The job, the committees, the extra-curricular activities.
So easy to fill our time. To be productive. To do more.
So easy to fill our childrens’ time. To make them into accomplished students, musicians, athletes.
This life, it goes so quickly. What was once the walk has turned into the run.
The run to get from here to there.
The run to fit it all in.
The run to tomorrow, to next week, to next year.
It’s difficult to appreciate the moment when days are similar to my morning run…sprint to the creek, then walk a minute to recover. Focus on the creek. Make it to the creek and get there the fastest and best way I know how.
The run to do more, have more, be more…these days, they will happen whether we enjoy them or they pass us by.
I am learning.
Learning to not fill my time. My girls’ time. One sport at a time. One committee at a time. One moment at a time.
Learning to say “thank you, but no thank you.”
Time to slow down.
Time for family dinners.
Time for friends around the table.
Time for a late bedtime to hear Dad play his guitar by the fire.
Walking in front of my littlest to the car to go to school. Then, “Mama, wait.” The pause while she catches up to me and takes my hand and we walk together.
It doesn’t happen all at once and that helps to make it easy.
The gradual pulling away, the hugs slightly less long, the more of “I can do it, Mom.”
It’s a beautiful thing to see these lives change and blossom into what they will be, growing into the people they are.
A gorgeous sight, when watching your child from a distance, when they’re not aware you can see them. Watching them hold the door open, pick up the dropped pencil, run to catch up with their friend on the walk into school.
To not only see them grow, but to see their spirit come alive in doing something they love.
To watch them run after the ball, sweat on the brow, captivated with the thought of being the first to reach it.
To see them lying on the sofa, swept away in a tale of wardrobes and lions and white witches, one hand behind her head, the light from the window catching the blonde in her brunette.
This life holds such small moments. Moments to grasp. Hear the song playing in the background. When it comes on again, I’ll remember this moment. I will remember her small knee peeking out of the blanket, her cheeks with still a little bit of round.
They were never mine to hold forever, but to usher them into this life and show the wonders it holds.
To show them beauty, the vastness, the experience waiting to happen.
Holding all of the love in my heart, pushing it out to her as she walks to her classroom, watching her right toe turn in as she goes.
And as if she knows, the unexpected turn to look at me, and smile, and “I love you, Mom.”
I remember being in the fifth grade and our teacher going around the class, asking everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up. Each person stood up and said things like, ‘doctor’ and ‘football player’. And each time, the teacher would say, “That’s wonderful! Then you should go do that.” She said the same to me when I said I wanted to be a Supreme Court justice.
I think she was totally wrong to have said that.
Here is what I think she should have said:
“That’s great, Seja! So you want to be a Supreme Court Justice? So that means you want to go to university, get into a top tier law school, read until you fall asleep in the library, work to get on the law review, graduate in the top 3 of your law school class so you can get a Supreme Court clerkship, get a job at a top law firm where you’ll easily work 90 hours a week, eventually become a judge and then maybe be nominated by a United States president after which you will go through a grueling week of testimony and questioning by the US Senate, in which they will publicly bring up everything you’ve ever done and said in your life to be a US Supreme Court Justice?”
And many people may have said, “Heck yes! Bring it!”
I would have said, “Maybe not. I don’t think I want to do that really.”
Here is my point, career-deciding people…ask yourself some introspective questions now and it may help guide you to where you want to be. Questions such as:
What did you love to do when you were a child?
If there is something you are drawn to as a career, are you prepared for all aspects of the work? (Want to be a doctor? Be ready for call. Want to be a nurse? Be ready for changing bedpans. Want to be a hedge fund manager? Be ready to sleep on a cot in the back room of the office.)
Do you want a lot of time for yourself outside of work?
Is money the highest goal?
I thought it was when I was 18. Until I learned that sometimes when you go after the money, you end up spending all of the money. (See previous post.) (Also, please remember that studies show that once you meet certain needs such as shelter and food, happiness does not go up dramatically based on increases in income.) (I know what you are saying…”But Seja, you don’t see people crying on jet skis.” Just trust me on this one.)
I know, not everyone can do what they love as a career. Say you want to be a surfer, but maybe don’t have the desire to live out of a camper on the beach and don’t have the skills to win world surfing competitions? Then maybe teaching is for you – you can have your summers off and only live in a camper on the beach two months out of the year.
As for me, I loved styling hair as a child. I loved playing soccer. And I loved making jewelry.
And most importantly…
I loved my time and my freedom. And I knew I wanted to be able to spend as much time with my loved ones as possible outside of work. So maybe not a Supreme Court Justice.
