Staying True to Myself

While I was doing a life coaching session with Dee Anderson, who’s book Sharing Hope, Nurturing Resilience proved to be very important in my life, she gave me a paper that had a picture of a woman rappelling a mountain.  The title on the page says, “What Would You do if You Weren’t Afraid?”  I’ve found it hard to get rid of this paper and every few months I come back to it, asking myself this question and examining the obstacles that keep me from doing that which I want most to do.

Sometimes there are outside pressures that do prevent us from doing the things we most want to do, but generally, they are temporary.  Recently, a situation arose with my ex-husband and I was obligated to go from being an exclusively stay-at-home-mother to being the bread-winner for my children and I.  But it went further than that: I also had to testify against him in court and the process was a year-long, extremely stressful situation.  In this case, I pulled on my big girl boots and found a full-time job, gave up other hobbies, and focused on getting the three of us through each day.  There were days when I didn’t think I could do it but I just told myself that if I could make it to bedtime then I had survived.

I did survive.  Now my counselor tells me, “The world is your oyster.”  I got rid of the bad energy of my ex and now a world of possibilities is before me.  Francis de Assisi once said,

“Begin by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

What do I want to do with myself?  What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?  What has always seemed impossible to me that may actually be a possibility?

Red-spotted newt

Since I was a kid, a dream of mine has always been to write and my wildest fantasy is to see my name on the cover of a book.  I also attended college for biological sciences, which I loved.  I came to it in a round about way, one that eventually involved reading issue after issue of magazines such as Audubon and National Wildlife while in community college.   After college, I had began working up momentum in my career, but getting married caused me to stumble and I never could seem to quite it back, though I did not understand at the time the ways in which my husband was holding me back.  Not all blame lies with him, but I will say this: you can’t fly while someone is holding your head under water.  Not all relationships are healthy and no matter how hard you try, you can’t always fix that.

While my son was an infant though, I did have a realization.  I felt guilty that I had lost my momentum and had chosen the life of a stay-at-home-mother over my career (though, another part of me was also extremely glad that I was able to be there for my children while they were little babies).  As I tried to figure out what my next step should be, if any, I had the epiphany that maybe what I had actually gone to college for was not so much to be a biologist, but to write about others who were doing amazing work.  Maybe what I really wanted was to be the journalist that covered their stories for Audubon and National Wildlife magazines.

Fast forward 4 years, I’m a single parent with a 7- and 4-year-old.  My ex does not participate in the kids’ lives, nor does he make monetarily contributions.  I have a job that I just find okay and I have schemed a number of times to find ways to move onto something else.  I work in health care and I get to use my Spanish language skills as well as help people but it is just not what I am passionate about.  Recently I applied for an internal transfer and my supervisor displayed her displeasure/panic at the idea of losing me on her team and gave me some options to make my work more interesting so that I would keep my position.  Even though it is not what I am passionate about, I do my best to do my best most every day.  I accepted the adjustments, but it has only kind of worked.

Invasive yellow flag iris

One idea that had I schemed to move onto from this position was massage school, but when it came down to it I just didn’t feel like it was the right path for me in the moment.  I have also looked into grad school in the past, and as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), have explored programs through the Coverdell Graduate Program in which RPCV’s often receive some kind of discount to attend universities with which Peace Corps has a relationship.  One such program is an online master’s program with one of two concentrations: Conservation Biology or Communications.  My original thought was to try to do the Conservation Biology program, but the more I think about it, the more I think the Communications concentration is actually what I want to do – if I am willing to admit my dream to myself.

I ask myself, how many times do people choose to do something other than what they really want because they are afraid of failing at that thing that they so want.  To me it feels like, if I actually go for it – this dream that has been bubbling for some 25-30 years – and I fail, then I have no hope, right?  In some ways that is enough to make me seriously pause.

But I have been researching the writing job market and there is work out there.  Now it is just my confidence and the need to feed my children standing in the way.  Oh yeah, there is one more thing: my boss.

I applied to the master’s program, that’s the easy part: the original application.  Now I need to get all the other things together like my transcripts and…letters of recommendations.  I was mostly out of the work force for 8 years, after the Peace Corps I got married and did a few odd jobs, but nothing substantial for a letter of recommendation to graduate school – besides my current job where I was recently recognized by the head of one of our programs to the CEO for some work I have done with a few patients.  It has gotten me thinking about whether I could use office staff as recommendations.  Should I use my supervisor?

The problem is that I still feel her reaction to my application for an internal transfer and worry about rocking the boat again.  In all honestly, I don’t want to leave just yet, I need to work and I feel comfortable enough where I am to stay, but it is not what I want to do in the long run and I just feel like I have these other parts of me that need to be explored and expressed.  Overall, I feel like I am helping the company reach their goals, but I am not reaching my goals by working full-time.  I hate the lifestyle of working 40 hours outside of the house and having my children in day care all day.  I hate the busy work, and honestly, I am the kind of person who is motivated enough to work independently and I just am not in love with working for an employer.  I also miss the travel and the long, slow connections with people.  I make a lot of 3-minute phone calls at my job and sit for hours on end, these just aren’t my kind of thing.  I want to be on the move and pursuing my creative ideas.

But I am afraid to bring it to her.  I don’t know entirely why.  I would like to pursue a master’s degree and that would lead to me eventually leaving the company, though I wish to do so slowly over a few years, cutting my hours little by little.  However, while I am doing the master’s program, I would like to cut my hours down to 32, possibly beginning in September.  I just fear the reaction to the idea of her knowing I am planning to eventually leave and about cutting my hours sooner rather than later.  But is that a good enough reason to sell myself out?  Is that a good enough reason to stay in a job that doesn’t energize me?  Is that a good enough reason to not pursue my own DREAM just to avoid rocking the boat with my supervisor?

Places to protect

Probably this post is about motivating and talking myself into going for it.  It doesn’t pay to live someone else’s dream.  Actually, I often ask myself if the CEO of the company would support my not pursing the master’s program.  She and 2 other people built the organization up from nothing to now having 8 health centers and serving 25,000 patients the 2016 year.  If she had let some supervisor’s slightly selfish opinion keep her from following her dream, we would not even have a job.

So, is holding back good enough?  I don’t have to use my supervisor as a reference, but I do want to ask for the reduction in hours.  There’s this voice inside of me telling me that now is the time, waiting much longer is not what my heart says.  Settling just isn’t going to be enough for me, in my heart I know this.

Alright then,  I’m doing this.  Are you with me?

Share your thoughts:  What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  What fear have you gotten over to help you reach your potential?  What fears are you currently working through to get where you dream to go?  Tell me about your story.


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