Living Your Life: School and Career Focused

School and career. These are two subjects I knew absolutely nothing about. This area of my life was in complete disarray, and with zero guidance due to my complete lack of positive role models, any kind, I had quickly made the transition from cute kid in grade school developing normally, to almost a middle school dropout. And there was no shortage of people helping me along the way to achieve as little as possible.

In this post I’ll be going over the experience I had with my education and how I never learned how to find out what my passions are. How I dealt with the lack of role models and stumbled along the way, to me finally coming to an understanding of what career means to me. Also what I’m doing about it now that I’m behind the wheel and steering my life in a direction that works for me. Hopefully if you have similar experiences, you’ll at least know you’re not alone. And hopefully get some helpful pointers along the way. Let’s start at the beginning with my schooling.

School, the Early Years

I hadn’t realized at the time, but my disinterest in school started soon after my trauma I experienced as an eight year-old, around second and third grades. I was doing well until third grade. It was then that I started showing signs of having difficulty learning to read. I had mild dyslexia. Confusing bs for ds, and my overall progress slowed. I overcame the mild learning issues in elementary school, but by the time I got to middle school, I had completely checked out.

I was in a constant state of fear. Everything I had known about feeling safety and belonging with and around other people had flown completely out the window. I was nervous and anxious around other people almost constantly. I hadn’t developed any social skills in my early teen years, so when I hit high school I was modeling myself after Jim Morrison for lack of positive role models.

Wanting to be Liked

I was overcompensating for my fear of connection by being arrogant and aloof like Jim. This was also when I started drinking and smoking cigarettes. My ambition in life was to be seen by others as someone who was cool. That was it. There was no substance or desire for something more. I had no idea that there were greater things to aspire to. My sole focus was to be liked.

This makes me sad now to think about it. I was a cliché in thinking that if I acted a certain way, I would be accepted and liked by others. What I was going through was the awkward social change into adolescence and I had no idea that I was even going through it. But if you don’t feel accepted by your caregivers, then who is there to tell you that you belong? For me it was just doing whatever felt good at the time, with whomever was around me probably making the same poor choices.

I felt a sense of homelessness. And I felt no sense of belonging or what it means to belong in a healthy sense of the term anyway. I spent most of my time with friends, drinking too much and wandering around aimlessly from one good time to the next. I’m surprised I made it out of adolescence relatively unscathed. But in spite of my difficult upbringing, I managed to pull a life together.

Salvaging What I Could

I pulled a life together, but that was in the loose sense of the term. I may have had a place to live, was in a stable relationship and had plans for the future, but I was really just winging it. But I was still trying to avoid feeling the uncomfortable and sometimes traumatic emotions of my past. I also had little to no drive or ambition. And I spent most of my time avoiding living my life by either drinking or playing video games. My future plans felt more like stabs in the dark without anyone to support my efforts. I still had no healthy role models or direction, or even goals to strive towards. I was just drifting. The way I had through my teen years. Only older now and with almost nothing to show for the life I had been avoiding living.

Shifting Emotions

But then something shifted for me. My comfortable and somewhat stagnant life was turned upside-down when I thought I had fallen in love with another woman. Looking back now, I realize I had finally felt heard. But I was only recognizing that the woman who I thought I fell in love with was really a reflection of how I felt. Like Justin Timberlake’s song, “Mirror”. She was my “mirror”, allowing myself to finally see what I was feeling. What I was covering over for so long with alcohol and anger. The small, vulnerable child that was still waiting to be heard.

I ended up quitting drinking while I was with her and that helped a great deal towards bringing some order to my chaotic emotional world. But this is also where I made some poor choices. Leaving the life I had and could have worked on, for the life I would eventually realized I was outgrowing.

Shifting Focus

I split up with the woman who had helped me wake up emotionally shortly after we got together. This was for the best and helped me to find the trajectory of, and focus in, my life. During the time I was adrift, I had started school for social work. I eventually switched to architecture, then to journalism. I had no idea what to do with any of my schooling, but felt as though I needed to go regardless of my aimless amblings.

While I was getting my life back together, I finished my degree. This time as an English major and the only take away from my college education was how to write a blog : ) But even after I finished my undergrad degree, I was still adrift. With no direction for how my future was going to unfold. Still unsatisfied with my employment prospects and jobs, I decided that something needed to change. But again, with no direction or role models, I was in the same place as I was when I was just winging it. So, I did what I knew. For me this was baking, running, yoga, writing this blog and journaling. Also building up and nurturing my relationships while paying off my debt.

