Finding Purpose in Being Present

Thursday, August 01, 2019

So, I quit my job. I wrestled with the decision for a long time, but eventually I realized that my heart was no longer in it. I had lost my passion for work and in its place were constant feelings of guilt and anxiety. Busyness and worry ruled my life.

Even on days when I was with my family, I would find myself drawn to my phone. Constantly checking it for new emails and messages. Thanks to modern technology, work no longer stays at the office. I don't think there is such a thing as work/life balance. Instead it feels more like work has seeped into every aspect of our lives. I was rarely truly present with my family. My mind was partly with them and partly with work. This frequently led to impatience and I found myself snapping at my kids just for being noisy. They're kids - being noisy is in their DNA. My career now felt like an anchor tied to my chest, stealing my ability to breathe freely.

Mentally, I was running on empty. I felt drained, exhausted and guilty that I was always letting someone down somehow. I knew that something needed to change. But I was terrified to leave my job. For a majority of my life, I had worked towards one goal or another, all on the path leading me towards my career. Would I just be throwing that all away if I stayed home?

The thought of giving up everything I had worked for, not to mention my beautiful view of the city, terrified me.

For over a decade I'd taken pride in, and honestly enjoyed, my work. I loved the creative and challenging opportunities it provided. Valued being a part of something bigger than myself that made an impact in the larger community. And I'm not going to lie, it was gratifying to do a job well, which subsequently led to praise and promotions - things that are not part of the stay at home parent benefits package.

Another element missing from that package is external value. This is one of the biggest things I struggled with when considering whether to leave my job and stay at home. I worried that I would no longer be seen as successful by others. Let's face it, giving board room presentations is a whole lot sexier than folding laundry and changing diapers. Would I be considered an under-achiever instead of an achiever? Would I no longer be setting a good example for my daughter? I expected to feel guilty as a working mom, but I was surprised to experience it as I considered being a stay at home one.

"If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." - Dolly Parton

After a lot of internal debate, I realized that I could not live my life out of fear of the unknown or fear of what others would think. Nowadays, it seems the busier we are, then the more successful you must be. But what if I don't agree with that definition of success anymore? If I remained at my job, then all I'd be doing is living someone else's idea of success. Following someone else's path instead of my own.

If I made a list of what brings me joy and purpose in life right now, it would no longer include my job. The list would include things like going on adventures with my kids and husband, traveling, running, working on house and art projects, writing, and reading. These things might not garner high praise or profit from the outside world, but they are life-giving to me.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." - Steve Jobs

At this precious time in my life, when I have two young children and a family that I adore; they are what I want my life to be about. They are my purpose right now. The opportunity to stay home for a time and be with them, to make memories with them, watch them, learn from them, really be present with them - it is an opportunity with a shelf life. And deep down in my gut, I knew that if I didn't take this chance to stay home, I might regret it for the rest of my life.

Who wouldn't want to spend their days jumping waves in the ocean with this cutie?

Or building sand castles with my baby, who is all of a sudden not a baby anymore...

Because I have changed since becoming a mother. My wants and desires have changed, and I know they will again. But for right now, what I want is to stay home with my kids. And the fact that I have this choice is a gift. The greatest dream I have for my children is that they are able to follow their passions in life.

My job has never been who I am entirely - merely one expression of it. Even motherhood does not completely define me. I have my own unique dreams and desires. And I want my children to see that, to know that. We must dig deep to find out what really makes us happy, and then pursue it unabashedly. Otherwise, we're just wasting this amazing gift of life.

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde

So I'm currently on a new unchartered path. Sometimes I feel anxious by the unknown, and other times I feel free and excited. I'm finding new purpose in being present for my life, for my kids' and husband's lives. And I'm trying to be okay with taking things slow and savoring the new space I've carved out. "Trying" being the key word. My first week of not working I spent painting our kitchen and dining room. Shaking off the busyness anchor has proven a little harder than I thought it would.

And I struggle with the nagging inner thoughts telling me that I'm not doing enough. That as my paycheck has decreased, so too has my self worth. This is probably my biggest struggle and to be honest, I don't know if it will ever go away entirely, especially in a society that values dollar signs over diaper duty and doing dishes.

However, it is not lost on me how fortunate I am to have this time and how fast children grow up, so I don't plan to waste it. I don't know what the future holds exactly or where life will take me, but I am determined to be open. To seek out joy over recognition, and to be grateful for every moment. Because as the wise Ferris Bueller once pointed out:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

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