I quit my job last week. The leadership of the nonprofit start up I worked for decided to adopt a business model I felt ill-equipped to support, and I had to make a judgment call about whether to acquire the skills to implement the new objectives or bow out so they could find someone who already knows what he or she is doing. I decided to get out of the way.
As a single mother with three children, that felt/feels like a dumb thing to do, and I agonized over the decision. For days, I tossed and turned and prayed like my life depended on it, and then on a Wednesday morning, I walked into my boss's office and told her she would need to find someone else. I packed up my office the following Monday, turned in my parking card and key fob on Tuesday, and then I cried behind my sunglasses as I walked to the parking garage and drove away. I stopped at the grocery store to buy ingredients to make chicken soup for dinner--the ultimate comfort food, never mind it was 1000 degrees outside--and found myself standing in the produce section staring blankly at the bins of vegetables and herbs, unable to remember what I needed for a soup I've made hundreds of times. I stood there texting a friend until I could gather myself enough to remember the recipe and move on.
I am afraid, of course. Afraid of the unknown, afraid of not having the security of an employer and a benefits package and all of those things. Those kinds of life preservers have driven my decisions for a long time: my mother used to laugh when she told the story of talking with 20-year-old me about whether or not I thought my relationship with my high school sweetheart/college boyfriend was headed toward marriage in the near future. I told her, "Wherever it's going, he'd better make up his mind pretty soon. I'm going to have to figure out what to do about health insurance when I graduate."
(He proposed soon afterwards, we got married and had three children, and then we got divorced. Turns out he wasn't quite the insurance policy I wanted him to be.)
I am also more than a little alarmed at this most recent in what is starting to feel like a pattern of professional and personal failures. Some flawed understanding or belief is leading me to choose things that are wrong for me, and that undermines everything I'm trying to do to build a life for myself and the kids. I'm already managing a whole host of responsibilities for myself and three other human beings without a partner, which is hard enough on its own. Now I have to try to do it without a job--excuse me while I go throw up from the gravity of the situation.
Yet even so...there is a glimmer of opportunity in all of this. In many ways I am more self-assured and confident than ever, and I have been chomping at the bit for a long time to do more of what I love. The safety net provided by my job also functioned as a restraint on my time and energy, and while working without a net is a serious, risky undertaking, it is also exhilarating. What is it that I really want? Where do I want my life to go from here? Maybe I can finally give myself permission to work through those questions instead of just putting one foot in front of the other and hoping everything will turn out okay.
It's no secret I've been running on adrenaline for years. I've neglected my health and well-being in my attempts to keep the ship afloat, and I have waged a war against time that I cannot win. It will neither slow down nor speed up according to my preferences, and I'm tired of life feeling like a malfunctioning treadmill. This feels like time to take a break, take a breath, and go back to the drawing board.
Scary as it is, this is a chance to pivot. Anchored by my children and their needs, I can change direction and follow a different path. One that maybe allows a little more flexibility for all of us; one that more fully engages skills and talents I've been aching to develop. It's a chance to disrupt the cycle of choosing the wrong things and learn how to reach for the right ones. It's a chance to grow.
I'm writing this post on a flight home from a visit with friends that felt like divine timing even though we planned it weeks ago. We spent a long weekend doing what friends do: catching up with each other's lives, being present to each other in our struggles and fears, hoping and dreaming out loud. One of those hopes and dreams for me is to approach this liminal time with a sense of purpose rather than feeling like I'm flailing around, so we came up with an idea to keep me on track. Starting tomorrow, I'll be posting a series called "Pivot" to document a variety of experiences and reflections designed to help me take stock and chart my next course. I hope you'll join me; it should be an interesting ride.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.