Several years ago, I felt called to a higher purpose; however, I wasn’t sure what that meant. One thing I was sure of: I wanted to leave my job and do something else, like writing, counseling, or teaching yoga. However, I couldn’t leave because I felt trapped, like a caged animal.
There were several reasons I felt this, the main reason being finances. I had student loans to pay back, as well as a hefty car payment. I quickly realized that, to have more freedom, meant I needed to be financially free first.
Therefore, I started paying down my debt. While my husband and I were dating, he started paying down his debt too. Just taking steps towards financial freedom made the daily rat race of going to work bearable again.
Then, after we got married, we attacked our debt together. Now, we are proud to say we are debt-free!
Paying off our debt gave me the confidence to submit my resignation letter from active duty naval service. It as though a weight has been lifted and I find myself freer and more peaceful.
Now, I ask you, are you in a job/career that is leaving you feeling less-than-fulfilled? If so, what is keeping you there? And what can you do about it?
Last week, we lost a dear family member, my precious Aunt Marie.
The family is still reeling from the colossal loss.
Aunt Marie was a sweet and special aunt to me, and a loving mother to her four boys, all grown now with wives/fiancees and children of their own.
Aunt Marie started off as one of four sisters. She was the eldest, followed by my mother, then Aunt Louise, with Aunt Fran being the baby. I never got to to know Aunt Louise – she was mentally ill, diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age, and died when I was a teenager. The other three ladies, however, became my guides and my lifeblood.
Mom, Aunt Marie, and Aunt Fran made the perfect complement to each other. Aunt Marie was kind, soft-spoken, and non-judgmental. She dearly loved those around her, and they loved her back. She loved being around all of her boys and their families, with all the loud joking, horseplay, and sports talk. Aunt Marie loved to talk to family and friends on the phone, offering a kind word or a gentle joke. If you need someone to just listen and not judge you or offer unsolicited advice, or even someone to watch Grey’s Anatomy with, you knew to call Aunt Marie.
Aunt Marie’s only downfall was that she always put herself last. In spite of the fact that she had diabetes and heart problems, we still couldn’t get her to eat right or stay hydrated, no matter how much we admonished her. She would rather suffer quietly in pain that assertively ask the doctor to do something about it.
Aunt Fran is on the other end of the spectrum. As opposed to Aunt Marie, who loved being in a room full of people, Aunt Fran prefers to be by herself or with a good friend, curled up with her blanket and her cat, watching some good TV. She is assertive and has a strong sense of what she wants in life. One of the things I love about Aunt Fran is that you know exactly where you stand with her. If you need someone to give you some tough love and tell you the advice you know you should be taking, you call Aunt Fran.
There are a lot of people Aunt Fran doesn’t like; if she does like you, consider yourself VERY lucky. Some folks never see past Aunt Fran’s somewhat spiky exterior. But that’s where they’re wrong. Underneath it all, Aunt Fran is one of the kindest and strongest people I know. She would do almost anything for the people closest to her. She also feels things very deeply and worries about her family and friends. She thinks of them and carries them with her through her daily life. I consider myself blessed to know her.
In between these two ladies is my mom, Phyllis. My entire life, she has been my guiding light and my compass. Outgoing and charismatic like Aunt Marie, she loves and is loved by many. She herself has a lot of opinions, but she usually keeps them to herself, unless you know her well enough. I like to think I’m her best friend, because she certainly is mine. My mom taught me how to be a good person and I can’t imagine my life without her.
With Mom, you have to be careful because you can easily hurt her feelings. She wears her feelings on her sleeve and her many, many friends love her for it. At the same time, she is the most emotionally strong person I know. When we lost my dad, she was the only person in the room with him. When Aunt Marie’s time was near, Mom kept pushing on, never leaving her side (except once to go to the bathroom).
If I want advice on how to follow my heart and see the absolute best in people, I call my mom. If I’m going through something devastating and need someone to be there for me, I call my mom.
You see, these three women perfectly complement each other. They leaned on each other throughout their lives, sharing experiences, joys, laughter, and pain. They celebrated each other’s triumphs and mourned each other’s losses. They were always there for each other, no matter how annoyed they got with each other.
Now, it makes me most sad to think of my mom and my Aunt Fran without my Aunt Marie. It’s like a triangle with a missing, vital side. It’s hard for me to imagine that it’s just Mom and Aunt Fran now. It seems wrong, somehow. Now they have to learn how to navigate life without one of the people they turned to most for support. I know they’re lost and I’m lost for them.
I pray that love and faith will see them (and me) through this. I have some comfort in the fact that Aunt Marie is not in pain anymore, and that she’s watching over us from heaven, as our guardian angel. Telling us to not be so hard on ourselves, to indulge our sweet tooth, and to cuddle our pets every chance we get. And to remind us that time with our loved ones is precious, and we never know when it’s going to run out.
Triangles Coming Together to Make an Abstract Rose, Photo Credit
After my post last month on my decision to resign from active duty naval service, several folks have asked for a follow-up. Well, I submitted my resignation letter, and it is officially being processed. It came as a shock to a few members of my chain of command. One of my bosses said he “hates to lose such a good naval officer,” and that he was signing my endorsement, “with regret.”
Based on past and present feedback, I am a good naval officer. I received several awards, top marks on my evaluations (the Navy calls these fitness reports), and filled some tough positions that were higher than my pay grade. Even my subordinates told me they thought I was a great leader and they enjoyed working for me.
Therefore, my decision to leave my 11-year-long successful naval career probably looks like I’m throwing a lot away: a good, steady job, great benefits, upward mobility, the opportunity to travel and meet new people, and instant respect from strangers the moment I put my uniform on. I understand why people look at me like I’m nuts when I say I’m giving that up.
That said, every time I put on my uniform and walked into work, it felt as though I was fulfilling a role, like I was in a play or something. Sometimes I worried that others could see through me, seeing me for the phony I was (or maybe still am?).
Currently, I’m reading a book called, “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins (2015). It is a wonderful piece to help you find your life’s calling. Goins argues that it is “possible to succeed at the wrong thing” (p. 77). I have to admit; he’s absolutely right. Being a successful naval officer, I have been succeeding at the wrong thing for the past 11 years. Goins tells us that,
“In any vocation, there comes a time when you realize the path you’re on is not taking you where you want to go. All this preparation has culminated in helping you achieve the wrong goal… What do you do then? …You realize it’s never too late to change and take a turn in the direction of your true calling” (p. 81).
That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m taking a turn in the direction of my true calling. While I may not know exactly what my true calling is yet (writing? counseling? teaching yoga? photography?), I know it isn’t being an active duty naval officer.