Finding Focus

This may seem like a mish-mash of areas all jumbled together, but what I came to realize was that while I was cobbling together the pieces of my life that had been adrift, I began to find greater focus in all areas of my life. I’ve been baking professionally for about 15 years, off and on throughout my career. I’ve come to enjoy the process of baking. I’m good at it and it’s something that’s been a constant in my life. But I know now that I don’t want baking to be my career.

Baking

I have however, learned how to hone a craft through baking. As I’ve said above, I’m pretty good at it. Which is no surprise considering how long I’ve been doing it for. But I also have been able to recognize how I’ve build my craft and how it’s progressed over the years. I can tell things about dough just by looking at it or touching it. And have a wealth of knowledge to work from, in my personal and professional experiences. But I’ve also come to realize that baking is not my end goal. It’s something I’m grateful I’ve learned, but also something I’ll be able to part with when the time comes.

Workout

Running and yoga have helped me to manage my physical being. I’ve gone through some considerable changes regarding my weight, physical appearance and overall health thanks to these healthy habits. They’ve also taught me something about dedication. About getting out on the road and pounding out those three miles. Even when the temperature is in the low nineties and the humidity is 90%. Or finding your balance when you flow through your vinyasa from forward fold to down dog and bring your right foot up to high lunge. When you do them consistently, you build more than just physical strength. You’re building resilience. This can translate to all areas of your life. You have that extra surge of energy that helps you to get up and do the dishes. Or to get moving at 5am before you’ve had your first cup of tea or coffee.

Writing

Writing has been essential in finding and maintaining focus for me as well. First with bullet journaling. Something I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Journaling has been a way for me to map out and organize what I have in my head and put it on paper or a screen. This way I can give myself some distance from my thoughts. Then find out what the steps are that need to be done to curate some order for the tasks and make a plan to do them.

And the same is true for this blog. Through this blog, I’ve come to understand where my interests lie and how they come together to give me a sense of who I’ve become and of who I want to be. The parts of my life, the personal experiences and how they’ve come to shape the ways I see things and who I’m becoming. These have all given me some focus and direction as to where I want to put my efforts and energies. Environmental issues and helping those that have been in similar situations as myself being two of my passions that I’d like to turn into a career.

Relationships

Building and nurturing my close relationships has given me a great deal of perspective on how I want to be living my life. Before, relationships were something to be feared. I was unaware of where I stood in my relationships with others. Always keeping them at a distance or numbing my feelings so I wouldn’t feel the pain of being rejected by them. Rejection being something I was all too familiar with growing up.

Now, relationships are sources of comfort, strength and happiness for me. I feel more secure in relationship now. And now that I know that it’s possible to make the shift from numb and alone, to supported and loved, I want to help others find their path to their connectedness. When I was going to school for social work, I also worked at a residential program for at risk adolescence. This was difficult work. But it also gave me the opportunity to help others whom were in a similar situation as I was.

I’ve recently picked up a second job at a family shelter. The shelter has elements that reminds me of the adolescence residential. Though with much less unchecked emotions. This has given me a chance to help pay down my student loans, but also to realign myself with the types of work I want to be doing in my career. Helping people bring their lives back together after what seems like such a hopeless situation, being homeless. It’s in these moments, of not being the change as the saying goes, but being a part of the support that helps them to change their situation, that makes me feel like I’m helping. By being a part of the solution.

Other Types of Inspiration

Paying down student loans has been a huge source of inspiration for me in finding my focus as well. While paying off debt, I started out with my credit cards and moved on to my largest debt, student loans. I took out loans during the height of the lending frenzy. I was taking out loans for cash to buy things I really didn’t need. Finance was an area I had no role modeling for, to show me how to manage my money. Or to show me how to responsibly take out loans to pay for my education. I was racking up credit card debt at the same time I was taking out student loans. Looking back, it’s crazy to think of the financial mess I was creating in my life! About 130K worth of mess.

Paying Back Loans to Bring Financial Stability to My Life

But once I was on the trajectory to change my life for the better, debt also became an area of focus for me. Paying off my debt has shown me, first and most importantly, how to budget. And secondly, also how to live inside of my means. When I was living on borrowed money I had no restraint. I bought and did whatever I felt like, when the mood struck.

Now that I’m learning how to put my financial house in order, I’m understanding the importance of planning for my future. In planning for retirement, planning for vacations or hobbies, and how caring for my financial situation is a way of caring for my needs.

