This post is hard and somewhat embarrassing for me to write about. I can’t claim to say I’ve “been there, done that” because I AM there and AM doing that. I’m in it. But, it’s important for me to share, because I know there are others living life this way too. It may be obvious what the answer is for me from an outside perspective, but when you’ve talked yourself out of things for years, it becomes difficult to see clearly.
It’s going to be a long post, folks, cause you need the history. So it begins…
My parents put me into dance lessons when I was 5. Since then, it was never a question of what my passion was in life. It always made sense. It helped me conquer my extreme shyness, allowed me the space to create without judgment, and offered an escape from reality and the pain it can bring. It’s easy to say that my life would be 100% different had dance not played a role.
Flash forward to age 18. Graduate and go to college. That’s what people do. So, I majored in something generic in hopes I’d figure it out eventually and took a minor in dance. This is where dance became more than just a hobby. I was able to see first hand how I could make a life out of this.. for little financial stability. It was always a balancing act. “Do I take a job for security that I will hate everyday or do I follow a dream and potentially live in a cardboard box?” There was a real trade-off I needed to understand.
But I didn’t have the answer. I didn’t have it for a long time. After college, I decided my hometown and I had enough and I made my way to the big city… Minneapolis! It was an exciting time of unknowns. The job market was dry as we had just hit the recession. Months went by where I couldn’t find anything full-time. Eventually, I took 3 part-time jobs just to gain experience. I remember I was hoping for that real “full-time with benefits” job. If only I had that, life would be good!
Eventually I got that, and made my way into non-profits. It was inspiring, but also little financial comfort here. What often ended up happening is that I’d get bored. Little chance for growth and promotion with a company of 35 people. About every 2 years I left jobs until eventually I said, “I know! I bet life in corporate would be better! And, people would see me as intelligent for working at such a high caliber company.” (People pleasing my way through life).
So off I went to Target HQ where I was laid off before making it there a year. I love Target and always will (talk about power of a brand), but I say that’s where my dreams went to die. It seemed like it was my chance to truly be creative and it left my hands immediately. After a few months of unemployment, I landed in the medical device industry where I still am today.
During all of this, dance remained prominent. Questions like “what’s your real job?” were asked of me when I started teaching classes. I had the safety net of what would seem to be a successful job so I could always land on that for comfort during an awkward encounter.
But, I’ve been living a lie. Trapped between financial stability and what I feel I’ve been put on this earth to do has tortured me mentally for my entire “professional” career. I’ve been living someone else’s version of success. The one where you have a stable job and steady income and a 401k and grow at your company until you die. I told myself I had to be an “adult,” grow-up, and manage my life the same way. In the middle of that pep talk I stopped believing in myself and my dreams. I also said adios to any confidence I had left.
I talked myself out of the hope or vision that I really could make a life (a stable life) outside of a cubicle. I let the positivity drain from me and negativity washed in. I felt trapped in my own thoughts of failure and selling out to the man, that I did not move. I stayed put out of fear. To be honest, I’m still here because of fear. I’ll make minor adjustments, but end up in the same spot I was all those years ago at graduation.
What has changed is this. I realized that success is defined by me, and I hadn’t been living that way. At all. I also began to notice how much people are pressured to want more and more out of a career, even if they are satisfied and happy. And if I’m being real, success to ME looks very simple in comparison. It might look like paving the way to that CEO position for you. And that’s the cool part because it CAN. You define success.
Now that I realize I’ve been living someone else’s version of success, things seem a whole lot easier. I started writing again, I started creating again, and new opportunities have come to light. When you allow yourself the permission to do what makes you happy, doors open. It won’t all change over night nor do I expect that. I still owe it to my husband to bring money home for the dreams we want to build together, and I still have bills to pay. But how I do that is going to change eventually.
It took me 30 years and many failed attempts to get to this point, but had I not been in this exact place, it wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have met the coach that has influenced me so strongly that I am actually doing something about it. I’m fighting the ways I’ve stabatoged myself and keeping those habits at arms length. They aren’t as powerful as I remember them being. I’m refueling my positive mindset every morning and remembering the why behind my goals.
There are always realities that need to be considered, but not at the expense of your fulfillment, self worth, confidence, and courage.