Protecting Emotional Well-Being

I wanted to follow-up on Friday’s post with something I actually wrote down over a month ago while I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop.  This is more in depth on what I only touched on Friday and will explain a bit why I’ve ditched the career for a job.

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a fire fighter, police officer, and own a restaurant?  Or a model, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, and President of the United States?  We saw limitless possibilities.  At least I did.  As we grew older, pressure was on to do well in school, get into college, choose a major, and start a lifelong career.


When did society decide for it to be the norm that we could only have 1 career?  Why did we let ourselves get pigeon-holed into thinking it’s the only way?  Sure we go to college or trade school to gain a set of skills and it would be costly to keep going back every time we chose to change careers.  When you’ve had a long time in one career, you become frightened of starting over.  We tend to fear change.   The fear keeps you chained to a place you start to loathe.  Starting over usually means a pay cut.  Starting over usually means searching for a new job, submitting resumes, and going to interviews.  This fear usually keeps you chained to a place you loathe and sometimes you may get promotion after promotion only to be faced with more hours and more stress.

For some people, a lifelong career works for them.  They love it.  They love what they do.  They love who they work for.  They aspire to promotions.  Great.  Honestly, that’s good for them because it’s what they want.  But we are a nation of individuals and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.  Yet, as a nation of individuals we’ve become a nation of individuals-just-like-everyone-else trying to chase down that American Dream.

What if we went to schools of higher learning just for the subjects we wanted?  I could’ve had my Psychology degree in 2 years.  Then you go off, do your thing in the workforce.  Maybe you decide, “I’m not really liking this” or “Wow, the job market is horrible.”  Go back to school for something else.  You get the picture.  Okay, so maybe it’s not quite feasible.  I’m sick of school and don’t want to go back.  But, we need to be able to look at changing career/job tracks as a good thing.  Vital to our well-being in some cases.

I’ve thought a lot about this since I’m definitely not where I planned on being career-wise when I was in high school.  Things changed.  I wanted to be a clinical psychologist.  By the time I was done with my degree I was so jaded with the field that I graduated and became an Administrative Assistant for an environmental engineering company back home.  I was there a year when I got fired.  Yes, fired.  First ever and hopefully, last time.  Before the firing I was already looking for something else because I was unhappy there.  The firing, while upsetting in the moment, was a blessing in disguise.

I wound up working for the YMCA doing after school and Summer programs.  I was challenged by the fact that I had just 1 child out of 20 that had some problems that would disrupt the activities.  I had to spend a lot f time calming him down as he’d start to trash a perfectly fine creative project or chasing him when he’d try to run off.  Both of us grew from that experience and seeing his growth inspired me to want to be a school counselor.  So, I went back to school and prepared for the GRE as he moved to Canada with his mother.  He’s gone on to be a gifted hockey player in the Canadian leagues and started college last year after taking some time after finishing high school.

I met a man not long after and wound up moving far away from my family to marry him.  I didn’t attempt to take the GRE nor did I try for any programs at the University of Louisville.  Instead, I landed a job at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for boys.  I did direct care work for 2 1/2 years, taking promotions while helping young men grow.  The reward in that job was simply seeing them overcome problems and move forward with their lives as they matured from the learning process.  I have so many good memories from those direct care days and the 8 years I spent as a Therapeutic Child Support Counselor and Case Manager after transferring to the Clinical Department.  If circumstances hadn’t made me choose between staying and possibly working myself into the ground in order to keep providing quality service to my clients, staying and providing sub-par services while staying healthy, or leaving to protect my health and my work ethic, I would still be there.

When I left, I wanted to do something different.  I went into grant writing.  I found a job at an advocacy agency for mental health just 5 minutes from home.  After a few months, the economy tanked and I was almost out of a job.  I agreed to stay on and do whatever my boss asked of me.  Re-organize the office files, organize archived files, report payroll, make labels, etc.  Not glamorous, but it was the least stressful time of my life and it allowed me to enjoy life.  Then, I started teaching some classes around the state.  Eventually, I was set to take over as Executive Director after my boss retired.  I never once thought about having a career again, but I went for it when the opportunity was presented to me.

Now here I am in a different city again working at a job, not a career.  Retail.  The hours are much different from I’m used to and I’m trying to get a handle on balancing a changing schedule with my needs.  I don’t care that I’m making nearly half what I was making 2 months ago.  My ideas on money and consumerism have changed so drastically that I look at things now and say to myself, “I don’t really need that,” and I walk away.  The exceptions are music and books.  I don’t want to be working just to make more money to buy more things.  I don’t need more things.  I need time with my family.  I need time for myself to indulge in my creative hobbies.  I need time to make sure I’m sticking to my whole foods and gluten-free diet.  I’m simply working to pay off a credit card.  Sure, I could get a career oriented job to pay it off sooner, but I don’t want that accompanying stress.  I like leaving work at work and not having it tag along back home with me just to haunt my dreams.

I don’t care that people will think less of me for ditching a career.  That’s their problem, their perception.  I’ve never been one to do things just to fit what others think I should do and I won’t start now.  I’m happy with the choice I made.  Sure, retail can be hard tedious work, but I don’t think we were made to sit behind desks all day.  We were made to work the land and live off of the land.  Short of working on a farm, working in retail is a great way to keep moving the entire time at work to mimic this.  I come home with sore feet and legs, but I like it.  I know all of that is good for me.

So don’t judge someone the next time you talk to someone about their ideas about school or careers just because they differ from yours or the societal norm.  If they are happy, that is all that matters.   If you’re the one being judged, if you’re doing what you want to do and you’re happy doing it, keep at it despite what others think.  In the end, you’re the only that can make you happy.


Are you stopping to enjoy this life you're living or are you letting it pass you by?