Before I was a mom, I knew I was meant to be a mom. Not a writer, not a career woman, just a mom, plain and simple. It was all I’ve ever wanted to be and I never thought of anything else.
That is until I was in 12th grade scouting colleges and planning my future with my guidance counselor. To him, being a mom, was not an acceptable career choice, it wasn’t a future I could bank on … literally.
I was forced into a corner, what college? What major? We scoured over my less than stellar high school transcript, trying to find something that stood out as a possible career choice. But, really, how does one stand out in public education?
There were no opportunities to show I was a stand-out writer. I wrote what I was required to write, I didn’t put in too much of an effort, because it wasn’t necessary. I really didn’t care about Atticus Finch or Dante’.
There was evidence I was a damn good debater, as I was chastised often for speaking out, for speaking my mind, and not letting up until I was convinced I won, (go figure) but that wasn’t viewed as a skill, more of a vice.
So as for a career, I had no clue. In my ear my parents, particularly my mom, were whispering teacher. And so I did what any normal teenager would do … I chose lawyer/politician. The polar opposite of teacher.
So much scoffing came from that decision. “Too much school, too much work, too much commitment, too hard, blah blah, blah,” that I stuck my feet in the sand and was determined to be a lawyer.
Until the day I graduated college and decided another 3 years of school would likely kill me. And so, I fell back on the one thing that had put me through college (yep, I did it all by myself, ZERO parental support and only $10,000 in student loans) … writing!
Writing, as in Direct Mail copy. You know, the letters you get in the mail saying this horrible thing is going to happen if you don’t send in $20, $50 or more? I didn’t actually write those while in college, but I answered phones for those who did. And so when I graduated, with an English and Political Science Major and had no clue what to do, because teaching wasn’t an option, I went back to answering phones.
But then, here I was a college grad, with that coveted degree everyone told me would make the difference between success and failure. I could hear my guidance counselor, “Do you want to answer phones all your life?”
So, naturally I asked for a job as a writer, and was laughed out of the office. I quit in indignation.
The crazy thing is I did, shortly after, land a job as one of those writers with a different company.
Even more crazy is the fact that I made the exact same amount as I did as a receptionist, which was the equivalent of $10/hr.
Most of those writers did not actually have a college degree. I felt totally #suckered! Why wasn’t I making the boat load of money I was told I would make with this piece of paper? After all it was sold to me as the only portal to success.
But, success is not that easily defined. It’s certainly not defined by your paycheck …
For me, success never was a title or fame or the acquisition of stuff or even money. Success to me was and always will be family. A family to do stuff with, make memories with. A life filled with people who you love unconditionally and who love you back unconditionally.
You know, there is nothing else in life that is unconditional. Not your paycheck, not your job, not your health, not your life … just love. It even transcends death!
Love is what drives my world and the world of my family.
And so, needless to say, I didn’t last long at this firm. Partly because the writing was benign and totally devoid of any creativity and also because Kerry was born within the first year of our marriage and I loved her so much I just could not fathom not being with her.
I stretched that (unpaid) maternity leave to the point that I don’t think anyone at that office thought I was coming back. And, when I did return, I worked for one week as a “part-time” employee. And that nearly killed me.
I called Dan at home on the 5th day crying…he said to quit. This, despite the fact that he made a whopping $9k/year at the time!!
But when love governs a life, money plays no part.
I’m not lying when I say we never looked back … ever! It was the only decision for me, for us, for our family. Dan just started busting his butt and hasn’t stopped since…nothing has been easy, nothing has worked out the way we thought or hoped it would. We’ve had more than our fair share of troubles and trials, but with Dan we always land on our feet. Always.
I think we all do, I think we all land on our feet. It’s just that sometimes we have to look harder than others.
Which is what Dan and I are attempting to teach our kids with this strange, amazing, crazy, incredible life we are living. I think we make life look easy to those on the outside, but here, on the inside, we scratch and claw our way to joy. Our kids see this perseverance, they know how hard and what dreadful hours Dan works in order to make this “dream life” work. And, don’t get me wrong, we are living the Dream, but we are making it happen ourselves. The payoff is more than worth the hard work, and so the dream continues.
And, despite how it may appear, we are not in hot pursuit of happiness, rather, we are in hot pursuit of meaning…and the ironic thing about meaning is that is where true happiness lies. A life that is filled with meaning is one that is happy, fulfilled and I hate to use the word content, because it tends to lend an air of finality, but yes, content. And family, Dan and I, our marriage and our kids are where we find meaning.
We are conditioned to think we need money or nice cars or luxury homes to be happy. In fact, we tend to place our lives on hold until we have enough of the above.
The problem with this idea is that we aren’t guaranteed the time. We. are. not. guaranteed. time. Life is so short, it is fleeting really, that none of us, actually, have time to wait to live, to spend time with our families or even to have fun.
And so that leaves the here and now. Today is the day to get out there and do the things you’ve always wanted to do. No excuses. Seriously, no excuses. If we can embark on a wild expedition of RV’ing the continent with 12 kids (and a dog), with our history, with our budget, then I am telling you … you can do anything you set your mind to.
Every day your children are closer to adulthood, every day you are getting older, unhealthier. There is no time like the present to follow your heart and raise your family exactly the way you want.
When you are old and grey, nearing the end of your days, don’t you want more of a legacy than my dad was an accountant or my mom was a lawyer? Or we had a nice house, a nice lawn, nice cars and nice stuff?
Don’t you want stories your kids can relay to their own kids, the crazy things you did, the time you spent together, the memories you shared … I guarantee your kids don’t care about your furniture or your clothing or any of your stuff. I mean come on, if your kids are anything like my kids, they don’t take care of anything. They track dirty muddy feet through the house, they toss their clothes on the floor, they jump on our furniture and break all of our appliances … they don’t care, they aren’t wired to care.
They are wired to have fun and explore and spend time with their families. After all, that’s what gives life meaning and in turn brings about happiness. Family.