A Transformative question leading to that “Aha” moment and response.
“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” ― Joseph Campbell
Greetings, Fellow Wanderers!
Isn’t it amazing how our perspectives change as our life circumstances change?
I had been looking for work in my small community, with little luck, until just recently. Because I had such disappointing results, I expanded my search statewide, with my husband’s support, and was having much better luck finding opportunities that matched my career experience and what I thought we needed. As I progressed through the selection process of two jobs in particular, it became very clear to me that while I loved the job prospects AND they were right in line with my career trajectory, it was going to separate me from my husband and family and that wasn’t sitting well at all.
The stress (financial challenges, stress that comes with looking for work and the idea that we would be separated) had also been catching up…I had been sick for weeks, not sleeping, dark circles, etc. When I met with a friend and colleague for coffee (who had also given me a fabulous reference), I shared everything with her – the job, the reason for looking elsewhere and my desire to stay along with the reasons why. After listening, she asked a question that up until that point I hadn’t really asked myself.
“What would it take for you to stay?”
Though I am not sure why, I have found it difficult to settle throughout my life. Perhaps because we moved so much when I was young (I think I have lived at around 45 different addresses and we weren’t even a military family). I have lived in three states on multiple occasions and abroad in Ireland. Even since returning from Ireland, I have wandered…from Western Washington to California, back to Oregon, to Florida (though I didn’t stay there) back to Oregon and then to Eastern Washington.
It’s not just places I couldn’t settle in.
I used to joke that I have had almost every type of legal job in the world (fast food, high-end restaurant server, bartender, retail clothing sales, jewelry sales, image consultant, car sales, administrative office manager, legal secretary, housekeeper, teacher, children’s support therapist, non-profit organization director). A number of years ago, after I had been in one position with a company for about two years, my mom asked me if I was looking for another job. When I told her that I wasn’t, she seemed surprised. I asked the reason behind her query and she simply said she had never known me to stay in one job for more than two years…At that point, she was right. I hadn’t. I ended up staying with that firm for four years and left only when I was in my senior year of college taking both day and night classes to finish my degree.
Her question started me thinking though.
What was it about me that was so different from nearly everyone else I knew? Why was I compelled to change jobs every couple of years, move to different states and countries and always keep a bag packed? A sense of adventure? A love of learning? An understanding that the world is a truly amazing place full of incredible people worth getting to know? Fear of one day regretting NOT experiencing life to its fullest?
I think the answer is yes.
As most of you know, in 1999, I moved to Ireland where I lived very happily and contentedly for several years. For the first time in my life (outside of my years at Camp Killoqua), I felt as if I had found my home. Although I wanted to stay, I couldn’t.
I moved back to the US in 2007 because I felt like I was needed here and I wanted to spend a little time with my aging relatives before they passed on. Unfortunately, like many returning emigrants all over the world, when I came back to the US, I was lost. I didn’t feel I could be ‘me’ and I couldn’t settle. Within 8 months, I had a plane ticket and job back in Ireland with my old agency. However, the day before I left, I knew I couldn’t go back…not to live…not at that time. Whether I wanted to admit it or not and whether I felt fully comfortable or not, I was supposed to be back in Everett, Washington with my mom and near the rest of my family.
It was the right decision.
Within just a few short years, my great-aunt passed away, two years later, my beloved grandma died and then the following year my mom was diagnosed with dementia after several years of declining health.
And now…life circumstances are a little different. Wandering for the sake of it is no longer an option. Since 2012, my mom’s condition has progressed dramatically. Just living a few hours drive from her occasionally poses challenges. Then, in 2015, I married an amazing man and became part of his family too. I can’t and don’t want to just go traipsing around everywhere without them. Our son is doing well in school, academically, socially and emotionally. He is one of the most resilient, well-adjusted teenagers I have ever known. What parent wants to mess with that if they don’t have to? However, in order to stay where we are, we need a certain level of consistent income. Instead of asking questions like, “what do we want to do?” or “where do we want to be?” The question became, “what do we need?” Do we need me to work in my field bringing in the same level of income that I have in the past? Do we just need me to bring in a full-time income at a level that is liveable here? OR…something else altogether?
That brings me to the quote by Joseph Campbell. It’s not that I was thinking of my self-preservation or that my consciousness has undergone a heroic transformation. It’s just that once I started looking at our circumstances from the perspective of a parent, caregiver and member of a family first, the answer to the question was clear.
My friend’s question was a gift from God. It was the blessing I needed at just the right moment. All I needed to receive it was to stop, take my ego out of the equation and allow myself to be vulnerable. I had to let go of the outcome, and be open to any possibility. The real challenge seemed to be removing my ego and being vulnerable…now there’s a surprise. 🙂
What did I need to stay? A full-time job in Okanogan that allows me to care for my family AND contribute to my local community. Once I said it out loud, I knew it was true. It was my “AHA moment.” That is what we need as a family. THAT is what we got…last Thursday…I am delighted, honored and so full of thanks to say that I will be working with a local law firm as their receptionist and legal secretary beginning tomorrow. I am SO excited and so grateful.
Does this mean there will be no more wanders. No. I know I am not finished traveling the world, but my perspectives have changed. I have found that I value the stability I have in my life now, so traveling, when we do it, will look different.
Hmmm…could it be that I am finally on the way to becoming more “intentional?”
We’ll see. In the meantime, thank you for sharing this amazing journey, friends!