Fall, 2017………… I sat in our screened porch, sweat beading, on the low of my back. “Erased,” I thought. Self-loathing began to suffocate the “new me”. My mind jogged between my idea of the “powerful” and “worthy” me, and the unrecognizable woman wishing to be swallowed by the cushions of the loveseat. Despite the fact that resigning from my career to stay at home with our children was a conscious decision, my perception of the ease in which it could all end was incredibly painful. In fact, pain was not an accurate description. The emotion was visceral and bound me to achiness and fear. Who would I be in this next chapter?
My last day of work led to eight weeks of struggle, numbness, relief and fear. And true to form, my adventures in parenting opened my eyes to the obvious truth of my heartache. While engaged in a writing activity with our four-year-old son, we had a bit of a power struggle. He requested to write in marker, and I wanted him to write in pencil. I wanted him to write in pencil so that he could erase. He was proud of the work had done and wanted it to be permanent. That was the answer: we all want the things we love to be permanent.
My eyes welled-up and I realized that perhaps this little power struggle about the permanence of our life’s work was a “God wink”. The sum of my professional experiences could not be erased. The fear and paralysis I was experiencing was coming from the fact that I had written in pencil, realized my life was ready for revision and erased. Now I needed to sit in the discomfort of not knowing what to write next, and I hated it. Who was I supposed to be now without the role of my career to define me?
Despite the fact that my husband, friends and family were incredibly supportive of my decision, something I realize many people don’t have the luxury of, I struggled to accept the new version of me. Logically, I knew my revision was the best one for my family, but fought to also admit that it was best for myself. For at least the last 10 years, I had been addicted to over-functioning. The faster I ran and more I attempted to achieve, the more isolation and panic took over. I thought if I could just gain approval and admiration from those around me, I would reach the finish line. The more I sought approval from others and measured myself by their meaning of success, the more emptiness and fear took over. Finally, after all of the running, and chasing, and proving- I simply stopped.
Fall 2019………… I read my words from 2017 and want to hug that girl. I envision a heart that mimics that of one just broken by her first love. I picture the sadness and loss you feel when an idealized version of something you thought you knew and wanted, no longer works…. and the frantic search that takes place for someone else to hold your most precious heart. I mourned the version of myself that I had given-up, and all of the relationships that moved to different phases with it. Most of all, I mourned the version of my life that I had convinced myself was the only one I would ever exist in.
Finally, two years later, I stopped punishing myself for moving on. It’s so funny how you can be brave enough to make a decision, and know in your heart that it is best, and still be ashamed for making it. I have settled into the discomfort of not knowing exactly where I will land, and allowed myself to feel excited when I dream about my next professional steps. I have convinced myself that it is okay to really, deeply, live something, love it, and still understand that it’s time to leave.
The essence of my being isn’t tied to a specific job or title. I am who I am. A career may help me to grow in areas or enhance certain qualities, but it is not who I was, am, or will become. So, here’s to a life of revision. I will purposely write the next draft, in pencil.
Mother, Wife, Teacher and Believer.