The story of a mother of two, managing divorce while protecting her children...
Several weeks ago I posted the story of my divorce and how it impacted me financially and emotionally. The positive feedback was overwhelming and I thank everyone who reached out to express their appreciation for sharing my story. This inspired me to learn more about what other women have gone through in the hopes of spreading more knowledge, and today I’m beginning a series of posts about women’s experiences navigating the financial and emotional ups and downs of divorce.
I posted in several of my Facebook groups asking for women who would be willing to share their stories and I was astounded at the number of friends and relatives of friends who are willing to tell me about their journeys. What I’ve learned is that financial miscalculations during a breakup have implications that extend indefinitely. The common threads I’ve heard are feeling guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, scared and intimidated. This is not about bashing men – the responsibility lies on both sides of the gender divide. Men tend to fight for what they believe is best for them, but women tend to give in financially to get out of the relationship with as little conflict as possible. This is not a judgement of either sex, solely an empirical observation. The lesson I’ve learned, however, is that if women want to protect their financial futures they need to be willing to stand up for themselves. “I just wanted it to be over” is the sentiment in the heat of the moment, but “wow, I regret walking away from what I should have gotten” is the message that resonates for years later.
This story is from a mother of two who has been married three times. I’m changing names to protect the innocent, so I’ll call her Patricia. Patricia got married when she was 19 after a long-distance romance and quickly had two babies. Once they were married he started drinking more and staying out until the early morning. He was rough with her when he was drunk, criticizing mundane details like how she made his sandwiches. Patricia never thought of it as physical abuse at the time, but looking back that’s exactly what it was. She left once but went back to him – this was a long time ago and divorce still wasn’t that common in her small town so the decision wasn’t clear cut.
The final straw came when concern for her 18 month and 3 ½ year old children took center stage. She didn’t want the abuse to extend to them, so she left with $45 in her pocket and had to rely on her parents as a stay at home mom. A friend helped her move the baby’s crib, but she walked away from everything else. The divorce was contentious. They fought about every detail down to who would keep the laundry basket.
She hired attorneys but didn’t feel like they fought for her, constantly questioning what she needed. Obtaining a steady income from her ex was complicated by the fact that he didn’t work consistently. Patricia agreed to terms that were not beneficial given her custodial burden. She agreed that she would claim the kids on her income tax returns only every other year even though her ex only paid support for 3 months out of the year. She ended up bearing the bulk of the financial burden for the children.
Patricia’s most recent marriage lasted 14 years. She knew he was cheating, but had failed at marriage before and didn’t want to chalk this one up in the loss column as well. She was determined to make it work and turned a blind eye to what she didn’t want to see. He grew more controlling of Patricia over time despite his own affairs. She couldn’t receive phone calls after 9:30pm or else he became suspicious, projecting his own deceitful behavior onto her. He steered her into self-serving investment decisions regarding her job’s retirement plan. He assured her, trust me, we’ll live off of my retirement income.
The Timing Will Never Be "Right"
She had reached a point of no return and knew she had to leave, but the timing was never right. It was always close to a holiday or a birthday. She second guessed whether she wanted to be alone as she got older. She started seeing an attorney before she definitively decided to leave, and this time she did think about putting money away. On every trip to the grocery store she cashed a few extra dollars to accumulate some money, but despite her small nest egg, she still didn’t know where she’d go the night she left.
Finally, she pulled the plug and filed for divorce. This one began no more smoothly than the last. She rang up $7,000 in fees to her attorney without him gaining any temporary support for her. Once she got to court to fight for support, however, she could no longer afford her attorney. Patricia even lost some of her assets in the final settlement. Despite her ex’s assurance that they’d live off of his retirement income, he ended up with half of her retirement fund when they split. She now receives some monthly income from his retirement as well, and to protect herself in case of his death, she is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. She has to trust that he will continue paying the premiums every year, and annually has to chase him down to make sure he’s doing so.
Patricia always wanted to be fair, but in hindsight she doesn’t believe this approach served her well. Guilt and uncertainty led her to concede terms that have had long-lasting consequences. She believes that many women never recover financially from a divorce so it’s important to plan ahead. These are her main points of advice for women going through similar situations:
Zenith’s mission includes connecting and coaching on a personal level so I can’t think of a better story to share for my first new blog post. This is my very personal, very intimate experience with marriage, money and divorce. I hope it resonates with you.
