One wild and precious life

Above my desk and on the door at work I have the following quote from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.

I’ve thought on that line a lot lately. That line, the verbal kick to the ass my friend Trish gave me a few weeks back (thank you Trish), but mostly the following interaction with Bean when I was upset one evening. She stroked my face, wiped the tears away, and said, “It’ll be okay Mummy. We’re not going to die. We’re going to exercise and eat healthy and we’re going to be okay.”

Dear God. What did she hear? She saw that I was upset. That I was worried, but wow, she was putting stuff together. I think this was the final straw.

I resigned from my job last week. A job that in essence I loved, but that has, for a variety of reasons, become stressful and all time consuming. The emotional drain of some aspects of work coupled with niggling health worries*, and a recognition that there are things** in life that I, that we, want to do and that we aren’t doing because there is this huge time/emotional energy suck is pushing this decision. These factors are having a negative impact on my health, and on our quality of life. Frankly, I’m also fed up of feeling like I need to defend the fact that work isn’t my number one priority. This I realize is my response to society’s pressure and some of my colleagues’ feelings and not my boss’s directive, who has always been supportive of my attempts to find a work-life balance.

Still, making this move feels reckless. I’ve always worked. Like many of us, my sense of who I am is tied up in my employment. There are obviously going to have to be some fairly significant adjustments to our spending habits, but we can do it (Trish, K and Monica, I need your help). There are ideas already fermenting as to next job moves, but we’ve made a firm agreement that there are some basics must be addressed first. I know how very fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I am extremely grateful for the support that I feel from my partner, my family and my friends. Thank you.

*I’ll probably say more about this, nothing serious, but with my history it maybe isn’t really a surprise that I jump to worrying

** more quality time with Bean, adoption paperwork, unrushed time with each other being primary, exercising & eating healthy, gardening, HAMO, fixing up house, local community involvement, science stuff



Filed under Family, Health

26 responses to “One wild and precious life

  1. Love your post. I have struggled also with” Is work even a priority at all for me at all?” or would I really rather just talk long walks in the park and make soup? I’m still very unclear on the future but like you, the enormous stress of my previous work environment nearly put me away. I also nagging issues around pain and anxiety so making a break was essential to the rest of my life. Funny how that all becomes so important when you have a family and you realize you need to be healthy and happy.

  2. Wow! Congratulations.

    I think the scariest things I’ve done is leave a good, secure job (that was going no-where and slowly driving me insane) without really knowing my next step. Let me assure you: I have no regrets! It was great to have a little time and space to re-establish priorities and balance. Best wishes to you!

    I love you ** list.

    And I love the quote. Now I want to find a place to post it in MY office.

  3. Deborah

    Congratulations!!! What a wonderful thing to be able to do.

    When I left my job of a decade to stay home with Jonah, I had a lot of my identity bound up in that [stupid] job. I didn’t realize how much until it took me a good six months to really let it go. I had plenty of second thoughts, fantasies of going back when I was having a bad day at the new “job,” etc. But I’m almost three years out, and I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

    Much love & support to you!

  4. Congratulations! I’ve spent 3.5 years trying to justify to myself that being home with my son, just being, is totally legitimate. (It is, of course, but the self-doubt is still there sometimes.) I expect you’ll you love it.

    What kind of science stuff?

    • Science stuff falls under two, maybe three areas.
      Some content stuff (natural resources, water, nature stuff) and nature of science, science education stuff.

  5. Jen

    This is such a wonderful post. I’d just like to add, beyond a big congratulations, that I think it’s very smart to make a clean break from work. Parts of your story and your choice hit very close to home, and as a family we’ve chosen to keep my time flexible but I’m bound to work part time. Sometimes it feels really good but other times it feels like I am failing at everything all at once. Work is not my top priority, but I also wilt under the stress of feeling like I’m not making the grade. So I very much applaud your full commitment to a new path!

  6. Leaving a job is hard. I was laid off from mine, and it was still hard. So much of how I defined myself was tied up in that job. So much of my LIFE was tied up in that job. Even though I’m sort of glad to be past that point in my life, it’s not easy shifting gears.

    I know that the change will be a great thing for you. But it’s not easy. Although, life really never is. But it can still be great, even in the hard.

  7. dragonflywoman

    Best of luck for your new, happier existence! I’m sure it will be a welcome change once it sinks in. Being happy is much more important than fitting in with what society expects of you.

  8. Change is never easy, even positive change. We have a tendency to stay put in our comfort zone, simply out of fear sometimes, even when our comfort zone has trapped us.

    This change will be good for you. It’ll be scary and not always easy, but I do truly believe it’ll benefit you and your family in the long run.

    I wish you all the best in this transition!

  9. This post really resonated with me…seems like changes are afoot for so many people right now. I think finding balance is so important. I cannot wait to follow along here on all that will be happening with you. Best of luck & you have my support!

  10. You sound–have sounded–really solid and good about this move, and I’m so happy about your ** list and your renewed commitment to so many things that matter to you.
    Big love to you!

  11. wackademia

    This resonates with a word I have been struggling with a lot over the past few months…. courage. I’ve always thought myself a go-getter, self-motivated, a force to be reckoned with. But the longer I stay in my job, the more I realize that despite it all, I am NOT courageous. Making decisions that are so life-changing, particularly when you have so many depending on you, take courage in a way that I have never experienced. Thank you for defining courage for me, and giving me hope that I might find my inner courage as well.

  12. Ah, the ever-present search for balance… I can relate as well. Good for you for making a change. Change is good. I believe that when we put ourselves into an uncomfortable position, we grow. It’s easy to stay in a situation because we’re comfortable and because we know the answers already, even if in our hearts we know it’s not the right thing anymore.

    I struggle with balance from time to time as well. Left a successful and lucrative career to raise my boys and while I know I will not regret my choice in the long run, there are days when I long for a paycheck and a key role in an organization’s mission. Part-time would be ideal for me but those gigs seem so elusive.

    I wish you lots of luck with the next steps in life!

  13. Kelly

    Congrats! Change is never easy and best changes are always the radical sort. If you ever want to talk science…. especially the ecohydrology/botany sort you know where to find me. I am seeped in it these days… plus it has been waaay to long since I’ve seen you!

    • Thanks Kelly and Leah.
      When I look at those commenting above, who you are and how many of you have made similar leap for a variety of reasons, I am steadied in my decision.

  14. You can do it! I left a secure, good-paying job in February because it was slowly killing me and my family. It was a difficult financial decision but I haven’t regretted it for an instant! My boys are doing better and my husband is able to focus on two things that are crucial to our survival – his job and his health which had been suffering.

    It’s about setting priorities and pouring everything we have into a job and requiring the neglect of our families shouldn’t be one!

    Best of luck!

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