So we made this choice, a very physical/practical choice, that had a significant impact in the way I perceived who I would be going forward. I am sure there are other men that have very different triggers for their own inner transitions. For me, this was mine. I hoped that putting it to writing would help me process my own thoughts, but also that other men that had not yet found their own thoughts might find some solace in our common struggles.
Let me rewind a bit. We started the conversation about the procedure back in the late winter/early Spring. It was roughly 6 months later when I acted on it. I think I believe I started processing the transition much earlier, but did not fully understand what and why.
Generally, when a significant life transition occurs, we, as humans and particularly male humans, tend to find something of perceived significance to throw our energies into. Some choose hobbies, some choose new girlfriends, some choose extreme sports, some choose travel, some choose work, and some just choose to escape.
Out of some mixed sense of nobility, I chose my job as my area of focus. It was almost not discernable at first. I began thinking about the future of my team, our programs, my organization… and it evolved into projecting what I would need to do, be, and choose to best ensure success for all. I clearly felt the threats of what was going on with government funding and the later shutdown, but also saw few others lining up to carry the torch for the next generation of providing solutions for the marginally housed.
Over time, this shift in thinking weighed more and more on my soul. I felt the inaction of the upper levels of management clawing at my desire to move the organization into a better position for the future. When we lost momentum or a significant effort was thwarted for some insignificant or bureaucratic reason, I felt like I was sinking and losing hope. There was one critical moment when I had invested significant time, probably 60 hours or so, and upper management chose to blatantly ignore my opinion and the opinion of the other mid-tier leadership. I was almost directly told that my opinion did not matter, and whether or not it was directly said, action was taken confirming how little value was placed in the effort and thoughts of mid-tier leadership.
I felt shattered. At first, I felt great anger for upper management. Legitimately, I felt like the communication and decision making process was exceptionally poor. Objectively, that was true. I could argue all day long about how poor the process had been.
Though I had other moments in the past where poor decisions had been made or my opinion had been ignored, so why did this feel so much more impactful? Why did I feel the need to escape my own thoughts when I came home from work? Why did I feel the need to mentally argue with upper management every time I allowed my brain to drift? I was letting upper management live in my thought life far too frequently.
It took more time to process the why’s than I would wish it would. Perhaps it was because I was busy with the family. Perhaps it was because I was fighting the good fight (or at least so I thought) for the future success of others.
It took two bouts with sickness, nearly back-to-back to get me still enough to perceive my own agitation. I knew I was angry, but I did not realize how much it had grown to dominate my emotional state. I should be better at discerning this by now, but I am still learning.
It was sometime on day 3 of 102 degree fever, stuck on my bed, too bored to try to distract myself with anything else. I had exhausted Netflix, Hulu, and any video games I wanted to play. I finally began to process what had happened over the past 7 months. I knew I was facing this transition physically, but I had not really understood that in my own desire for a new sense of significance, I bet hard on my career. And my career had knocked the wind out of me and clearly did not love me as much as I was trying to love it. It just wanted to be friends… or more like acquaintances.
Years ago, I had a season where I lost everything, or nearly everything. I was fragmented. I lost money, relationships, my own sense of personal self-worth, and my view of the world. I think I still fear that I will be blindsided again.
I made my career, at least in the place it was occupying in my own soul, the place of stability and significance for my future. I am sure that mixed in there was a noble desire to provide for my family, and I do truly, truly believe in giving my life to create opportunities for others to change their lives. But, my level 9 Richter scale soul earthquake had little to do with feeling loss over those two areas. I can always get another job, and I know myself well enough to know that I will try to help others throughout my life, even if it is not part of my job description.
So I am trying to think differently about my career. I have a helpful post-it note stuck on my monitor, “Just a job”, as a reminder. Some people need to push themselves to invest more deeply in things. Generally that has not been my problem. I tend to try to make situations work much longer than I should. It has been a pattern in my life that I need something to fall apart in front of me, to cause me to re-evaluate what I am investing my time and energy toward.
Maybe I will change my career. Maybe not. I do not really know now, but I do feel a palpable sense of peace about my day-to-day soul strain at my job. It’s just a job. It’s not me.
I have found a new joy in dreaming about what could be next. I am not a “grass is always greener” person. I am way too pragmatic to think any change is good change, but maybe I want to be someone different down the road. And that potential new adventure is exciting to allow my imagination to savor.
I share all this in hopes it will help someone else that is having their own level 9 soul earthquake. If you objectively know that your situation does not justify the intensity of emotion you are feeling about it, create some space and allow yourself time to process the why’s.