Today I Will Take My Coffee With A Shot of Cojones.
Does that title sound as gross as I think it sounds?
Good. Then I have your attention.
Some of us have a time in our lives when we have to take a stand. When we have to say, from the gut of our gut (because just our gut isn’t enough), and with as much confidence as we can muster (which usually isn’t nearly sufficient), “I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but I know it has to be done.”
And some of us have to do it twice.
God help us.
But since God (or whatever superior being to whom you might occasionally make a plea for help) likely has more important things to do, like end world hunger or help Tebow win a football game, we’re usually pretty much on our own.
And that can be a pretty hard thing to do. It’s a tough call — to go against the grain of you feel you should do, and instead choose what you want to do.
The super enlightened among us might call this “living our truth.”
I call it “throwing out the shoulds.” It’s less mystical sounding, and a little more self-explanatory.
After all, if you’re unhappy, it’s likely the shoulds that got you into this mess. You should go to college right after high school. You should land a stable job and start a retirement fund and have medical coverage. You should buy a car. You should buy a house. You should water your lawn and wear nice clothes and attend company holiday parties and smile, because you just got a promotion which pretty much guarantees that you now get to spend even more time each day in this place that’s not so bad, but it’s not, somehow, where you know you’re supposed to be. It’s not. But you feel stuck because you should be happy. You have all of these things, and everyone else who has these things is happy, right? And if you change, you might lose these things.
So you should stay.
And you should learn to love it.
And you should spend the rest of your days trying to hypnotize yourself into this trance known as the American Dream that seems to come so easily for everyone else.
And that, my friend, is how you waste years. How you brush them into the dust pan, one by one, and throw them out with the trash. Because if you really feel this way (and believe me I feel you if you do), it’s not just going to magically get better. Because if you’re not happy, you’re missing the things you already have in your life that are wonderful. You know you should love these things, but you can’t. It’s like you’re not even present. You’re watching your life through a telephoto lens, and you never really even experience it.
I didn’t intend to get all deep and philosophical on you this morning. But I’m going to assume you needed to hear it, because I needed to type it. What I actually intended to tell you is that I need to do it again. I need to make the difficult choice. And while I know, in my gut of guts that the choice is already made, sometimes a pep talk is necessary to do the deed.
You see, if you’re fairly new here, you might not know that I quit my job back in August 2010 in order to go make hot sauce in Costa Rica for a couple of months. I had intended it as a jumping-off point — a type of cold turkey shock therapy to push myself into figuring out what, exactly, it was that would make me happy. The plan was ill-conceived, at best, and when I returned home my depression was at its peak. (I know, lucky Justin.) Instead of focusing on building a writing career, I let people should all over me. I had no job. My marriage was in a state of limbo. My self-esteem was lying somewhere along the side of that lonely stretch of road that took me to that lowest point in my life, and I just didn’t even know where to begin. So, by August 2011, I took a part-time job as a real estate assistant. The job market was horrendous, and, if you want to know the truth, that is the only interview I could get. Even though I’ve had some baby-step success at getting my foot in the writing door, I lacked gumption. And now, here I am, nearly a year-and-a-half after the epic quitting event of 2010, and I’m scarily close to where I first started.
My backyard view in Costa Rica.
And now, I find it’s time to make another choice.
On New Year’s Eve, my boss sent me an email. A very nice email. A complimentary email, on how he appreciates my hard work and dedication to the team. And he extended me an offer. A very nice offer. An offer to work for his company full-time, to become an integral part of the team, and to devote myself to this career path. To his career path.
The money would not come close to what I was making in 2010, but it would be better than where I’m at now. The job is more stimulating than where I was back then, but I still know that it’s not where I’m supposed to be. At least, not full-time. Because, if I choose that path, I know I won’t dedicate the ambition I need to fulfill my goals this year. It feels wrong, so wrong, to turn it down. And yet. If I accept, it will mean I’ve learned nothing in the past year-and-a-half. That it was a waste. That I’m destined to make the same mistakes over and over again. Turning down an opportunity that would put us in a better financial state feels wrong because that’s how we’re trained to feel. But, if I remember how I really felt in August 2010, I remember very clearly that money was not the issue. Not even close. So, I’m going to politely decline his generous offer, as soon as we’re done here. And hope I’m not making a huge, huge mistake.
Something tells me I might need something a little stronger than coffee this morning.
But you know, so far, all I can figure is that we need to make a series of difficult choices to start taking back control of these limited and precious lives that we have — choices that feel right, even if they don’t look right.
Obviously, I can’t tell you if this is really the way because I’m not there yet myself.
