I feel the overwhelming need to tell you “Thank you.”
I came in to your bookstore yesterday, just like I’ve done many times over the years when I’m confused. Yet in all the times I’ve come in, I’ve never seen you there. Today was the first time I can recall you being there and for whatever reason, I knew I had to speak to you.
However I was afraid to approach you because what you do is silly and something I’ve never participated in. So instead of going over to you right away, I circled the bookshelves for half an hour. When I somehow mustered up the courage and asked to speak with you, you looked at me and sat me at a table in the back. We meditated for awhile and then you handed me some cards for me to shuffle. The first thing you said to me was, “You are struggling with your career.” I didn’t say anything and then you took the cards and began to read them.
What you said shocked me. You knew so much of what was going on. I never said a word while you spoke, and that’s why I now feel the need to fill in all the details for you.
Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of money because my father was in a job where he never knew when money would come in. This uncertainty scared our family and I learned that security was a very important word. Even though it was never directly said to me, it was implanted into my brain that I must have security and never do anything to jeopardize it. I never realized how much that idea had affected me because I would travel on my own, have lots of jobs and never worry about being rich or having lots of things. But I realized that my life reflects the insecurities and thoughts of my parents and that I really have been struggling with what the word security means for years. You told me that my ideas of life were formed before I was seven, and looking back, I think you were right.
You also told me I had a lot of pain as a child – that there were a lot of struggles and hardships. There were. I never talk about them because I don’t like to remind myself of the negative and try to remember my life as though I were dancing to music the whole time. You told me that these struggles took me away from my passion. How did you know that?
You see, in elementary school I was tormented, a lot, by teachers. I would always ask questions that they didn’t have answers for or look at something from a different angle. A child shouldn’t have thoughts a teacher can’t understand or talk about and I did. I frustrated them. One teacher in particular was very cruel. She would rip up my artwork and tell me I must have cheated or traced or copied because I didn’t have talent to create naturally. She would tell me I was stupid and my writing was bad and she should fail me because I couldn’t spell donut. I fought her the entire time saying she was wrong, but her words affected me on an unconscious level. I went from being a creative, talented artist and writer to failing art 3 times in 3 different art classes in high school and losing my confidence.
I stopped wanting to a writer and an artist.
Instead of pursuing my love of the arts when I went out on my own at 18, I took took odd jobs around the world that weren’t my passion but paid the bills. I didn’t hate them as they served a purpose like you said. I lived in many different countries on my own and travelled and these various jobs afforded me the ability to continue my travels. They also kept me fed and put a roof over me. I thought if I am living in exotic lands than I’m really not being practical but instead daring. Besides, I thought, it wasn’t so bad because each job was better paying and more important than the last one and I actually did learn something from each of them.
I found out later how much I really had learned and how much of a purpose all those jobs really had when three years ago I travelled to America and ended up meeting my partner. When we got together we had nothing – no money, no furniture, little food and two pairs of socks. Instead of remaining that way we took a chance and moved 2500 miles to a new city. With all my previous jobs and acquired office skills, I was able to get my first high paying, salaried with benefits job and support us. It gave us the security to get what we needed. It helped us with immigration, it helped us get a couch, it helped get groceries and it helped us get more socks. The only thing my corporate job didn’t do was help me. That really bothered me because I felt that I was losing myself and didn’t know how to find me. But I thought that’s how my life is now. I have to accept that. Other jobs just don’t pay the bills or give us big savings or give respect.
The other thing the job did was make me seem responsible and mature to my family. This was important as for years we weren’t on good terms and there was a long period I didn’t really speak to them. You knew this and said that I had recently in the last couple of years tried really hard to get connected with them again. That’s true.
