Peace by Piece Blog
|Posted on September 7, 2017 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
Finding Inner Peace is a Journey, not a Destination.
When I decided in June 2015 to leave my career and start over, my desire for a peaceful, authentic life with low stress was so strong, I almost resigned on the spot when the “lightbulb" hit me about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Luckily, my older and wiser sister asked, “Do you think that’s a good idea?” God bless her. She’s always so tactful and treads lightly when a controversial family topic comes up. Then there’s me. I’ll just tell you straight up, “That’s stupid” or “You are f’in crazy.” Gotta love tactful, logical people who are not guided by emotion. I wonder what that's like? Ok, I digress. Her logical question snapped me into reality. Of course I didn’t think leaving my well paying and secure job that instant was the right thing to do. I knew I needed time to plan for this big change and to save like I’ve never saved before (see previous blog post about my mad financial skills).
You see, the urgency to leave my job at that moment was because I thought once I left my stressful and unsatisfying role as a high school assistant principal, peace would magically enter into my life and all my stress would disappear. Reality? Once I drove out of the parking lot of Downers Grove South, I wasn’t instantly at peace. However, the record time I made from the parking lot to the restaurant and had celebratory drinks was quite impressive if I do say so myself. For the most part, my stress level is way down and I am more at peace with myself than ever before. But, it’s not all rainbows and puppies (side note: I am getting a new puppy soon).
There are a lot of benefits to the life I've chosen. But there's always a flipside to everything. Below are some of the benefits of being my own boss and the pros and cons of my entrepreneurial journey to peace.
1. I can take off work whenever I want.
PROS - No more requests to take vacation being denied or not allowed because it falls before or after a school a holiday. Or, because I have to be in attendance at the football game, prom, play, etc. Or, because someone in power decides I can’t just because. Being my own boss is an amazing gift when it comes to taking time off on my terms. No limits or restrictions. The first time this privilege really meant something to me was the day I attended the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs (still feels GREAT to say that) parade and rally in Chicago. This is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME event (108 years in the making to be exact) and I was able to be there because no one could tell me that I couldn't go. BOOM. If I never made another penny after that glorious day in November 2016, my life would be complete (living in shoe, but complete). There have been a number of other occasions where opportunities presented themselves to me and I was able to go, just like that. In fact, as I sit here waiting for my plane back to Chicago, I am finishing up an impromptu vacation in September (couldn’t do that for the last 20 years). The flexibility and ability to set my own hours is empowering. Life is short, why not go to the Cubs parade? I like that every day is different. My routine is NOT having a routine. I love that.
CONS: When I don’t work, I don’t earn an income. I feel guilty about taking time away because I SHOULD be working to pay the bills. No paid time off for vacation or for illness is a new concept for me. For some people, this concept may be normal but, for me it has been an adjustment financially. Also, I’m always thinking about work. I’m also always doing work. There’s not one day, even on vacation, that I’m not working. I even met with the resort manager to pitch a yoga retreat package idea. If you own your own business, you know what I’m talking about. The wheels are constantly spinning. The good thing is that I like my work so it’s not all bad. Still, my mind is hard to shut down even when I’m on vacation.
2. I don’t have to deal with office politics.
PROS - This should speak for itself. I remember naively starting in education 20 years ago thinking office politics would not be an issue (I had just left a short career in finance). Boy was I wrong! The higher up the food chain I got, the more politics I encountered. The work place is no different for women in education than in other industries. Once I entered administration, the “good old boys club” was alive and well. Now, I had some amazing male colleagues I still call dear friends to this day. But, the amount of BS I dealt with as a female administrator was more than I expected and could tolerate (I’m no pushover; see previous blog post about salary freeze). I don’t do BS. Period. Not in my personal life and most definitely not in the workplace. Being a solopreneur means I don’t have to deal with office politics, at all. It’s a beautiful thing.
CONS - Yes, there is a con to this. What could it be you ask? Isolation. I’m a very social creature and not having the camaraderie of office mates and colleagues is challenging for me. There are days upon days that I am working at home on planning, designing, advertising, etc. and hours will go by before I see a human. Now, every day is different, as I said before, so the isolation is never permanent. Still, it can be a lonely existence when you work from home at times, office politics aside.
3. I don't have to wear makeup, style my hair, or wear dress clothes every day.
PROS - Duh, isn’t this self-explanatory? Yoga pants and pony tail for the win! Plus, no dry cleaning bill is a bonus.
