Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Post: A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Dear Readers,

Part of the joy of being a blogger is making connections with other bloggers.  Recently, one of my blogging buddies honored me by sharing with me this essay she wrote.  She prefers to remain anonymous and did not publish this on her blog, but I asked her if I could publish it on my mine because I think it touches on a theme that is important.  In fact, I was in the middle of writing a post on the subject of creativity when I received this.  I'll publish that in the near future.  Today, though, I present this post, written straight from a beautiful heart.


I still remember the card my mother gave me when I graduated high school. It is tucked beneath a stack of other cards in my keepsake box, a remembered insult among the other chosen memories.

The card boasts a Maya Angelou quote; one that is quite fitting for those embarking on their college and life journeys. But in my sudden switch from a lifelong dream of education to pursuing a degree in business administration, that quote smacked of judgment.  "Don't make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off of you."

In principle, I knew money should never be the goal. Duh. Yet after a childhood spent worrying over money, I was determined to get a white collar job that allowed me to provide a decently middle class upbringing for my future children. If that upbringing could be above middle class, all the better. In hindsight, Mom did not mean to lecture or insult. She was not judging me. Rather, she wanted to ensure I saw a lifetime of happiness. As a mother myself, I now know without a doubt that that is all she wants for me. Happiness.

At 21, I graduated from college and the reality of my dream was quickly realized by securing a once-in-a-lifetime job with multiple promotional opportunities. At 26, a wife, mother of one and full-time employee, I make more than a humble salary. At one point, I made almost three times more than my husband. As of this last winter, I "only" make twice as much as him. I am incredibly proud of my achievements and am thrilled to be married to a man who embraces this modern dynamic of me out-earning him. Many would say I am accomplished and successful; that I have excelled and have a bright future ahead of me. When you look at the numbers, they are right.

Yet I woke one morning not long after giving birth to my son with a startling realization: I am not happy. Far from it, in fact. The next promotional steps do not appeal to me, and as the principle breadwinner I feel trapped by my salary. I have effectively hit my glass ceiling, one of my own making, at my current place of employment. As a mother I am not interested in investing the extra time to further myself. As an unfulfilled employee, the glitz and glamour has faded. Going to work each day after maternity leave was a chore and eventually I found myself miserably dragging myself out of bed each morning, ever-so-tempted by the pull of a mental health day. The misery began affecting my marriage. My husband could not understand why I didn't try harder to find another job. I constantly looked at listings, but none of them appealed to me. Why waste my time if it isn't going to make me happy? I asked myself. Sure, one could argue that you never know until you try, but I know myself. Then, after months and years of fretting, it suddenly hit me. 

I am meant to write. 

The what, where, and why didn't matter in that moment. What mattered was the realization that suddenly sprang before me with startling clarity. I had spent my entire life ignoring numerous affirmations that I am meant to write. Affirmations from myself and others. God knew. Of course He knew. But unable to imagine how a writing career would unfold for me and noting its unrealistic nature, I ignored it. 

I still don't know if or how a writing career will happen for me. Will I be successful by society's definition? I don't know. I don’t even really care. What I do know is this: ever since I knew how to form words with pen to paper, I have needed to write. It is as necessary to me as breathing is to us all. Without it, I am not whole. I am not well. Writing is what sets my soul free.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty .. happiness and your passion is key - being 'held down' by silent stress cables will not do any of us any good ...

Sounds like your friend has made a good decision .. and good luck to her and her family ...

Thanks for posting .. I'm sure this will resonate with many bloggers .. Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That your friend realized this is the first big step and it's already set her free. Society's definition of success won't matter - her definition will though.

Leah J. Utas said...

That's exactly it.
Do it for you.

Shelly said...

So very well said~ and true.

Munir said...

I am so glad that you have published a guest post of your friend. Her realization of her unhappiness is eye opening for a lot of us. We do get jobs to make money and design our life styles around the salary and get trapped by the need of money coming in. I wish that a lot of today's young people realize that.

Anne Gallagher said...

That could have been me writing that letter. But it wasn't.

I took the path to publication, and am so very poor now, but that doesn't matter. I'm happy. Happier now than I ever was with my fancy clothes, nice car, great house and less-than-fulfilling career.

Sure I was making money, but money doesn't buy happiness. As well we know.

I say to your friend, buy a smaller house, let go of the extravagances, and fulfill your dream to write. When you're breathing your last, do you want the regrets to linger? or would you rather die knowing you fulfilled your dreams?

Phyllis E said...

Those who can, write!!

ellen abbott said...

When I read things like this I can't help but think of my own life and my own choices. Life is a series of trade offs. If you can figure out what is important early on, it may make things some easier...or not. I don't know. I suppose I made the opposite choice than your friend. Actually, I don't recall ever really making a 'choice'. After dropping out of art school and after a series of different and sometimes interesting jobs, all I knew was that I did not want to go corporate, spend my life in a cubicle or office. I dreaded having to do that. So I have made my way by my own hands, being only self employed since I was about 25/26. I'm 63 now. I have not had financial stability but I have persevered and made do and never gave in to the fear. that doesn't mean, of course, that I was without fear at times. I am always acutely aware of just how tenuous our lifestyle is (you see, my husband quit his job to come work at the 'family' art business), especially when we were raising the kids. nevertheless, having lived hand to mouth mostly, there have been times when the hand and the mouth were both much bigger, still we have had a comfortable life. So what am I getting at as it pertains to your friend and her post. This...I am happy. I have loved my life doing what I love to do. It hasn't all been roses but whatever unhappiness I had at any time was not due to my job and being stuck doing something I dreaded day after day. I don't need a lot of money to be 'rich' or to have a good life. I just have to be able to understand the difference between 'I need' and 'I want'.

Gigi said...

My son and I had a conversation that touched on this today - it revolved around someone we know who is obsessed with "keeping up the image" - whether he can afford it or not. I have a feeling one day soon, he will look up and realize that he isn't happy. That the money he's making and spending isn't making him happy - but by then he will be in so deep he won't be able to get out.

Your guest, it seems, has learned a valuable lesson early. And I hope she succeeds.

MadeByHind said...

This is so touching. Thanks for sharing it with us. http://hind-toufga.blogspot.se/

Connie said...

Wonderfully said. Realizing what it is that is our passion is the first step to happiness always. :)

Baby Sister said...

How beautifully written. I still have yet to figure out what will make me happy in my future employment opportunities, but I hope to figure that out. And soon. Before I graduate. :)