Sometimes, we get so used to a routine that we unwittingly open the door to disappointment and get stuck in a rut. In my case, it was a successful career, excelling at what I did. But life brings unexpected changes and throws us curveballs at speeds that are hard to keep up with.
This is my story of finding the courage to let go of expectations, opening myself up to new things and recognizing what I was capable of.
The year was 1997. In February, I handed in my resignation to quit my high profile corporate job to get married to the most wonderful man on earth. I then moved to his city, thinking that I would return to work after a brief sabbatical. My Mom also came to stay with us at my husband’s insistence and life was good.
Our family’s happiness knew no bounds when I was blessed with a baby boy in November 1997. I don’t mind confessing that the sun shone brighter each time he smiled, and I must tell you that he was a baby who smiled all the time.
As the months passed, I started thinking of getting back to work. I toyed with the idea, but was too happy playing with my son and his toys and enjoying life.
“Into each life must some rain fall”
All good things must come to an end, at least temporarily; and so it was with our lives. Suddenly, my Mother’s health started deteriorating. She suffered for six months before a firm diagnosis could be made. She was coughing her life away, or so it seemed. She had interstitial lung disease. The doctors told us that she would live for 6 months, maybe a year at most.
Naturally, we were devastated by this news. As the medical expenses steadily mounted and we struggled to keep up, I realized it was time get a job.
The thought of a second income was sensible. After all, I had a growing baby and babies are expensive and hospital expenses were mounting. Yet my instinct told me I should stay at home until my son started playschool. I consoled myself, thinking that it was only a matter of another year. But I couldn’t stop worrying.
When my son was a year and a half, we moved to another city with my husband’s job. Since I was looking for a job, I was pleasantly surprised when my ex-employers called to tell me I could come back to work at the office in the city we had moved to.
I was grateful, but declined the offer. I just couldn’t imagine going back to work on a job that involved several days travel in a month and late hours. How could I when my little boy was still nursing and my Mom needed me? I wanted a job that paid reasonably well and had regular working hours.
While I went through my dilemma, my friends advised me to take the job being offered to me on a plate —and hire a housekeeper. My head looked at me sternly. But my heart firmly said “No”.
During that time, the job market was a mess and, as the days went by, I became more and more frustrated. Frustrated because we were struggling with managing our finances, trying to be as creative as we could to make ends meet.
As we came closer to being broke, we began to liquidate the few investments we had made so we could pay the bills. Our savings dwindled. We spent sleepless nights, worrying about how to cut down on our expenses. We had our home loan payments to make, along with other monthly commitments.
What were we going to do?
When would things improve?
My successful sixteen year career and the five figure monthly salary I had given up seemed to taunt me all the time. I was slowly becoming desperate.
The Silver Lining
Then one day, we heard through a family friend that a friend of hers wanted someone to work part time at their office. It paid less than peanuts, but I was determined to see the bright side. It fit in with my son’s playschool timings.
I accepted the job. My ego rebelled. I quelled it. At least it got me out of the house for a few hours, as my Mom pointed out. It made me feel employed. A year later, it became a full-time job, but the pay was still quite meager.
To rub it in, I had ex-colleagues I was in touch with telling me I was an idiot to pass up the opportunities that came my way. And I am ashamed to say that I allowed the nagging to get to me. I felt restless. Inadequate. Worthless. Guilty. And unhappy.
Taking the First Step Towards Letting Go
What goes up must come down, right? My Mom, as usual, helped me ease out of my dark place. Now, she teamed up with my husband and together, they praised me for all that I did around the house. They told me what a good Mom I was. They urged me to let go of the notion I was not enough.
They pointed out how I now had the luxury of time to catch up with my long to-do list of things I never used to have the time to do when I had that corporate job. I felt myself relaxing a little. It was not easy to release that feeling of being inadequate, but I did it. And when I did, I felt liberated. I felt the pressure lift.
I realized that rather than feel sad over what wasn’t, I should rejoice over what was. I counted my blessings. As I let go, I felt my mind clear up, making space for new things.
Taking Stock of the Good Things
I felt a fresh energy. I wanted action. I was raring to go. The first thing I did was make a list of my skills. And you know what? The list was long. My folks rallied around. They encouraged me to answer the question: “What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about the money?”
What did I want to do? I had always dreamed of writing. I imagined doing it. You know what they say about the Universe conspiring. It did. I had no idea how to go about it, but I was ready to receive.
And I did.
I wanted to quit my low-paying job, but the fear of being unemployed nagged me, because I had no other source of income and didn’t want to lose what little I had.
As Fate would have it, my Mom’s health became worse and I wanted to be by her side. I finally worked up the courage to quit my job.
Imagine my surprise when they invited me to work from home!
I still had a job. I could be at home for my Mom and my son! Thanks to the internet, I joined a couple of business networking sites hoping to make connections. Soon, a friend got in touch and asked if I was interested in editing and writing for a business magazine. The money for one feature article was equal to my current job’s salary. I was thrilled. Sadly, the person who financed the magazine decided to move on to other things and the happiness was short lived.
The great thing was, this got me thinking: why not look for similar work? I posted my intention on the social networking sites I frequented. On day 2, I got a response from someone looking for freelance writers. Guess what? There was no looking back. In fact, I still do work for them.
Slowly, my confidence came back. Work became steady as I developed more clients.
I awoke with gratitude for a brand new day every morning. I was grateful for everything I had. I was glad I let go of my sense of inadequacy when I did. I wouldn’t have realized what I was capable of, if I hadn’t.
I enjoy the feeling of being more with less. I feel free. Not only did I have the privilege of looking after my Mom for as long as she lived, I also cherished the joy of welcoming my son home with open arms when he returned home from school every day.
Blessed just about sums up how I feel. I believe in the silver lining. And I honestly believe that none of us have to sacrifice who we are and what we want for money. Nothing is worth that and there is always a way.