I still check in with myself on the questions above. After all, none of us is the same as we were ten years ago.
And even after all of this, you still don’t know any of the answers to the questions above yet, that’s okay. Just remember to:
live in the present moment
follow your heart
don’t worry about the future
You’re going to be okay
And that if you dial a number ending in ‘PAPA’, you will most likely reach someone who can deliver a pizza to your dorm room.
I have to admit, I was taken aback by her question. It was blunt, to the point, and it caught me off guard. I mean, we were standing in the chip aisle at Target. She said, “Seja, I was reading your blog and I have to ask because we’ve known each other a long time and I just have to know…how do you afford to build a house where you guys are and quit your job at the same time?”
Even though this woman and I are not close friends, we have known each other a long time. She is a nurse in an office I used to call on. But I have always loved her directness, her transparency, and as she says, her desire to keep it real. So I am going to bring all of that realness to you and tell you what I told her.
I worked for Merck for a long time – thirteen years. Most of my adult life. And it was an amazing job. It provided for my family and I am incredibly grateful. I worked for and with some incredible people, too, and I learned a lot. But I never loved it. I always felt like the barefoot hippie masquerading in a business suit – not living authentically.
But all of this inauthentic living came with a paycheck. I mean, we needed that income. We had a family to support after all. But it came with a price, too – a thought process along the lines of this:
“Okay, I don’t love my job, but I make this money and I’ve worked hard for it. So if I want new running shoes every month, then I’m going to buy new running shoes. And I should be able to walk into Sephora and buy what I want, because I need nice makeup for my job. And besides, I’ve earned it. If I have to spend time away from my girls for work, then at least I am going to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”
And there it was. Working a job I didn’t love and spending a lot of the money that came with it. We still had a student loan, which I believed was impossible to pay off because of its sheer size, while spending $500 a month at Target on whatever you can walk in and find at Target. (I mean seriously, a mossy door wreath and brown leather sandals in the same place? I was hooked.)
And Joe noticed. A little software program called YNAB (an acronym for You Need a Budget – so aggressive with its name. You’re not looking at me, YNAB, are you?) tracked each purchase out of our bank account. Joe would sit at the laptop and shout from the office to the family room, “What did you buy for $26.89 at Target? What did you buy for $89.76 at Smith’s Sport and Shoe?” Um, Smith’s Sport and Shoe? I needed shoes to get my sport on, hello? Something was missing and I was filling it with stuff.
During this time, in 2009, I found jewelry making. I loved it. The time I spent designing and creating flew by. I would go down into my little workspace (a small desk in a tiny office) after I put the girls to bed and the next time I would look at the clock, it would read 1am or something similar. I was pulled into it. And even though there were times I took breaks from it, thinking I don’t have time for this between my real job and my family, I always came back to it.
My mind hadn’t put together, or if it did, couldn’t believe, that if I just stopped filling my life with unnecessary things, maybe I could afford to move on to something else. Maybe I could stay home with my girls. Maybe we could save enough to make a change. Maybe I could move in another direction.
Then, while taking a break at a wholesale jewelry show in 2013 (I would go to these shows to buy my materials for jewelry making), I noticed all of the people there buying materials for their jewelry as well. And how many more people were buying than selling. So instead of buying materials that day to use in my designs, I bought materials I thought others might like to use. And that was the beginning of my online wholesale jewelry supply shop. I would work my sales job during the day, be with my family in the evening, and work the shop from 9pm – 1am. It went on for two years and it was grueling. There was no time for anything but family or work. I had never worked harder in my life – and I loved it.
And in that period of time, of there being no spare time, there was no chance to pop into Target to buy cereal and five other things as well. There was no time to go buy new running shoes – and most importantly, I realized the ones I had were fine, until there were enough miles on them to warrant new ones. The feelings of earning a paycheck and the right to spend it on whatever were gone. And Joe’s questions from the office about my purchases became less and less frequent as well, because I no longer felt the need to spend.
I still appreciate items that bring beauty to a space or are useful. It’s just that now I take my time, I picture where it will go, if it will fit in my wardrobe, if it is practical and most importantly, can I afford it. Does it have the lasting presence of my great aunt’s kitchen table? Will my grandchildren be able to use this Dutch oven one day? Will I still wear this in ten years? If the answer is no, I walk away.
So that is how we afford to live here having left my job. I own a small online business. I spend a fraction of what I used to spend. I’ve traded the stuff for less. And I will never go back.