I'm the breadwinner in my household, just like my mom was the breadwinner for ours. Being the breadwinner is both a rewarding experience and an experience that really sucks sometimes.
As a young girl my mom would often say,
Everything is going to be OK. We're survivors.
Being a survivor is great. It's needed and it's necessary. Basic survival skills are what keep us alive. The need for food, water, shelter, clothing, safety and love - remove or jeopardize any of these basic human needs and the odds of a person acting out of desperation, making irrational decisions, and putting themselves in compromising positions increases dramatically. Being a survivor is not a bad thing. There have been times in my life when my survival skills were desperately needed and got me through some really tough situations. The problem is once the hard times passed I held-fast to my survivors mentality.
Acting like a survivor when you're actually thriving and OK, is a very paralyzing place to live. The fear of falling back on hard times has began to suffocate me and is seemingly slowly closing the door on the life I imagine for myself.
Risk has been calling me, fear has been inviting me and adventure has been waiting. I have reached the point where avoiding the opportunity to dive in to all that beckons me is crushing my spirit and it feels like parts of me are dying on a daily basis. It's a gut wrenching pain, coupled with parts of my heart collapsing while my mind asks, "What if?" and then replies with a quick, "Who do you think you are?" It's an excruciating place to function from and I can't take it any more.
To add confusion to pain I've never been one of those people that knows what I'm supposed to be doing for the rest of my life. The question,"What do you want to do when you grow up," has always been a source of discomfort for me because I never had an answer. There's so much, how do you decide? I like so many things, why do I have to commit to ONE for LIFE? What if I change my mind? These questions are why I'm sitting here at my computer on the 4th of July - Independence Day of all days - facing a work week that will look different than any other work week in my nearly 20 year history of work weeks.
The tension between continuing to work my corporate job and the voice inside that is telling me, "There is more to your life than this" officially reached a breaking point during the past two weeks.
Let's get one thing clear before I continue - I like what I'm doing, I like where I work, I like the people I work with and I am grateful for all that I've learned since accepting the position I'm in 2 1/2 years ago. I have no doubt that all that I've gained as a result of my current position has been intricately woven into the fabric of my purpose. However, it is not what I'm meant to do for the rest of my life.
All of this lead me to a conversation at the office that quite frankly I was dreading but I knew had to take place. Prior to the conversation I talked with one of the pastors at church and his advice is advice I will carry with me into any difficult conversation I have to initiate for the rest of my life.
IF WHAT YOU SEEK DON'T SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU, IT AIN'T WHAT CALLS YOU!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MORE THAN YOUR FEARS?
Lead with the answer to that question today and smile doing it.
~ Marlon Hall
Was I scared? Absolutely. The more I thought about Marlon's words the more clear it became that hell, at least for me, would be defined by ignoring my curiosity, remaining paralyzed by my fears and playing it "safe," and never taking the steps to get the answers to my, "What ifs?"
When the time came to have the conversation at the office I followed Marlon's advice. I started by expressing my gratitude toward being a part of the organization and followed that with how much I love my children and how with a son about to start high school in a city that is over 400 miles away from me I desired the flexibility to travel as needed. I also touched on the fact that there were some personal things that I have a strong desire to explore, although I have no immediate concrete plans on how these things will play out (returning to school part time may be in there somewhere.) I said I would like to continue working at the company and asked what an opportunity would look like that would create space for me to accomplish what I mentioned. I managed to communicate all of this despite the lump in my throat, the tears that were streaming down my face and the snot that was running out of my nose. I mean this was scary stuff for me, the answer could have easily been, "There isn't a place here for someone like you. We need someone that can be fully dedicated and invested in where the company is going."(Isn't it weird how we have full conversations with people in our own head before they take place?)
Crazy thing is that's not the response I received at all. The response was one of compassion, of understanding and an opportunity was given to me to design what my work week would look like; including what I would be doing and the schedule of when I'd be doing it.
Yes, this really was the response.
Ultimately I was able to keep my job, select my role and responsibilities and create a new schedule as a result of leading with what I love.
With the changes came an adjustment to my salary to the tune of a $15,000 decrease. (I'm not going to lie...typing that hurts a little bit and is going to take some getting used to) I have been super diligent about getting out of debt over the last few years and with that goal accomplished there really is no excuse as to why I can't make some additional adjustments to my monthly budget in order to make this work. It may look like I'm losing money but what is actually happening is I am gaining room for possibility.
I used to think, "Yeah right," when I'd hear people say, "You can do anything your heart desires." I didn't think that statement applied to me. Now, for the first time in my life, I know that it does. I can see it. I can feel it and I'm excited!
The time I'll gain with this change will be used to explore my desire to learn more about theology and the tug I feel toward some sort of ministry work. It will also allow me to see where my hobbies of beekeeping, sewing and writing take me and perhaps even help a few people come up with a solid plan to get out of debt. Above all else it will allow me to spend more time being present for and with my kids.
If you ask me I think I got one heck of a deal for 15k.
May your days be filled with compassion, your faith remain strong and may growth be your compass.