I was just shy of 22 and a recent college graduate when I got married. A few years earlier my husband-to-be’s sister had gotten married and then separated after six months. At the time I thought, how can you date someone for years and decide you don’t want to be married after only six months? Fast forward to the morning of my six-month wedding anniversary and I distinctly remember sitting across the kitchen table from him and saying to myself, oh yeah, now I can understand that. Even though I knew I had made a huge mistake, it took me another three years before I could get up the courage, and money, to leave.
My new husband had been a graduate student at Northwestern when I was an undergraduate. I was hired as a research assistant by his thesis adviser, and about a year after that we started dating. He finished his PhD when I was a junior and accepted a job as an assistant professor in Montreal. We dated long distance for my last year in school, and as my graduation approached we faced some decisions and geographical complications. I couldn’t get a job in Canada without a work visa, and as a new graduate with no experience it was going to be nearly impossible to convince a company to sponsor me. I wanted to go to graduate school anyway so I decided to add McGill University in Montreal to my applications and not only got in but received a stipend and teaching assistant job.
All in I would make about $12,000 a year as a grad student, which even in 1994 wasn’t close to enough income to get by alone. Throw in the fact that my mother was very opposed to the idea of living with someone before marriage and we decided to tie the knot. It was very much a practical decision with no romance involved. It went something like, “so I guess we could just get married.” “Yeah, OK, I guess that makes the most sense. We’ve been dating for almost 3 years and we’re not ready to break up.” “Alright, how about July.” “Sure.” A month after graduating I found myself standing at the head of an aisle in a puffy white dress thinking to myself, is this really it, forever? My college roommates smuggled in shots of vodka for me (I love them). My sister’s last piece of advice to me before I began the wedding march was, “you can always get out of it.” Not an auspicious start.
I couldn’t support myself on my salary, so as desperate as I was to leave I was stuck until my studies were completed and I could get a job. I was miserable. I was in my early 20's, living in the suburbs (his choice) and sporting a minivan in the driveway (his choice). A few years earlier I had dreamed of living in a high-rise in downtown Chicago and a driving shiny Beemer. Watching any movie set in Chicago brought me to tears.
He was pushing to start a family but thankfully I held him off. One day he told me that I wouldn’t know the difference if he replaced my birth control pills with a placebo, so I started hiding them. He questioned everything I bought, which was minimal outside of groceries and household supplies, but that was a way to emphasize his monetary control. I was a full time student and teacher commuting to school by bus and train while he took the car to work, and yet I also covered the lion’s share of household responsibilities. Once I confronted him about this inequity. He dove into a lengthy analysis of how an hour of his time was much more valuable than mine because of the gap in our earnings, and so it made sense for me to take care of the menial tasks (incidentally, he was an economist). Meanwhile, his research career wasn’t progressing well at the university, he was depressed and playing SimCity in the basement until the wee hours. Happy times.
Despite the deterioration in my relationship I simply couldn’t afford to strike out on my own. I cried every day on my way home on the train. I thought about transferring to a school in the U.S. but that didn’t solve the money problem. I stuck it out and finished my degree but it took me six months after that to find a job as Canada struggled through a recession. When I finally started a full time job I still was not making much money, but it was significantly more than my student salary. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Each day I planned to go home and tell him I was leaving, but I was terrified because I had no idea where I was going. I did anything I could after work to avoid the conversation – I went out with work friends, I took up running despite the sub-zero winters – and I continued to cry on my way home. Finally, after 11 months at my job I mustered the courage to pull the plug. It was Thanksgiving Day in 1997.