I’ve also learned how NOT to take out debt. So when the time comes around for me to pursue a master’s in social work, I’ll be aware of how I budget and manage my money, and make a plan that won’t end up with me being tens of thousands of dollars in debt. My time is now more valuable to me than picking up a second job to pay back the money I was borrowing unsustainably in my youth. I know I won’t be going blindly down that road again.

Bringing Them All Together

These are the areas of my life that helped to give me the direction I needed to learn how to move forward with and in my career focus. Each element had its own piece of wisdom to impart. With baking, it was how to recognize when I’m growing in something, or what it looks like to be good at something while still learning from others along the way. With running and yoga, I was learning how to stay dedicated to a practice, but also enjoy that practice in the process. Enjoy the work. With writing, I was learning how to organize my time and thoughts, and also how to convey them in a way that makes sense to myself and others. And also my love for the natural world and my growing concern for the environment. Also to help process and put a structure to my story. In my relationships in that I want to grow along with and nurture these places and people in my life. But also in recognizing that you can make the switch from feeling hurt and alone to loved and supported. And with paying back my student loans in showing me how to budget for the future in a practical sense of the term.

It was when all these areas came together, that I was able to see how the different aspects of my personality made sense to me in the bigger picture. And it wasn’t easy. But what I found out was, that I care about those neglected areas. I like seeing things be brought back to life after struggle, abuse and neglect. We all go through it to some extent. Some of us more so than others. But hopefully, we all come to our own understanding of the different aspects of our life and how they’ve been neglected. Sometimes what we need to do is take a step back and look at the different aspects in your life. From there we can make a plan by putting together the different facets of our personalities and in so doing, give our selves some much needed direction. And that’s where my career is headed. By helping others find their path.

Because I see this play out all too often. So many of those close to me have been neglected to the point of not even knowing where to begin. I feel that everybody deserves the right to feel their passion. To do and be connected to work that is greater than them. It doesn’t have to be larger than life. Just enough to feel like you’re making a difference. That’s what this blog is about for me. And with any luck, this will be the focus of my career.

Final Thoughts

In case you haven’t been told, I’m here to tell you that if you’ve found yourself in a place where you are lacking in direction, don’t give up hope! Take a look at the things you’ve been doing, listening to, or watching. What have you been interested in lately. If you’re lucky, you may realize that you’ve been leaving yourself clues all along that will lead you in the direction of your passions. Peace : ) and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Commute” by JanneM is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated: 10/21/22

Reparenting: Money, What’s its Real Purpose and How do we Avoid Collecting it to Feel Safe?

Money, another big topic (I guess I like the big issues). Amassing money is one of the most ubiquitous goals we have as humans and it’s connected to a lot of different emotional states. Safety being one and not without some wisdom. For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on how we relate to money from the perspective of how it may make us feel safe. There are numerous reasons to want large sums of money to be sure. But if we don’t narrow it down, we’d be here for a while!

Money And Feeling Security

My views on money are not entirely in the camp of the root of all evil. For example, without money, or some form of interchangeable, fluid asset, I more than likely wouldn’t be wearing clothes. Mostly because I don’t know how to create a bolt of cloth on a loom, or really know how to grow cotton. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be cautiously skeptical of the accumulation of wealth and the power and influence that it may yield, because it is helpful at times.

Today, I want to look at how money’s correlated with our feeling fearful if we aren’t on our desired financial track. And if more is always better. In the way we have society set up now, you reach a certain age after working a specific amount of years and then hopefully you’ll have saved enough funds to comfortably live out your plans for retirement. If we don’t have enough, we could become destitute. Living hand to mouth and relying on government subsidies in low income housing. Or so I imagine this is how many of us who fear not having enough money, feels our futures will look. That is if we don’t save as much money as possible and as quickly as we’re able to.

I had a wake up call not to long ago, after I went through a divorce. I found myself with no savings, no assets and a daunting amount of debt. Mostly in the form of student loans and credit cards and all at the tender age of 34. I was pretty “normal”, as Dave Ramsey likes to put it. And yeah, I was scared for sure.

I had fears of being homeless. Begging for handouts because I felt like I had no resources to change my future for the better. And with no previous guidance and nobody to show me how to change, I felt lost. But as luck would have it, I have a father and stepmother who have been with me every step of the way since I woke up from the ways I used to live unsustainably. Without them, I don’t like to think where I would be.

Taking Charge Of My Future

And speaking of no idea, if you read my post on “being a part of someone’s solution without solving their problems”, you’ll know that I had little guidance as to how to feed myself properly, let alone balance a budget or show me how to diversify my retirement portfolio (which I’m still a little fuzzy on : )! So when my wake up call came at 34, I was over 100k in debt, I had nowhere to live because the woman I was with just kicked me out of the apartment we were sharing and had no job prospects or financial stability to speak of. This was a vulnerable place to be.

