Sunday, August 11, 2019

Walking on the Balance Beam

At some point in my life, I knew that I needed to disengage my job from my purpose in life. These are two different entities. I was becoming my job! The biggest clue, or at least my wake up call, was when I realized that my vocabulary was becoming that of a 6 year old. It horrified me! Something had to change.

Please don't misunderstand me. I loved my job of teaching and then moving on to administration, but this was NOT what made me who I was. Sometimes, they overlapped but it still did not make me who I was.

It all begins when you hear yourself saying, "I'm a journalist, or I'm a teacher, or I'm a doctor." More than likely this grew from the times when we were in primary school and we were asked what you wanted to be when we grew up. We have been doing this ever since those days many years ago. So, this must be what defines us? No, it should not ever be this way. For one Mom here, I am so thankful because my eldest daughter wrote on her first grade page that she wanted to be 'a mean school bus driver.' Apparently, she thought this woman was amazing to be able to not only drive this big, yellow school bus but also able to handle all of the shenanigans going on at the same time. Of course, she and a few others were never in trouble and the driver treated them with the utmost kindness, even handing out treats to them as they got off the bus. I have nothing against bus drivers. They must be saints. However, I am quite delighted that my daughter decided to go on to earn her graduate degree and is working as a behavior analyst. However, I am even more proud of her for not letting that define her purpose in life. She is so very good at having her life and work loads balanced. 

Even if you are the best at whatever you do at work, we still need our own identity outside of work that defines us. There has to be a balance of our work and our life. Our work should never become our life. We need friends and relationships at work, however relationships are more than work. Having a circle of friends outside of work is so very important because these friends will be able to support us when things get tough at work and they can do it from the outside looking in. This can put a whole new perspective on how we handle the problem. Both sets of friends are so very important.

Happiness is the least important factor in being successful at work and a completely fulfilled human being. Look all around you and take a moment to dig deeper and see for yourself. Everyone is not always happy there at work. We must value ourselves to achieve happiness. This does not always come with a pay raise, a better title or job recognition. I most definitely can speak to that as I am sure most of you all can do this too.

Once I found myself thinking in this mindset, I started to realize things that I did to find "me" again. My job was interesting but it was not all of me. It was not what my heart and soul needed to fulfill the real me. I actually started answering the question when asked of me, "So, what do you do?" with a comeback of, "For fun or for money? Or just plain come out and say that I play the guitar, love to find a cozy spot to curl up and read or work on training our dog. Another example of answering this question is to define responsibilities that I have such as I manage to keep what could be considered total chaos in getting four 30 minute rounds of 250 little human beings into one large room in lines to get a tray of food, eat, talk with friends without throwing food. Then, to have them pick up their trash, line up and head on back to their classrooms in some kind of order. Or even calmly listen to a parent explain to me why their child should not have received the grade that the teacher gave him. (could it be little Johnny did not turn in a single assignment)? Diplomacy is what it takes to turn the tides around.

Then I realized that I needed to take the time to cultivate my true passions and friends outside of work. This is something that totally is the #1 motivation for me to find my true purpose and what helped me to retire happily. I knew that I wanted to write a novel. (Almost everyone has one in them). For me, it was finding the time to actually write. So, taking notes on what I wanted to write is what I managed to do while going on to earn a living. I know that I was lucky enough to find a job that interested me and dealt easily with my ADD. It worked while teaching whatever grade because in order to keep things moving and interesting, a teacher needs to switch gears often. I was never a "sit and get" type teacher who did all the talking. Kids learn by being engaged.

Then fast forward to administration. Whoa...definitely helps to have a touch of ADD for that job. Most days before 9:00 A.M., I had put out a minimum of 25 fires on average. Things ranging from parents showing up on the grounds angry about their child being bullied because one first grade girl did not want to play with her the day before, to a teacher telling me that no copy machine is working in the building (of course, no one reported any of this the day before), to the district calling to give me a message that someone was coming out to talk to me about scheduling and best practices being used in our school, to a group of parents who wanted to meet at that moment to discuss recess times.) Meanwhile, the cafeteria manager is calling to ask what to do when the fuse has blown and several teachers complaining that their rooms had not been cleaned the night before. The list goes on and on, as I am sure that you can tell.

Most of all, I knew when it was time for me to retire. It was when district administration was coming down so hard on our special school to copy what other schools were doing. One size does not fit all and this was not to their likings or beliefs. This meant an exit for me. 

When your way of making a living is causing too much stress, then it is time to move on to your life. This is where I come to the purpose of this blog. Before you retire, I highly suggest that you have a plan with your passions to pursue. If you retire with a mindset that you are now without a purpose, then you are not going to last very long. I hear this a lot, actually. It makes me so sad.

Really, I do not mean a second job or career, although it might be that. My purpose belongs to me and this is forever. One large part of my ability to retire a bit earlier than I had planned is that I worked with a financial planner with my husband. It was exactly what the two of us needed and so we began this process with our bank team of planners as soon as we married. Neither one of us came into our marriage with a great deal of wealth. It was through the planning with our team and living within our means that we were able to accumulate what we did in order to make this happen in less than a decade.

"Our self-identity should be defined as who we are as individuals. What we do for work is only a piece of our lives." This is a quote from Rachel Tulipano.  We all need to  focus on the things that matter most to us and always be grateful for what we have. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Enrich your lives and think twice about what you would say if asked to tell someone about yourself. Career accomplishments are something, that is true, but they certainly are not everything. What is your purpose?

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