CONS - When I do have to actually wear real clothes (you know, pants with a zipper) and style my hair and put on make up, it feels like work. My old work. I don’t like it. Not one bit. I can play dress up with the best of them but as soon as I leave an event, I reach for my ponytail holder and flip flops I’ve stashed in the car and back to comfort! I don’t even know what’s in style anymore or how to shop for “normal” clothes (shoes are another story - no problem there). The other con is that I’m afraid that someday I may just start wearing leggings permanently. Inviting me to a wedding? Leggings. 5-star restaurant? Leggings? I need a fashion intervention, stat.
4. I get to stay true to myself.
PROS - THIS IS HUGE. I am someone that FEELS everything. It’s wonderful and awful at the same time. I believe experts call me an empath. The great thing about being an empath is that I do everything with passion…love, friendship, work, play, family, yoga, shoe shopping. The not so great thing about being an empath is that when something feels “icky” I FEEL it, right down to my bones. I felt “icky” A LOT as a school administrator. Being my own boss allows me to engage in work and take on jobs and clients that I believe in and make sense for me. When it doesn’t make sense or the work doesn’t feel authentic or I think someone is trying to take advantage of my time and kindness, I’m outta there. I don’t need to give 2 weeks notice, I just walk away. I get to stay true to myself. My guiding principle (after some hard lessons and situations where I was taken advantage of), is that if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it no matter what the pay may be. End of discussion.
CONS - None. There is absolutely no downside to staying true to myself. EVER.
I am learning that peace and stress are always going to be part of life. You knew that already? Well, good for you. Apparently, I’m a slow learner. Now that I'm no longer in the honeymoon phase of this career transition, I realize stress and chaos will always be part of life and that peace comes from within. The wonderful thing about working for myself is I have no one to blame for my stress but me. I am entirely up to me. I can’t blame my co-workers, office politics, or stupid school policies on my stress. External factors come and go. I am in control of my peace. How I choose to manage my stress is all my doing (hey, I think I’ve said this to a coaching client before). Realizing I am in control of my time and my life is a wonderful thing. I like being accountable to myself (probably why I love coaching since you know, that whole accountability thing is the core of what I do). Peace, it really is an inside job.
The road to peace is most certainly a journey, not a destination. So far, I really like the stops along the way, peace by piece.
|Posted on July 14, 2017 at 12:10 AM||comments (2)|
The $121,423 road to peace
$121,423. 6-figures. The holy grail of income (at least for me it was). 24 years out of college, a master’s degree (and about 45 graduate course hours past a masters), and I had reached that 6-figure income. THEN I WALKED AWAY FROM IT. I always believed making more money would make things better. What things you ask? Well everything, silly. I would be happier. I would have nice things so I would be happy. I would be able to do whatever I wanted and it would make me happy. But, you see, I had a history of making poor personal financial decisions all through my 20s and 30s (did I mention I was a FINANCE major in college)? But, making more money didn’t make me happy. Why? BECAUSE I NEVER MADE ENOUGH MONEY. The more money I earned, the more I spent. The more I spent, the more money I needed to make. The more money I made, the more I spent. The more I spent, the more money I needed to make. Do you see where this is going?
My unhealthy relationship with money was ONE of the many wellness issues I struggled with. It’s a lonely struggle because no one openly talks about their finances, especially their financial problems. It’s taboo. I get it. I do. I didn’t know who to open up to or who to turn to for help. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I felt guilt. I felt like a failure. So, for years (2 decades to be exact), I pretended that everything was ok despite the mounting credit card debt that was weighing on me like a ton of bricks. I bought designer purses and drove a nice car. I took nice vacations and dined out in fancy restaurants. I spent ridiculous money on gifts. I lived in a fancy high rise. IT WAS ALL A FACADE.
