About two years ago, I quit a dream job that I had believed was an answer to my prayers. I had prayed for it, I was good at it, it paid well, it was in a great company and was in line with my career goals.
But for about a year before I left, there was this disquiet in my heart that I couldn’t place a finger to. My heart screamed- leave. But logic, practicalities like budgets and loans, pride, and fear of people’s opinions and of being broke kept me frozen in this place of anguish. I talked to my close friends and people who had left their jobs and while they encouraged me, one told me that when it was time to leave, I would know.
I remember reading an article on Atlantic.com by Ann Marie Slaughter about the unresolvable tensions between family and career and thinking- this is so me. She talks about how women often value family over professional advancement and how as a maternal imperative, they are likely to choose their family at a cost to their jobs.
She concludes by saying: “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”
At least I knew I was not the only one waging an inner war between office and home. Many women had fought those battles or were still fighting them. I wasn’t crazy to long for my home and children like a drug. Christmas in particular brought the blues because my office barely closed for Christmas break. I used to quit my job in my head every Christmas.
I couldn’t even explain to people why I desperately needed to quit my job but I knew I needed to do so. So I tried getting alternative employment for about a year but nothing was coming through. Those doors were firmly shut. After many days of tears and prayer, I talked to my husband and told him I need to take a leap of faith. I can bet he was scared but he didn’t show it. He told me to do what I needed to do. “We will be alright,”he said. Bless him.
After I shared my turmoil with a mentor colleague, he sent me Steve Job’s commencement speech at Stanford and I brooded over it for months.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever… Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle….”
The final punch for me was this line by Jobs: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
So on my daughter’s first birthday, February 24, I left my employer for my home. I had the faith that God was leading me out, but not sure into what, but I was ready to embrace that uncertainty. And it was the happiest day.
Strength and courage
That December God had dropped this verse from Joshua 1:9 in my heart, probably in preparation for what lay ahead, and I had stuck it on my office desk.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
It’s been 22 months since that crazy leap and I would make that choice again, may be even earlier. Is he a faithful God or what! It freed me to serve my family, friends, church, make new friends, have new hobbies, take new jobs, make new connections. But most importantly it helped me realize the things that were important in my life and gave me the courage to know that I can walk away if I was not happy. No job is a life sentence.
Now I realise that while my past job brought in a decent pay cheque, it wasn’t a good investment of my life. It didn’t fit with why I thought I was on this planet. It wasn’t what I cared about or what drove me or even about the change I wanted to create in the world. It had no legacy. It wasn’t allowing me to be the creative, woman, wife, mother, or Christ co-worker I desired to be. It wasn’t helping me help and connect with people in a way that was authentic to me. When I wasn’t working, I was too tired to even do the things I love like write or play music or volunteer for anything. The rest of the time I was busy trying to catch up with parenting time. I had no time for friendships. I missed my kids so terribly I would cry on my way home. I knew what my heart wanted and it was in contrary with everything growing up prepared me for. I needed to have my family first. I needed to raise my own children, not have them farmed for me by 10 househelps in a year. A busy job just didn’t give me enough time to do that. I wanted them imparted by my values, not the play yard kids. I wanted to make dinner for my husband and not be dead tired when he came home. I wanted to check my son’s homework. But no one ever told me that this could be a reality in my life or that it was okay to want to be a good mother and wife above every thing else.
For a moment I felt I lost my identity as a successful professional. I lost man’s applause. i was in strange waters. But I never walked alone. All of a sudden a new world opened up of exciting opportunities and friendships. I got to redefine myself. I was not my job. I was who God said I was and I am still discovering that and it’s an amazing journey.
I realise that that is not a decision every woman can make. But I found out that it was what was best for me and my family. God had pushed me out because i needed to pay more attention to my family and the call on my life whatever that was. I needed to trust and obey. I needed to be those people who when God says jump I ask how high. I needed to lay down my life as I knew it then for something more bold and beautiful and yes, different, something I felt I’ll equipped and undeserving of. But nothing gives me more fulfillment. It’s crazy that “homing” gave me so much fulfillment. Even now I miss that feeling on hanging and unhanging clean laundry and making a snack for my son just before the school bus arrives in the afternoon.
I still work. But I got my values and priorities realigned and my life has more depth, may be even more impact. And while I had to take a major pay cut, I feel more rounded as a person. I have served in church ministry. I have led a Bible study group. I get to see my kids in day light. I have learnt new skills like photography and it’s exciting. I have built deeper friendships. I have learnt a lot even about myself and what I am good at and areas I am gifted in. My personal devotion is improving though still faltering. I am reading my bible once again. And I have had the opportunity to start and keep this blog running, which i started with the desire to live authentically, connect with people and connect them to each other and relevant resources, to equip and inspire. I hope it lives up to that mandate and I do too.
This is the season I am in and I realise it is not permanent. The one question I keep asking myself is, “Am I obeying God in this season of my life?” What does faithfulness look like in my particular circumstances? I choose to serve God however he chooses. I choose to stay fruitful, stay faithful, stay obedient, wherever that may lead.
You can only connect the dots looking backwards.