I waited downstairs on the scratchy couch in the basement for him to come home, and when he walked in the room I calmly told him that it was over. He had very little reaction, nodded and seemed to expect it. I was shocked but relieved. I said all I cared about was the kitchen equipment and china and he could keep everything else including the car and the house – my first of many incredibly dumb financial decisions, but I offered that olive branch because I felt guilty for leaving. He agreed and we started talking practicalities. I hadn’t planned ahead so I had no choice but to stay in the house for a while and we became ships passing in the night. Eventually I arranged to move into an extra bedroom with some friends. Everything was still proceeding smoothly with the separation and I couldn’t believe I had waited so long, maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
Not long afterward, about 6 weeks since the Thanksgiving Day denouement, a friend asked when I was going to serve my estranged husband with divorce papers. The thought had never occurred to me. I was thrilled I had gotten the words “I’m leaving” out of my mouth and myself out of the house. The next step seemed unimportant at the time, but I realized she was correct, I needed to get the process in motion. I didn’t know where to begin and thankfully she took the wheel. Her husband’s cousin was a lawyer and he asked her to refer me to a divorce attorney. I engaged the lawyer, we served divorce papers, and then the fun really began.
The next day my roommates and I heard someone pounding on the front door and shouting that “he knew I was in there.” I ignored it and hoped his anger would pass. After all he hadn’t been happy in the relationship either and he must realize this was the best for both of us. I finally agreed to talk to him after a few of these door-pounding incidents so that we could get on with our lives. I asked him what had changed – those last few weeks I thought we had been moving toward this result. His response was that he thought I had a temporary break down but that I would never have the “balls” to go through with it. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me when he said that – I didn’t have enough inner strength to see my decision through to the end. I said, “well, you have underestimated me.”
That conversation was among the most memorable of my life, and now I look back on it as a turning point. I pushed ahead and only communicated through our lawyers. He had hired a well-respected attorney based on his assertion that he was going to get some money out of me. Blood from a stone? I couldn’t imagine what he thought I had to give. The reality was that he had income, a pension and a house to which I was entitled half but I just wanted out and was willing to walk away from all of it for my return to freedom. I thought he was getting a pretty sweet deal.
Shortly thereafter, I learned his plan at a deposition. He had bought the house we lived in prior to our marriage and his parents had given him the down payment for it. It wasn’t an expensive house, if memory serves it cost just north of $100k back in 1993, and I think they had given him something like $15,000 or $20,000 for the deposit. At the time I asked him why his parents were gifting him this money and he responded that they had helped his sister through her divorce financially and they wanted to even the playing field. Sounded reasonable and it really had nothing to do with me since we weren’t even married yet. But during this deposition he claimed that the down payment was a loan to “us” and that I owed him half of that in cash. He even had his mother call my mother and record the phone conversation with the hope of bullying her into some type of bizarre admission. My relationship with my mother was strained at the time due to her negative views of divorce, and he wanted to leverage that against me.
This was a ridiculous sum of money that I did not have, not to mention that the logic was completely flawed. First of all, I had never signed any type of loan document and the money had been a gift from his parents to him. Second, even if it had been given to both of us, then any equity in the house was half mine as well – and there was equity in the house at this point. But the third reason was the final death knell. I tracked down the mortgage loan application from his bank, not an easy task in 1998, and found that if the down payment was borrowed in any way then it must be declared as such or risk defaulting on the loan. Boom! I knew he hadn’t declared that so we presented his lawyer with this information and asked if he preferred to pursue this ridiculous vendetta or have his mortgage called by the bank. The silence was stunning. He vanished.
My lawyer couldn’t garner a response from him or his attorney for years. I had a four-year relationship in the time between this and when we were legally divorced. Every day I feared that he could have some claim on the income I’d made during those years, and I had come to the sad conclusion that I might be legally married to this person forever. I changed my beneficiary on my 401k to my sister but I was told that as long as I was married I needed his signature for it to be valid. Areyoukiddingme?? He refused to respond to any correspondence and meanwhile I was still paying my lawyer for every unanswered letter sent.
