Author Jeff Goins asked a few of us in his tribe to email him the story of our radical career changes. This is mine. I agreed to write it because I needed to defib my flatlined blog.
It was during a routine call from home that I realized I had fully reinvented myself at midlife from full-time executive ghostwriter for 10 years to ballroom dance instructor, blogger, and etsy upcycle artist. Do I even need to mention the word "struggling" here?
"You're not using what you learned in college," my mother lamented on an overseas call. "Nobody in the family has ever been a dance teacher." Filipino parents brand their parenting success by their children's white-collar professions— "my son, the doctor/lawyer/engineer." It's understandable, given that most parents pay for their children's college education and grow old in their children's care.
Never mind that when I immigrated to California at 21, my first local job as an honors graduate with a bachelor's degree in Literature was as a $3/hr patty flipper at Burger King. That was considered a necessary hiccup in my otherwise linear career, which included a seven-year stint as a print journalist for $13/hr.
The first time my byline appeared, my husband long-distanced his sister in Arkansas to announce, "Our name's in the paper." I had expanded his horizons, this man who had sincerely thought out loud when I was in the throes of job-hunting, "What else can women do besides be secretaries, teachers and nurses?" This was in the '80s, but my hubbadubs was/is firmly entrenched in '50s Midwest thinking.
So why did I abandon my $64K career, if it had been so dazzling for someone who started life in the U.S. with one suitcase and a $5 handout from my sister as she put me on the Boeing 747?
It left me first. Like a marriage in which both partners go through the motions, my career and I had fallen out of love long before we parted. The office politics, the 100-mile round-trip commute, the cyclical, predictable, dry topics I had to churn out, the restrictions on flexibility—that killed it for me. I was numb, and I was mystified about my profound misery.
Every morning, turning into the driveway at work, I'd burst into tears and sob out the Lord's Prayer. During the 15-minute uphill trek from parking lot to third-floor office, my mantra had been "I'm grateful to have a job." But eventually neither of those saved me.
The day I headed home, my car packed to the ceiling with office decor, I had developed such a bad taste in the mouth for the task of putting words in the big boss' mouth. I had been averaging a daily output of four speeches along with umpteen memos, articles, and soundbites to feed the media. The only parts of the job I still enjoyed had been coaching the boss on public speaking and creating his PowerPoint slides.
At home, I wrote nothing besides personal email for nine months.
Instead I took up needle and thread, handstitching outlandish legs onto black stretch shorts to make what I called "pajama party pants." Eventually I finished five pairs and opened a shop on etsy on New Year's Eve 2010. One or two evenings a week I'd leave the house and drive 7 miles to teach at the dance studio where I'd been moonlighting for several years.
Life became easy, simple, and surprisingly gratifying.
To fulfill a requirement for one of the job openings I'd spotted, I started a personal blog. To enter a contest for cat food, I opened a Facebook account. To promote my etsy shop and blog, I started a Facebook page. To store the videos of my dance performances, I opened a YouTube channel. To contain my amateur efforts at photography, the hobby of my newly mindful self, I opened a Flickr account.
To continue on my mindful journey, I joined a yoga studio. Then I thought, heck, I'm spending all this money on classes, I may as well train to be a teacher.
Which brings us to the present moment, the favorite state of being of yogis everywhere.
My mom has softened into some degree of acceptance for her bohemian youngest child. I'm certain she notes my happy tone when we talk.
My three grown daughters are building their careers even as they express pride that their mother pursues what makes her happy.
My husband lost his job 12 months ago, just a few years short of being able to collect Social Security. Pursuing what makes me happy is now secondary to pursuing a steady income so that we continue to eat and live under a roof.