That’s when I found Dave Ramsey and his baby steps to getting out of debt. I’ll begin by saying that he’s not for everybody. He can be a bit overbearing at times. But for someone like me, who was given nothing in the way of personal boundaries or financial boundaries, he was just what I needed. What I like about his steps and the way he lays them out is: when you are so used to living with debt, so much debt that it’s difficult see your way out of it, you need the small wins of completing a step. For example, paying off a smaller bill or credit card balance. That way you begin to understand that you are the one who is in charge of getting you out of your debt. And that it’s an obtainable goal!

Setting Goals To Stay On Track, Even If You’re not used To Achieve Them

After I found Dave and his baby steps, I started to aggressively pay down my debt and set up an emergency fund. Dave suggests to have a thousand dollar emergency fund at first, until after paying down your high interest debt. His reason being, it makes no sense to go back into debt while you’re already paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in interest on credit cards or personal loans, if you’re able to set up a small emergency fund that can help you stay out of debt while paying off the debt you already have. And I agree. After I reach my debt repayment and 6 month emergency fund goals, I will revisit what my retirement goals are going to look like. But the biggest issue was, I had no idea where to even begin in setting and sticking to goals.

For a long time, I felt as though I were a passenger in the journey of my life. Not the one who was behind the wheel. When you’re a passenger, it’s easy to get into debt because the numbers don’t really mean anything. It’s not until you know your agency, know your power and the consequences and effect you have on your life, that you are able to understand just how badly your decisions can effect you.

But if you recognize you are the one behind the wheel, you are then able to make the decisions that keep you on the right track. Effecting your life for the better. Every choice you make in regards to your goals are what either drives you forward or sets you back. So if you decide to stop eating out to save money on your food budget, that’s a choice you’re making to stay on the right path.

And of course, it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be financially stable. What I imagine is so difficult is, that you have to show up for yourself and your goals everyday. Especially when you don’t want to. The phrase “fake it till you make it”, exemplifies this mindset well. Because it focuses on the need to cultivate the necessary discipline in order to achieving your goals, especially if you don’t feel as though you’re able to.

The reason I feel the saying is so apt is, that it implies that we’re able to make mistakes while learning how to achieve our goals. But I also like it for the perseverance element. You keep trying, or “faking it” no matter if it looks like you know what you’re doing. The point is to keep doing until you know what you’re doing. Because that time will come.

Because it’s that motivation that will help to keep you rooted in achieving your goals. You need to find your focus of course, or as we say in the yoga community, find your drishti. Your drishti is your focus and it usually refers to a point of reference for you to focus your gaze upon while you attempt a difficult balancing pose.

Finding Your Drishti, Focusing On What Really Matters

For me, my drishti was a combination of my fear of being destitute, mixed with a longing, almost a romantic idea, that my life could be the most interesting and gratifying endeavor I could undertake. But my drishti, if left unchecked, could perpetuate my fear of not having enough rather than satiating it. Once I’ve reached my financial goals, I could take my drishti and desire further, to obtain more than I need. All under the guise of us needing to feel safe.

This type of accumulating wealth under the pretense of safety, is akin to hoarding. If you already have enough, then no matter how much more you feel you need to collect, the rest is extra, too much. If you already have enough money and you keep hording it, the question you need to be asking yourself is, “why am I still accumulating so much wealth?” Is it coming from a sense of fear based thinking? Do you feel you need to take care of those you love? Why are, or aren’t you giving your money to charities? Or helping the greater good in some way with either your time or your money?

If answered honestly, it’s the answer to these questions that will help you to understand your relationship with your money and whether you own it, or it owns you. Because there’s nothing wrong with earning high wages. Or even amassing a large sum of wealth. The issue is when it becomes your drishti and you correlate money with your safety.

When Fear Becomes Your Drishti

So how do we keep ourselves focused on living a good life, where we are in control of our money, while also knowing that it can be dangerous if we handled it from a place of fear? I should probably mention here that I don’t make boatloads of money. So I may not be the most qualified person to answer this question. But I can draw on some parallels to how we react in moments of crisis or panic in relation to our money.

When I first learned about Covid and how potentially deadly it could be, I was not one of the many who ran to the grocery store to stock up on toilet paper and bottles of water or bags of flour. But that’s not to say that I wasn’t frightened at times. Pandemics, no matter how you package them, awakens a primal fear that few are exempt from. So if I was afraid, then what allowed me to be calm in the face of all the fear based reactions that were happening around me?

