I would like to share with you about my life journey as of late. My family and I have decided that it is time to recalibrate on life, and in this case, the change that would provide the most time and space for discovery is for me to leave my career of the past ten years. We do not have another job lined up, and that is an intentional decision. To catch you up to this moment, I need to take you back.
My adolescence is split up into two categories for me, my birth to pre teen years in California, and the Arizona middle school and high school years that followed. In those California years, our home life was as stable as could be. In the Arizona years though, things started to break. I have come to realize the impact this change had on future aspects of life.
My dad worked for a company in California that was relocating to Northern Arizona in the early 90s. The decision to move with his company was based on the belief that it was the most financially stable decision for our family, as well as a fear that he would be unable to find any other job with comparable pay. The decision was made through equal parts of love for his family and a desire to provide stability, and fear that we would find poverty if he did not. I know that it was a hard decision to make, because I saw the effect it had on my dad, my parent’s marriage, and the split that it started through the foundation of our home.
Come to find out, this fear had begun to take root when my dad got laid off when I was very young. From that point on, he decided that if an employer was willing to keep him, then he would stay and give his all. He would not leave, nor would he pursue any other job.
Stability was something that my dad valued in life, and honestly, who doesn’t appreciate that? This longing was driven by love for my mom, me, and my brother; and this love was expressed through a commitment to his employer. He was good at what he did, and it was a hard job; but he didn’t give up. He was valuable to his company because he would do whatever they needed. I remember that my dad was out the door before I would wake up most days, and he would work overtime whenever they needed him to. All of this is part of what makes an ideal employee, but there is one caveat that makes me a little sad as his son; part of why he stayed at this company is because he placed a low value on himself.
There is nothing inherently bad about his company he worked for, or the job he performed, but his reasoning for staying was rooted in the belief that he was unworthy of anything better. My dad was one of the greatest men I’ve known, even amidst his faults and failures. As I grew older and he began to earn and save more money, he would accredit all of the success to the graciousness of his company and the grace of God. Though there is truth in both of those statements, he failed to give credit to himself for his skill and leadership.
Gratefulness is a fundamental element to truly live an impactful life. Gratefulness though walks the line of humility and passiveness. On one hand, being grateful creates a deep appreciation for what we have; on the other hand, it can be used to abdicate ownership of our decisions and remove the responsibility of taking necessary risks. In my dad’s case, it was used to remove his ownership of how great of a worker he was, and in turn, created a belief in him that he was unworthy of what he had.
Like my dad, I was laid off when my oldest daughter was 2, and we had our second daughter on the way. My wife had just finished school, and was just getting started in her career, so we didn’t have much money at all. I have to admit, I was afraid. Through conversations with a couple of acquaintances, I ended up getting hired on to a great company after a few months of unemployment. This is the company I still work for today. The first couple of years were very hard on us; one, because I had to take a less than ideal shift schedule, and two, I was starting at the bottom of the pay scale, which was significantly less than I had been making at my prior job. We piled up a lot of debt during that time, but we eventually got out.
Throughout my career, my dad was encouraging me to work hard and work well. “Work as if you were working for the Lord”, he would say; and I did. He taught me to enter each day with a gratefulness for my job, and a commitment to give my all. I would feel a sense of pride and accomplishment with each year I completed at my job, because I knew that the more stable my career became, the more happy my dad would be.
My dad passed away 3 years ago, and after that, something changed in me. I realized that one driving force for me to stay at this job was the sense of fulfillment I received from making my dad proud. I was able to take some time off to go be with him in California for his final week of life. Even in his final days of life, he urged me to work extra hard when I returned to work to show them that I was thankful for the time off. Like I said, he had a strong work ethic.
I did go back and give it my all; I mean it was one of my dad’s last encouragements to me, how could I not? A part of me had diminished over the past ten years at this job though, and that had been masked by my longing to make my dad proud. Losing my dad was one of the hardest things to accept in my life, but in that loss, there has also been awakening. I wish I had more time with him; not only in the end, but throughout our lives together.
I began to examine the trajectory of my life related to the quickness of the time that had passed. My daughters who were babes but a moment ago are now closing in on their teen years. Though I have excelled at work, I have stalled in other arenas of life. Life is good, and life is blooming, don’t get me wrong; but life is also more, and I am ready to pursue it.
So here we are. The form of life has changed over the past 10 years. When I started at my job, it was what our family needed, even though it was not what I wanted. I stayed not only because it is what we needed, but because it was what I also needed for a time. Now, it is time to reset and recalibrate on the trajectory of life. Though there will be less financial certainty for a time, my confidence in what lies ahead grows. What we know is that sacrifice is essential for growth, and sometimes what we need to sacrifice is our certainty. Sacrifice though, feels less like sacrifice and more like gain when done in the pursuit of good.