Is it human nature to never be 100% satisfied? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself with ever-increasing frequency over the past couple of weeks after hitting my annual winter low, wondering if the goddamn snow would ever melt (yes, it would and it has, almost) and if the outdoor temperature would ever reach 40° again (yes, it would and it has, although not yet consistently).
As the two-year anniversary of my departure from the corporate rat race approaches, I’ve begun to take stock of our family’s life-altering choice to live off of one regular salary so that I’d be able to spend more time with my daughters and write.
Quitting my career was, hands-down, one of the best decisions of my adult life. The positives are too numerous to mention – here are but a few:
- I’m available to help Sophie navigate school, friends and homework, and I can have leisurely conversations with Chloe about her social life, her classes and her future, without feeling rushed or distracted by office demands and responsibilities.
- I finally got myself into shape after many frustrating years of failing to stick to a diet and exercise regularly.
- My husband and I can sometimes have lunch together when he works from home on Fridays.
- We can travel as a family without my having to work while on vacation – my husband works enough for both of us when we’re away, thank you.
- I can actually get crap done around the house during the week so that we can enjoy the weekends without a to-do list that makes my husband and me want to bury our heads in the sand.
- We added a dog to the family because I have time to take care of him.
- I’m finally being paid to do what I love and although my writing doesn’t yet generate enough income to cover much more than a portion of our obscene property taxes, it’s a start.
- I have time. Time to sit in traffic, time to walk into town to run errands and take Truffle to the dog park, time to meet friends for lunch, time to write, time to binge-watch TV shows and interact on social media, time to chauffeur my kids around town…
I naively thought that by stepping away from a career that prevented me from truly enjoying my life, I’d suddenly find myself in a perpetual state of contentment. That “happy” would become my adjective. That stress would become a relic of a career gleefully left behind. That I’d discover reservoirs of patience that had lain dormant since my birth 46 years ago.
What the hell was I thinking?
It’s true that I’m a lot happier, less stressed about some things and a tiny bit more patient than I was a few years ago. But. I’m not always happy, I still get worked up over nonsense and patience will never be one of my virtues.
I felt that by finally making the change I’d dreamed about for so long, I shouldn’t be unhappy or stressed anymore. That I no longer had the right to wallow in negative feelings because doing so would make me seem ungrateful for the changed circumstances that I proactively made happen. The result of this irrational thinking is that when I have bad days, rather than shrugging them off, I tend to get more upset because I feel like I shouldn’t be upset.
Which is honestly kind of silly. I recently experienced a few tough weeks – I wasn’t writing enough, I wasn’t managing my time particularly well, I lost out on a couple of paying gigs and I was feeling vulnerable and insecure, wondering what the hell I was doing with myself. When I mentioned this to my husband, he responded, “I was afraid that would happen eventually.” I think he mistook my temporary feelings of discontent for regret about my decision to quit my career.
But here’s the rub: I don’t regret a thing. It’s just that I need to give myself a break. I need to cease putting pressure on myself to be 100% satisfied all the time. It’s not realistic and it’s unfair, not just to me, but to those around me.
My husband and my kids know me. They know I’m generally happy and love them more than anything in the world. They also know that I’m quick to anger and sometimes too focused on the future instead of the present. I’m impatient like a child, occasionally passive-aggressive and moody. And I am an inveterate stress monster (albeit tamer than I used to be – more like Oscar the Grouch than Godzilla).
I’m officially middle-aged, which disturbs me more than it should. Life isn’t always easy or fun, even when life is mostly good. It doesn’t help that I’ve been having more frequent visions of my girls as young adults, which is weird and terrifying. Hell, we just attended a high school orientation meeting for Chloe and it made me want to puke a little. And then there are days when I’m all WTF! I can’t believe I turned my back on my career.
But there are 365 days in a year. If a few dozen of them are shitty, so be it. After all, life isn’t delivered with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If I can learn to bask in the good days and give myself a pass on the bad days, my life might not be perfect but it will be a life well-lived.