So, back to my opening…the $121,423 road to peace…
The happiest years I spent in education were in the classroom. Teaching. Coaching. Interacting with teenagers (yes, I like teenagers, I really do). Creating curriculum. Using my creativity. Watching students grow and learn, socially and academically. I loved the classroom. I made my first move out of the classroom in 2005 and the raise was $12,000 (in one school year)! The answer to my problems, or so I thought (the height of my financial mess was right around that time). I continued on that path - taking new jobs with a higher salary - until my last administrative position. Now, part of my seeking new roles was motivated by my curiosity and the challenge of something new. Also, there aren’t a lot of “normal” school administrators and I thought I could bring some “realness” - all 100% Greek, south side of me, to the table. But, if I’m totally honest with myself, a big part of why I accepted administrative positions was because of the salary. What I had no idea of at the time, is what that salary meant. It meant giving up my soul, being less than authentic. It meant doing things (a lot of things) I didn’t like to do. Attending school board meetings. Sitting across from a crying parent while I read the reasons I was expelling her son from school. Managing bus transportation. Dealing with upset department chairs because there was, yet again, another substitute shortage and why wasn’t I doing anything about it? Agreeing to policies I knew were bad for students. Standing on the football field in the pouring rain on a Friday night until 11pm after getting to school at 7am instead of being able to see my niece play in a tennis tournament. Being asked to “go along” with the latest educational trend even when I knew in my gut I shouldn’t. Having to be quiet about my true feelings, opinions, and ideas because they didn’t align with district initiatives. Having my salary frozen because I was too outspoken (of course the reason I was given was spun a bit different). THAT WAS THE FINAL PUSH I NEEDED. The universe had been sending me whispers for years that I was on the wrong path. So, when I received a letter in the mail saying I wasn’t going to receive a raise (despite having an “EXCELLENT” evaluation rating), I knew that was the BOOM I needed to hear from the universe. THANK YOU. I was on the road to peace and I was being pushed into it, like merging on I-94 in the loop from the left lane. I made the decision that day to resign at the end of that school year and I did. For one whole school year, I looked at that letter every morning stuck to my refrigerator while I filled my travel coffee mug as a reminder to never again take a job that makes me feel less than my authentic self just for the money.
My issues with money were not about money. Just like my issues with food were not about food. I had a lack of self-worth. I had issues with my identity as a single woman, not married, with no kids living in suburbia (which is why I moved so much back and forth from the city to the burbs for years). I felt like I had to “keep up” with others by having “stuff” that would make me more like “them” and hoping all that stuff would make me happy. It didn’t.
I’m on track to make about a 1/3 of my last full time salaried job and I’m DAMN PROUD OF THAT. Because I have earned every stinking penny of that on my own. One sweaty downdog at a time. Changing careers and leaving a salary like I earned is not a move I recommend without proper planning. Had I not gotten my act together the last 6 years, I would not have been in a financial position to go all “Eat, Pray, Love” right here in beautiful Lisle, IL.
Everything truly happens for a reason. The dots don’t connect right away and while you’re in the midst of a big struggle, you can’t see past the pain. I see the picture clearly now. I had to go through all those years of unhappiness and loneliness and pain to get to my peace. Wellness is not just about your pant size or the number on the scale. It is those things. But, spiritual, financial, emotional, and mental health matter too. They are all interconnected. When all those line up and are in harmony that is when you are living a life of wellbeing, a life that is thriving not just surviving. I'm glad I finally heard the BOOM to realize that.
$121,423 to own my peace. I think it was worth it.
|Posted on June 30, 2017 at 7:00 AM||comments (2)|
One Year of Peace (by Piece)
June 30, 2016. A Thursday. A nondescript day in so many ways. A monumental day in one big way. You, see that is the day I walked out of the halls of Downers Grove South High School, where I served as an assistant principal. I spent 20 years in high schools. Bell schedules. Pep rallies. Bad cafeteria food. Sporting events. Music performances. Students. Teaching. Learning. Students. Oh, how I loved the students. The problem is, when I became an administrator, I lost a little bit of myself, peace by piece. It took 5 years as an assistant principal in two different high schools for me to finally admit that this wasn't what I wanted. So, now what? I thought this is what I wanted. Others thought this is what I wanted. How could I walk away? No one I knew walked away after 20 years in education. The salary. The pension. The health benefits. The paid holidays and breaks. But, I did. I walked away and haven't looked back once.
Here I am, one year later. Sometimes I still can't believe I left my career to start over. It's been a stressful, exciting, emotional, wonderful, liberating, challenging, amazing, and eye opening year. I'm not a professional writer. I've never blogged. I don't know the rules. I'm just writing from my heart. Over the next year, I will chronicle and share my experiences from the past year. The highs, the lows, the good, the bad, the ugly...all of it. I never thought of myself as a risk taker or brave or an entrepreneur. All of these labels have been used by others to describe me. The label I most wanted to hear when people described me was 'peaceful.'
This is my story of finding peace. One piece at a time. One day at a time. Peace by Piece.
Selfie captured in the parking of my school lot as I drove away on June 30, 2016.