I think the answer lies in my meditation practice. I know that if I react to the unknown with fear, I will more than likely make poor choices. If I take the time to sit with the fear and ask myself, “how do you (the fear) want me to be with you?” then I will usually make healthier decisions. And this is not something that is easy to do. Our fear is driven by millennia of evolution. Telling us to protect ourselves in the face of perceived dangers. But when our decisions are made from fear based thinking, panic sets in and that’s when we are prone to use violence or make other poor choices out of fear.

In the case of a pandemic, if we’re lucky, this type of fear based thinking may have lead us to purchase large amounts of pantry staples and toilet paper. But if we take that fear and focus on our money, then a six month emergency fund may not seem like enough. It may then turn into an obsession. How much money can I amass, regardless of the means I use to obtain it.

So how do we feel safe? Safe enough to not panic and collect what we may not need because we’re reacting from a place of fear based decision making? From my experience, this happens when we face our fears around money. And this is as individual as each person is unique. But there are some resources that we may all be able to rely on.

Resources For Feeling Safe

Community

Friends and family or a group of trusted people who have experienced, or are experiencing something similar to what we’re going through. Wherever you are, community can help. When you need to ask advice or maybe just need a listening ear when you’re in the middle of wrestling with your fears.

I’ve been paying off my debt for a while now. And I’m lucky that I have close friends that I can ask advice from and share resources with. One friend, who was also dealing with a large amount of credit card debt, I introduced to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. He was so grateful because he felt as though he had been on his own for so long with this burden. Just knowing that you’re not alone can make the difference.

The Ramsey community is also a great resource. They provide feedback on a number of budget related questions. And also offer moral support and enthusiasm for those working the steps. This is something that is definitely needed while in the middle of your debt journey and what my friend above was lacking.

Finding a Guide

Also, finding a mentor, someone who’s forged a path and knows some of the road you are about to travel can feel very supportive. They can show you how you may get stuck along the way and resources to get you back on track. Again, this is something I learned from Dave Ramsey’s podcast.

I didn’t know how to put a budget together before I was 35. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but also, no one ever showed me how. I first learned how to budget using the envelope system. Which in brief, is as it sounds: A series of envelopes, with cash allocated for each category of your budget for a one month period. When you run out of money in your envelope, you’re out until you refill the envelope next month. This can be a bit of a wake up call if you’re not used to budgeting with cash so be forewarned and be vigilant! You don’t want to run out of grocery money in the first week of the month!

Trust Yourself

Trust yourself to be the person you envision as being your best self. The person who can deal with and handle unseen situations as they arise. Follow through with the plans you’ve made that are in your own best interests and trust that you know what those (your best interests) are.

The more often you make decisions that affect you for the better, the greater the trust you build with yourself will be. And really, that’s the goal, to build a trusting relationship with yourself. To know that you are able to rely on yourself when the important decisions need to be made.

But if we’ve spent a lifetime making questionable decisions about our future and present, then we may have some work to do to build trust. I feel this happens when we show up for ourselves while making decisions and forgive ourselves for not knowing the way each time we make a decision. Also knowing that we’re not hurting ourselves intentionally with our uncertain decision making. If we can keep this in mind, then the greater the trust we cultivate with ourselves will be. And trust from my experience is definitely correlated with safety.

Working Towards a Future With More Ease

Working to build trust with yourself is a priority for a sense of safety. And we build it by making sound decisions from a calm, non-fear based place. Dealing with the fears and insecurities we have, as they come up, by talking them through with trusted friends and family or a community of like minded people who are experiencing similar situations, will help to calm these worries. Also work to reset our focus on what’s important.

The sense of wellbeing we gain by setting an intention to complete our financial goals and by following through in a calm, consistent manner is invaluable. Also by not grasping fearfully onto solutions that we feel will solve our money problems, i.e. our lack of money and the more money is better mindset. If we can get to this place while making our decisions about our money, then we will truly gain a sense of ease while trusting ourselves and feeling safer for it.

And it isn’t easy. Feeling safe in an environment where people are literally taking advantage of a person’s felt sense of calm through advertising to make money, happens all the time. But if we take the time to confront our fears and build trust in ourselves, rather than piling up mountains of cash, we will feel safer for it. Also just know, you got this :] Be well, and peace.

Image Credits: “Money” by aresauburn™ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Edited: 5/28/22

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