One day in 2003 I was sitting in my office when my phone rang – it was my lawyer. My ex had called him and wanted to finalize the divorce. Oh my g-d, holy miracle Batman, I heard angels singing and church bells ringing. Where do I sign? Then my lawyer told me to hold my horses. He had not spoken to him, and could not speak to him without representation by counsel, so I had to call him. I said I had no desire to speak to him, and he said if I wanted to get divorced in my life time then I had no choice. I took a deep breath and dialed the number I had been given. An answering machine picked up (it was 2003 after all) and it was his voice welcoming me to leave a message for either him or that of a woman. Ahhhh, now it made sense. He was living with someone and I assumed they wanted to get married. When we finally spoke on the phone it was perfunctory. He expressed his desire to end this charade and he was willing to use my lawyer as a mediator as his had abandoned him long ago when she realized there was no opportunity for financial gain. This translated into me paying for all of the legal and mediation fees, but again I was so eager to exit this situation that I didn’t care about the money despite the fact that I still had student loans under my belt. Not long afterward my divorce papers arrived, I signed them with glee, put them in the mail, and proceeded to celebrate with copious amounts of wine.
The lesson I learned, and the one I’ve seen play out with clients in my career, is that often women want to exit the world of emotional hurt they’re experiencing during a divorce at any cost. They sacrifice their financial security by making decisions before they fully understand the situation. I was young, educated and gainfully employed so I didn’t worry about walking away with nothing, but it was still the wrong decision. For a woman who has been out of the work force for a number of years raising children the stakes are even higher.
I had the luxury of being the one to know in advance what was happening, so I had the opportunity to plan ahead but didn’t take it. Know what your first move is after that initial conversation. If you are not the partner leaving and you are taken by surprise, then it’s more difficult to plan ahead, but I believe it’s wise for any woman to have a safety net prepared. My advice to my younger self, and generally all women, would be the following.
Much of this advice is valid for anyone regardless of your relationship status. Maintaining a 6-month financial cushion, knowing passwords, having copies of documents and tracking your spending are all key elements in safeguarding your financial future.
Rereading my "Unexpected Vacation" post below I am shocked to see the time stamp from November 2015. Nine months have passed since I published my story about taking time off, and boy, what a long strange trip it's been. A project I thought would materialize did not, I planned a consultant training program with a friend but then both of our lives went in different directions, I decided to look for a job, I did a bad job of looking for a job, then I really tried to look for a job and got one. I started said job - a completely new path for me doing sales for financial research - and six weeks later I quit that job. Self realization: I am not a pure sales person. At least not for something that isn't truly my own.
During this period the idea for my business continued to gasp for air while those demons of rationality and practicality tried their best to suffocate it. Slowly I let the angels of creativity and freedom have a serious beat down on those demons, and now I'm relaunching Zenith Partners with a slightly different concept than the original. Instead of focusing on managing money for women, I've pivoted toward the educational and coaching component for women and couples. I've become involved in an investment club of inspiring women and the concept of discussing money and finances with a spouse has resurfaced often. It's a tricky topic to tackle since we all carry so many emotions and stories about money from our upbringings. Unless two people are open to communicating those beliefs it can put a tremendous strain on the relationship. I believe that if Zenith can act as an intermediary for couples while helping women feel more secure about questioning and learning we can create some real value in our clients' lives. We're also working with women going through transitions like divorce, retirement and widowhood as well as couples transitioning through various stages of life and family. During my 20 year career in finance these are the situations that have moved me and engaged me on a personal level.
I've asked my sister Jodi to help me with marketing and spreading the word about Zenith. Eventually I hope she'll step into the event planning side. She's much better at those skills than I am, and I love the idea of being able to work together on a topic so personal. She and I experienced many financial challenges with our family throughout our lives so I can't think of a better person with whom to launch this endeavor.
My website is updated and I will be adding content daily. I'll be posting my first new blog post tomorrow about my experience with marriage, divorce and money. It's more than a little frightening to be so personal and raw online, but I believe it's the only way to truly connect with people and share why I'm passionate about this important subject. I learn so much from other people's struggles and I think it's only fair for me to share mine as well.
Thank you for all of the support I've received from friends and my online communities, especially Jodi Flynn's "Women Taking the Lead" group. Please check it out on Facebook.
I look forward to getting Zenith Partners off the ground and making a real difference in the quality of our clients' lives and relationships!
I wrote a guest blog post for my friend Jodi Flynn's site "Women Taking the Lead". Check out Jodi's community focused on female leadership at https://womentakingthelead.com.
I’m incredibly excited to blog about my experience as part of the Women Taking the Lead community. This dynamic group has enriched my views on career and leadership and inspired me with amazing stories of women pushing forward to make their dreams a reality.
