Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Change for the Better

What is it that you really want to do? Where does your mind wander? What are you driven to do? Why isn’t that your vocation and why aren’t you doing it? I faced that very thing for most of my working life. I knew early on what I wanted, but I also knew that what I wanted wasn’t particularly lucrative. So, I compromised - or I thought. I found jobs that I could do that would allow me some freedom to do the things I wanted - even if it only meant being able to do those things on the weekend. All the while I longed to do something else. It was ever present in my mind. Yet, I felt trapped in job that allowed me to live somewhat comfortably. The stress of the last job took it’s toll, and even though I still had some freedom to pursue my interests, the misery of feeling obligated to hold on to a job with an employer I despised had begun to suck the joy from the very thing I wanted most. I Was In Trouble I was fighting the worst depression I can ever recall. I was on the verge of a complete physical and mental breakdown. My life was a complete mess, and my family was under enormous strain. Something had to change. I knew it couldn’t be some little change. Something big had to happen. In May of 2012, in an attempt to affect the needed change I walked away from my job. It wasn’t an easy thing to do; like many of you I needed the income, and I needed the benefits. I needed the stability. At least that’s what I thought. At first, like with many things, the job was great. I was given a responsibility and it was up to me to manage it my way. And, as the saying goes, “I had it made.” Let’s face it; I had good benefits, and the most money I’ve made in my life. Little did I realize that I was trading away my life and happiness for a lousy paycheck. At this point I could make a lot of excuses to justify walking away from a good job during a tough economy in an area where jobs are scarce. There’s no reason I could offer that couldn’t be shot down with simple common sense. How will I buy groceries? How will I pay the mortgage? Can I afford the car payment? Can I pay our utility bills? What if we get sick? The list goes on and on. Like I said... common sense. Yet, with all of those really good reasons to keep the job, I knew my family would be happier if I was happier. If that meant giving up the money and the benefits then that’s what had to happen. Truth is, living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere would be better than the grief that I was bringing home every day to the people I loved. I did have a plan of some sort. I love the banjo. I love playing it and I love teaching it. I’m neither a world class musician nor teacher, but it’s something I genuinely love. Just how many times have we heard, “Do something you love”? With that in my mind the plan was to book as many playing jobs as I could and to schedule as many students as I could. A short, but meaningful, conversation with my Dad proved to be quite helpful. He understood my situation, and knew I really wanted to be free of a job that was poisoning my life. He offered four words of encouragement. Four little words I’ve heard him say when it was time to get things done. “Do it to it.” I turned in my notice that afternoon. I’m Not Dead Yet Since leaving the job I’ve noticed three things. First, my relationship with my wife has improved. My relationship with my son is better. And finally, for the first time in over a decade, my outlook on life is positive. Yes, I struggle. I even worry. However, the things I struggle and worry about are outweighed by the short list of things I mentioned above. No, I don’t make much money, and I don’t have benefits, but I do have my family. I have peace of mind. I feel happy for the first time in many years. The Holidays Oh, this year Christmas morning will happen with very few presents under the tree. That’s okay. It’s so easy to say (and I’ve been guilty of saying it in the past), “Oh, it’s not about the gifts.” No, it’s not about the gifts -- until there’s not many gifts under the tree. I sure wish I could have bought more gifts for my friends. I certainly wish I could have bought more for my family. But really, it’s okay. Here’s why it’s okay. I’m convinced that my little family wouldn’t have lasted much longer had I held onto that job that was making me miserable -- despite the money it provided. Because I was miserable, I was unwittingly destroying the thing we’re all supposed to hold dear -- family. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I wasn’t. As difficult as it is to admit, I was tearing my family apart. What’s under the tree this year is probably the best gift I could have imagined. This year the gift is having a family. Some Words of Encouragement I’d like to encourage you to change your life, but I want you to answer these questions. What would you trade for a better relationship with your family? What would you give for a good night’s sleep? What would you sacrifice for peace of mind? What would you forfeit to just be happy? Those are the questions I asked myself. I also asked my family the same questions. I thought it was important that if I was going to make huge life altering changes they had best be in on it. I didn’t think that either my wife or son needed to make big changes. We all knew I was the problem, but whatever changes were made would effect them. We thought it over. I think we all knew something had to change. We all understood the risks. What if we make this big change and things don’t get better? That seemed like a fair question, but then we asked, “How could it get any worse?” No, it won’t be easy. But I have to ask, “Is your life easy now?” No, your change might not make things better. If you’re like I was, it probably can’t get much worse. During all of the pondering of my situation a New Grass Revival song kept coming to mind -- Sail to Australia. Here’s the verse that I couldn’t get off my mind.

Sometimes I wish things were better But most times I'd settle for different Just to know that the day that's waiting for me Ain't the same one that I just spent

That really summed it up for me at the time too. I knew, though, that finally casting off that horrible job and pursuing my dream would only be better for everyone that had to be around me. Better times are coming. My mind is finally starting to heal. I love my family. I know they love me. Are you happy? If not, let me encourage you to make a change. You can do it. Do you have peace of mind? No? Make a change. You can do it. Is your family close? No? Make a change now. Yes, you can. One more thing...
It’s better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way. - Alan Watts