This is a long story. It's really real, and it’s really vulnerable, but if you hate your job, you need to hear it. You see, when things are out of alignment with your soul, it’s very, very painful. Oh, and the language gets a little spicy toward the end. Consider yourself warned. : )
Again, though, it's a long story. You can listen to the audio version instead by clicking play below. Or just scroll down and read away.
We are all born with a magnificent, fundamental wholeness.
Somewhere along the line, there appears a chink in the armor-a wounding, cutting us down to size. And we fall asleep, unaware that the wounding isn’t the whole of us, just a piece that we hold. The wound becomes everything we know, and everything is about closing the hole in our chests. We become the wound and know of nothing else.
For as long as I can remember, I could see things other people couldn’t…not in a creepy 6th sense way…just in a weird, quiet, thoughtful, lets-skip-small-talk-and-consider-what's-the-meaning-of-life way. I’m a lot of fun at parties. I was born the wakeful one in a culture that did not value wakefulness. It was by no means the hardest place on the planet to be an outspoken, awakened woman, but it was a small place with very few options and very little patience for anything out of the ordinary. I was the different one-the weirdo-and at first, I didn’t know that was a bad thing.
I quickly learned a fundamental lesson about my function on the planet and the key to happiness; namely, that making other people happy was the key to getting safety and love, and what luck! I seemed to have a 6th sense for understanding what people wanted from me!
I learned a very clear message about thinking deeply, looking for the truth, and speaking up: shut that shit down. Quick.
“Why can’t I just be a normal? Why can’t I be happy and fit in like everyone else?”
The should’s took over, and attempting to be good and normal became my full time job. Need help with something? I’m your girl. Need someone to stay later? I’m happy to! Need blood? I’ll pour mine out! I became responsible for everyone else, the feminine space holder for the people in my life. I tried valiantly to hold their wants, needs, happiness, fears, etc. If I’m an empty container for you, will you agree to overlook how strange I am? I took up the quest to avoid excommunication: fix yourself so you can fit in. Difference is not tolerated, so I became a master at twisting myself into shapes that made other people more comfortable.
The problem was that I sucked at it.
I found the pieces of myself that were unacceptable, and I cut them off and threw them in the garbage can. They called out, desperate to be sewn back on.
I put the lid on the can and went into another room. No matter what I did, I couldn’t quite shut down my true self completely. I learned I was a weird shape, so when I was handed a straightjacket, a container to correct my shape and twist into one more pleasing to the eye, easier to consume and understand, I was thrilled! Grateful, even!
I put it on.
It didn’t fit.
It was scratchy and pulled in weird places. I was not good at wearing it, and I’m afraid it showed. The more I tried to tape it to my skin, the more obvious it was…something’s not right here. But there were no other options. Be the shape you were assigned or be excommunicated and unloved.
All of the things I wasn’t allowed to say built up until they exploded out of my mouth, ripping off the tape and bursting open the straightjacket in a fairly unflattering way. I’d frantically gather the pieces of the torn straightjacket up and sew them back together, quickly, silently, praying no one would notice, but every time it broke open, it lost some of its original shape. I felt desperate, because as uncomfortable as it is to wear an ill-fitting jacket, taking it off and running about naked seemed an even worse proposition.
My love, this is a tough place for anything other than survival. Your soul’s purpose of helping and healing with your work cannot be uncovered while you’re still wearing the straightjacket.
The better my straightjacket fit, the more miserable I became.
When I say miserable, we're not talking moping-around-the-house-once-in-a-while miserable. We’re talking eating an entire bag of pretzels by dipping it into a Sonic Oreo blast and desperately hoping you’d be done crying by the time your roommate got home miserable.
Thus miserable, I found myself wandering through the career desert. And the dessert. My job searching turned up nothing other than a deep aching in my gut that something was off. I told the aching to shut up and filled it with more ice cream. It was bad.
The problem with being in deep soul pain is that it doesn’t show the way physical and emotional pain do. When something in your life, like your job, is deeply, deeply out of alignment with your soul, it just sits there in your gut, growing, gaining mass, and infecting everything around it, and even when you forget for a moment it’s there, something catches your attention, just out of the corner of your eye, and the dense thud in your belly lands again, harder than before, knocking the wind out of you and leaving you paralyzed, feeling broken.
The misalignment can be anything…you’re in the wrong religion, the wrong geographic location, the wrong relationship, the wrong job.
When it’s off, you know. But the knowing is so painful that you’ll blindfold yourself to that knowledge with anything you can…like ice cream. And then you think that ice cream is the problem. If I could just stop eating ice cream!
