Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Here I sit at Panera with my wonderful husband on a beautiful Sunday morning. I should be relaxed and happy. I am happy, but instead of relaxing I'm thinking about how I have to go back to work tomorrow and how I'm so glad it's a short week. This is what I do every Sunday, and as it gets later in the day my attitude gets farther in the dumpster. It's not that I hate my job. It's a fine job. I like the people I work with, the work isn't too bad, and it pays the bills. I don't work odd hours and they don't bother me at home, which is more than I can say for my last job. So why do I go through this same ritual of misery & self-pity every Sunday? Why do I spend one of my two days of freedom every week dreading tomorrow?

I've known for awhile that this isn't what I want to do with my life. In fact, I know a lot about what I don't want to do. I just haven't figured out what I DO want to do. I know that I want to do something that makes a difference (in people's lives, not in a bottom line). I want to do something that inspires me and inspires other people. I want to have time for my family and friends. I want to have a healthy, active lifestyle and a clean, organized house. I want an income from work that doesn't feel like work and isn't a traditional job. I guess I kind of want everything. I want to have it all. And I don't think that's too much to ask!

In January I lost my job at a large corporation that closed its doors for good. It had been my home since college graduation. In all honesty, this was the first time I had really had to deal with adversity in my adult life. I am a person who has always worked hard and stayed within the lines. I have always dreamed of taking risks or taking the road less traveled. But in the end, I have chosen the safe road. The one that climbed the corporate ladder and advanced farther into a career that I didn't like for the reward of great money. And looking back, it worked out ok. I sacrificed a few years to be able to buy a house at a young age, not have much debt, lead a comfortable lifestyle, and allow my husband the freedom to lay a foundation in a career he loves. I had a definite love/hate relationship with my last job. The more I advanced, the harder it was to walk away. I was proud of my success but I knew in the back of my mind that each day I spent on that corporate campus was one day farther away from beginning the journey toward the life that I wanted.

When we got the news at work that it was the end of the road, it was very sudden. I went back for one more half day and then found myself driving out of the parking lot for the last time at noon on a Monday. I didn't even know where to go, both literally and figuratively. This was at the lowest point of the bad economy and a sluggish job market. I had no prospects, and the local market was now flooded with talented people who had the same skills as me (most with more experience). So it surprised me when instead of feeling panic, I felt relief. I was amazed that instead of being scared of the future, I was just glad that I didn't have to go back to the past. And I suddenly realized that today really was the first day of the rest of my life.

I could do whatever I wanted. I could start a new career. I could make a total change. I could do something meaningful or look for a job working from home. There was one thing I knew for sure: I was not going back to a job like the one I had just left. This was the beginning of my new life. It was the kick that I needed to make a change. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I could only go up from here. It was the most liberating feeling I'd had since college graduation. I spent eight weeks relaxing and enjoying my extended vacation. Fortunately, I was paid my old salary for 60 days and then was eligible to collect unemployment through September. I felt like I had all the time in the world. Every morning I got up, watched my husband leave for work, exercised, ate a healthy lunch, and did all of the things that I never had time to do when I was working. I really made the most of my time off and saw the results in my health. I lost weight, became more toned, and lost stress related symptoms that had been with me for years. My family and friends noticed the difference in my health and attitude. I suddenly felt sorry for everyone who was unfortunate enough to be stuck doing something they don't love. I was thriving as a stay-at-home wife, although I knew it couldn't last. It was honestly the best eight weeks of my life and I knew I was never going back to my old ways.

I was just starting to think that it was time to start looking for a new job when I got an unexpected voicemail. In this tough economy, I actually got an unsolicited call from a small local company looking to fill an opening immediately. This happened to be in my old industry and fit my skill set exactly. It was a perfect match. The interview was amazing. I knew I was a shoe-in. So like any normal person, I went home and celebrated and spoke of the relief of a great job landing in my lap in a market where no one is hiring, right? Wrong. I called my husband and cried. I solicited advice from my friends and family. I had a near meltdown over what I knew was the impending decision of whether to take a job just like the old one. I didn't want to go back to the old life. But was I crazy to turn down this opportunity just to "follow my dreams" when so many people right now can't get a job or pay their bills? We couldn't live on my husband's salary alone forever….

Flash forward to today at Panera. I'm two months into the new job. The good thing is it's exactly what I knew it would be. The bad thing is also that it's exactly what I knew it would be. It's secure and not too stressful and pays the bills. However, I still have that feeling that every day I'm taking one more step away from the life that I'm meant to lead, whatever that may be.

While I was off work, I did a lot of soul searching. I found that I love to read. I probably read 20 books in the 12 weeks that I ended up being off work. I also surprised myself by finding that I love to write. Journaling really helped me sort through my thoughts and emotions over losing my job, which I'll dig into much more in future postings. I also love to help and inspire people. I love to work toward improvement, whether it's self improvement, home improvement, financial improvement, or just general life improvement. And I want to travel. I've always wanted to find something that combines all of these passions and I think that blogging may be a good start. If I can share just one thing from my experience that motivates someone else to improve their life, it's a success. After all, why can't we all have it all? I hope that you'll stick with me through this journey, and hopefully be inspired to begin a journey of your own!

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