You can be sure I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I heart you!!! Can’t wait to talk with you in person. Victor & I both recently made similar decisions re: offers for jobs that were very wrong for us – despite the momentary lapses into fear & nearly “shoulding” all over ourselves, we know we made the right choice(s). If you made a list of all the things you needed to make you happy, I doubt money would be anywhere near the top, if even on the list at all. If you make decisions based on your values, you’ll make the right decisions. Your initial instincts about things are generally right. You know what they say – “What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right.”
You are right in so many ways, except one. I’m pretty sure money most definitely would make me happy, as long as I acquired it through means that also make me happy. ;)
When do I get to speak with you in person??!
HAHA, I know, I know – but not by itself, only in addition to the other “list” items being present / met. We can talk in person soon if these orders come through!
I totally hear you Katie I started a journey of change to get out of jobs not right for me and don’t make me happy I haven’t yet completed it myself but I wish you the best of luck with your journey. I hope by choosing the path of turning down your job offer it will lead to something even better full of success happiness and prosperity for you.
You know I wish the same for you, Eugene. :)
Haha, now why doesn’t my template include a “like” button? ;)
I love your writing, and as Kat’s landlord I am also privy to similar conversations and decision angst with her. GO FOR IT, you only live once and as you & Justin are able to put food on the table and a roof over your head, the money alone is not enough to abandon your dreams.
Thank you for the reassurance. I’m not sure how nice the roof will be in the future, but you’re right — all we need is the basics, and the rest is a matter of what’s important to us. :)
Exactly, and something tells me you’re a whiz with the glue gun and could beautify a cardboard box on the side of the road if it came to that! Not that it will, the cardboard box is just my go-to worst-case-scenario when I’m deciding between the cajones choice or the non-cajones choice :)
Although it might have been scary, it’s wonderful that you have the time to take to figure these things out and to turn down what you know isn’t right for you. This whole idea of ‘should’ is awful… do we do it to ourselves? Do our relatives do it? (When I was not-quite-24 my mother turned to me, being single since I was 19 and said “You do want to get married, right?” As if I wasn’t trying… as if it’s the only option; and yes I do want to get married and I want to have kids but I’m not going to force it… and I’m going to have to do it on my timeline (as much as I hate this timeline). But, life outside of the US, as we slowly learn, involves so much more than the US thought of should. We shouldn’t do anything we don’t want to do or we’ll end up, like you said, just existing instead of living, and that’s no good at all! It all reminds me of dozens of quotes about you being the only one living your life and only answering to yourself.
I also know, as a career counselor, that there are many careers and opportunities that are right for people that differ greatly in their nature and that if you’re not in the right career for you, then being miserable is all there is left. The process sucks, I’ll give you that, but all of your work toward a better career will pay off, just keep going. I’m also glad we all get to read about it on here along the way…
Such a thoughtful answer! I think we do it to ourselves and other people do it to us — the shoulds can almost be paralyzing, and it doesn’t help when society and the people who love us have us on some sort of mental timeline. All you can do is remember that a predetermined timeline of your life doesn’t exist — you’re creating it as you go, and if you’re constantly worried about whether or not you’ll reach a certain set of milestones, you’ll miss the awesomeness that’s happening right now. :)
Good for you! Your own “shoulds” /what’s right for you doesn’t have to match what anyone else thinks. If we all did the same things, it’d be boring, and there’d be a lot of stuff left undone… Most likely the beautiful and hot sauce things of life. :-)
Ha! So true. And I kind of love the beautiful and hot sauce things. ;)
You’re absolutely making the correct decision in turning that job down. I’ll be doing the same come May, if I don’t have a job guiding in the wilderness somewhere by then, to my current job at AT&T when I return from North Carolina. (They told me I’ll still have my current job if I want it when I return) but I don’t want it. Worst comes to worse, I’ll be guiding a raft down some whitewater in Maine again like I did two summers ago… its far less money than I make now, but I’ll be much more happy. To me, happiness is all that should really matter!
Thanks for the back-up, Nate. Some of us just aren’t meant to sell things people don’t really need. :)
Katie, you said one key thing you need to pay close attention to You said you lacked gumption to push yourself in your writing career. If you make this decision, you better find the gumption for whatever it is you think you want to do. Sometimes we do what we need to do in order to survive. Sometimes doing things we don’t enjoy all that much lead us to things we do enjoy. For most of us our path is not always that clear. Make your decision and put 100% into whatever it is you end up doing next.
That’s what this post is about — finding my gumption, once and for all. :)
Oh Katie, I know I’m a few days late but this post literally brought tears to my eyes at I sit here on the bus reading it– good for you!!! The prospect of financial instability can be a scary one, but my life got a whole lot better after I quit my day job :)
It’s always good to hear about someone else who made it through. :)
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