are doing it, and if they could never picture themselves taking a similar risk for whatever reason, they just assume it is a “passing thing.” I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked over the course of the last year when I am going to get a “real job.” Just because it is not conventional and a bit out of the box for most does not negate its real-ness. I have plenty of friends who have taken less conventional paths, forged their own way, and are very happy and successful. It is what I aspire towards. It is what I have dreamed about (but didn’t know how to find) for years, and it makes me happy. It’s liberating, and petrifying, and rewarding to start your own business and be your own boss. I recommend everyone do it at least once, if for no other reason than the personal growth you will experience. I wish it didn’t take me so long to try my own entrepreneurial venture on for size, because it fits me reeeaaalllyy nicely. I was not meant to sit in a cubicle. I like people too much. I like life too much. I like my kids and my husband too much. And missing out on their important milestones because I was trapped in a 9-5 (actually, it was an 8ish-4ish, but you know what I mean) was slowly sucking the soul right out of my body. I am not a “live to work” kind of person. I am definitely a “work to live” type who can take a beautiful summer day off (or 20) to go to the beach with my kids and my Kindle, because I have the discipline, drive, and the initiative to get the job done later. Work is a means to an end and I am thrilled that I have learned the fine art of working smarter, not harder. Corporate America could learn a thing or two from this…
It’s been a learning experience the past year or so. It’s funny how, while just trying to learn about yourself, you learn so much about so many other things in the process. Life is nothing, if not interesting.
Here’s to the journey…