When they heard that I was an “Executive Director” with a big pay cheque and loads of responsibility, they were proud of me, thought I had finally settled down and was “on my way.” I was finally acceptable in their eyes and I had begun to build a really nice relationship with them which I didn’t want to jeopardize by admitting I might be something else. So I kept going to work everyday, not really being happy but thinking that my current job was OK. I thought as far as office jobs go, I have it made. But it never felt right and in the past several months I started to really get this nagging feeling that I need to listen to my heart because it was trying to tell me what I need to do. I kept trying not to listen, however because I thought, “I am on a path, I am doing something productive, I have security. I can’t change course.”
There are few things I know to be true, but the most important one is that when you don’t listen to your heart, you suffer.
For the first time in my life I started having severe panic and anxiety attacks. I had heart palpitations and migraine headaches. I couldn’t sleep because I would cry silently all night. You told me that I don’t want to take a pill to solve the problem, that I need to know the root cause of it. This is true. I knew I was in trouble and that just popping Prozac wouldn’t end the sadness, just mask it. I knew I had to do something about what was happening to me but I felt that I couldn’t. I felt trapped.
I wanted to give into my passion of writing and creating, because you see collating, stapling and typing memos are not my passions. Writing is. That’s the one job I’ve always wanted to do.
However I kept telling myself I couldn’t quit my corporate job because that wasn’t practical. Writing was just a hobby and I wasn’t good at it. I tried to forget all the people who ever told me that I had affected them in a positive way with my words. I tried to ignore the fact that I wanted to really be useful somehow, and that writing makes me feel that way. I told myself if I quit my job and act out on my passion that I will lose the respect of my family. I’d let people down, I would fail, I would be selfish in a negative way, and I wouldn’t be responsible anymore. I told myself if I quit my job I would lose everything I had tried to build. I tried really hard to remain a corporate girl.
But the anxiety and sadness had become worse over the past two weeks. I would miss work one day and go home early the next. I was cranky, angry, depressed and scared. I was slowly breaking down.
My partner suggested that we take a weekend off, to relax and unwind and let go of the stress. When I left for our trip that weekend all I could think was how Monday would be here far too soon and I’d be nothing more than an office girl all over again.
On that trip, however, I saw you and we spoke. I don’t know if you what you do is real or you just guess at what the cards say so you can take people’s money, and I don’t care to ever know. Real or not, you saved me. You talked about a change in my career, about my passion, about my life. You told me that I was in a career that hurt me and it would end because after all these years of uncertainty I finally knew what my passion was. And that if I acted on it, it would be magic. I would be beneficial to people and get recognition. That if I trusted my passion, the universe would provide.
You told me I had so many people that supported me and loved me. I didn’t think I did but you made me realise that I do. I have 310 letters from strangers saying thank you to me for words I’ve written – and that’s just the ones I’ve saved. I never realised that was support but I see how it is, because when I read what they’ve said I feel strong. You told me that what I have to say is important and I need to say it. You told me my career served a purpose at one time, but it doesn’t now. You told me that I try to come across as responsible because I don’t want to jeopardise my relationships and you told me that if I’m true to myself, the right people won’t leave. You told me that people tried to make me think and do from the intellect, but that that I have slowly been learning to accept that I think from the heart and that if I continue to think and act and write from the heart, I will succeed.
You told me all this when I never said one word to you. You said so much more, but I am too overwhelmed right now to remember the details of it all. Listening to you was a very emotional experience because you validated my passion and you gave me permission. You told me what I already knew but needed to hear.
After we talked I went for a walk with my partner and sat at the beach where we talked for over 3 hours. It was the first time I ever really expressed my wants in writing. I’d been afraid that if I wasn’t a “responsible, corporate girl”, I’d fail him & our dreams.
After that, we walked to a little store and I bought a pen and a notebook. I wrote so much from the heart last night – this after having terrible writers block for months. I think what I wrote last night was some of my best work yet. It just poured out. It was real and natural and I smiled the whole time the pen was to paper.
On Monday, I am going to give notice at my job. I am not going to be a corporate girl. I am going to trust the universe and be a writer.
If I succeed even a little, it will be enough. And I thank you for helping me to see that.