I didn't know this at first, so I wandered through the career dessert thinking that my job was the problem…not that my job was out of alignment with my very soul.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of jobs I had while wandering through the career desert:
cashier, preschool wrangler, middle school teacher, administrative assistant, nonprofit director, marketing and outreach coordinator (I think…I’m still not sure what the point of that job was), human resources representative, waitress, corporate recruiter, freelance copyeditor
Every time I thought: This is it! This is who I am now! Finally things will be okay. Finally I’ll be able to relax, make money, enjoy my life!
Spoiler alert: it didn’t work that way.
Why didn’t I stop wandering for five minutes and actually sit down to think? Why didn’t I ask myself, really consider, what do I want? What is out there? What might make me happy? What would feel good AND pay the bills? I think maybe thinking about those questions would have opened up a whole can of worms.
I would have to look at my soul misalignment and make some tough decisions. Job hopping was easier. It was painful, but less painful than having an existential meltdown.
Thankfully, the Universe intervened, helpfully, in the form of a complete physical breakdown. I had had a particularly bad day at work, and my boss called me into her office to talk about an email I had sent to a department head regarding an upcoming project. It was a long email, and it detailed each person’s role and contained a proposed timeline and list of objectives. Corporate communication kind of sucked there, and I prided myself on being very clear. I was proud of the email.
Boss: We need to talk about this email you sent.
Me: Okay, great! What did you think of the objectives? I think the timeline is aggressive, but achievable.
Boss: You have four separate paragraphs.
Me: Yep. I included everything.
Boss: And the section headings are in italics.
I blinked. “Okay.”
Boss: Do you know what that means?
Me: That they are differentiated for emphasis…?
Boss: You can’t use italics in an email. Everyone knows that. Especially to a department head!
Me: I…it’s a lot of information, though…it might be hard to read without…
Boss: This looks bad on everyone. You’ll need to draft an apology.
Me: In italics?
I gathered my papers, tears gathering in my eyes, and went back to my cubicle, stunned.
I sat to draft an apology email for having the audacity to use italics with a VP, thinking through the day, blinking through the shame, and heart racing, all of my emotions and confusion coalesced around a single thought:
Are you fucking kidding me?
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
First of all, I am a certified English teacher. I think I know how use FUCKING ITALICS. Second of all, who cares? What must my boss’s life be life that she was SO upset by italics? What has happened to my life that I am apologizing over italics?
Why am I doing the spiritual gymnastics of twisting myself into shapes to impress and please people I don’t respect for a cause I don’t give a shit about?
All this company cares about is making more money for rich executives and….like, people are dying across the globe. Women are being silenced. There is good to be done and art to be created, and I am sitting in a cubicle apologizing for using italics. What even is my life right now? I followed the plan. How did it go so wrong?
Shortly thereafter, I developed a mysterious illness that eventually required abdominal surgery. The doctors were stumped for months, and I was out of work and in and out of the hospital for weeks. I had a lot of time to think. Something wasn’t right, and it was getting worse, not better. I made the decision that the straightjacket wasn’t enough.
At first I felt incredibly guilty and entitled for being dissatisfied with a job that a lot of people would love. But it wasn’t enough for me because it wasn’t who I am.
I AM a helper and a healer and world-changer. I hired a coach and decided it was time to own that shit.
I quit my job and started my business. I got my coaching certification and went through 31 consecutive no’s before getting my first client. I stumbled through my first coaching session and cried in the shower in frustration over fighting with Mailchimp. I struggled, won, effed up, tried again, celebrated, and kept going. Now, not every moment of every day is perfect, but it finally feels like ME. And I finally found a way of working that aligns with my soul and helps make the world a better place. I am still slightly terrified on a regular basis, but finally, the mission is bigger than the fear.
This isn't a story about entrepreneurship or coaching being the key to happiness...this is a story about taking off the straightjacket to find work that aligns with your soul, makes the world better, AND pays your bills.
If you are ready to decide that the straightjacket is no longer enough, I am here for you. I can take you through the exact process I undertook to take my straightjacket off and create the life of my dreams. You do not have to feel guilty for being different or wanting more, and you do have to do this alone.
If you’re ready for things to change, take a couple of important steps with me:
- Sign up to the list below to receive emails and free resources from me. I regularly send out stuff that will help you figure out your soul purpose and express it authentically with your work.
- Share this post on social media or email it to someone who needs to hear it. Help me spread the word that work doesn’t have to be a straightjacket situation.