I first met Jodi when I was preparing to quit my unfulfilling finance job to launch a business focused on educating women about money and enabling them to take control of their financial futures. I followed through on my plan to quit, but never followed through on starting my business.
My biggest stumbling block was aiming for perfection
I wanted to launch a company functioning as if it was mature instead of taking the first step. I suffered from analysis-paralysis and it left me with a dwindling savings account, no business, and a feeling of failure.
Recently I regrouped and started a new job. It’s a role that affords me the ability to learn new sales skills and support myself yet still have the time and opportunity to work on my original goal of educating woman about money.
Women Taking the Lead has inspired me to finally move forward on my goal of founding Zenith Partners for Financial Education instead of becoming complacent with a steady paycheck.
There are three important lessons I’ve learned from the podcast and the community that have helped me refocus on my dream.
First, just begin.
Everything in life happens step by step, not all at once. Waiting for every “T” to be crossed and “I” dotted leads to a whole lot of procrastination and not a lot of progress.
It’s necessary to plan, but at some point you need to get in the game and off of the bench. Every day and every experience leads to new ideas so by not engaging with your target community you are leaving opportunities on the table.
Every single person I have talked to about my business idea has been supportive and some have even volunteered to back my venture monetarily but I still didn’t move forward. I’ve learned that we must take decisive action in order for results to materialize.
Second, be vulnerable.
The stories I most enjoy reading and hearing are those of women who have overcome challenges and made mistakes, yet revealing my own stumbles has proven difficult.
We are our own worst critics, and no one is judging our shortcomings as harshly as we are ourselves.
Get out there and share because you never know who will be inspired by common challenges. Perfection is not very appealing.
Finally, the interpretation of our circumstances is our choice.
One person’s excuse for “why not” is another’s call to action. Click to Tweet!
It’s easy to let the challenging circumstances we’ve experienced provide an excuse for why not to act, but those who act despite these challenges are the true leaders. I have let the “if only” game hold me back on many occasions, but the truth is that our own worst case scenario is likely someone else’s “if only.”
3 Valuable Leadership Lessons
As I move toward my goals, I’m also reflecting on the leadership lessons I’ve gleaned from people who have inspired me throughout my career. These are three of the leadership tips I think are most valuable.
One, if you’re the smartest person on your team, build a better team.
The weakest leaders I’ve worked with are those who surround themselves with people who are less knowledgeable than themselves in an effort to boost their own egos.
In contract, the best leaders are those people who know their weaknesses and fill the gaps by hiring teammates with complementary skills. This type of team empowers all of its members by encouraging meaningful contributions.
My belief is that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Two, the best leaders provide vision and guidance toward a goal but not the exact road map to get there.
The best way to empower people is to trust their decision making and insights. Taking away personal power by micromanaging the details ultimately backfires. It creates resentment and misaligned priorities as people adopt a self-preservation mindset.
If you surround yourself with the right team, then let them stretch their wings and lift everyone higher.
Finally, there are no dumb questions – don’t censor yourself.
Countless times in my early career I had a question I wanted to ask but stopped myself for fear of looking dumb, only to have someone else ask and been told it was a great question.
If you don’t understand, keep asking. Click to Tweet!
Chances are many other people are thinking the same thing but not raising their hands and you’ll be leading the charge.
Sharing experiences is an invaluable way to grow exponentially both in life and work.
Thank you Women Taking the Lead for providing a resource-rich platform for all of us to expand our horizons.
Katherine Krantz is the founder of Zenith Partners, a financial coaching practice designed to help women acquire the knowledge and skills they need to control their financial futures. She was inspired to start Zenith by her 20 years of experience in the finance and investment industry, where she repeatedly saw that the approach of traditional firms didn’t always align with women’s needs. Katherine is the co-author of “The Era of Uncertainty: Global Investment Strategies for Inflation, Deflation, and the Middle Ground” published by Wiley & Sons in August 2011. In her free time she enjoys boxing, running, dancing, reading, writing and long walks with her dog, Jack, in Central Park.
Katherine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ourzenith.com
You can also connect with Katherine in the Women Taking the Lead Private Facebook group.
Today’s challenge is to write about something I’m proud to have accomplished at some point in my life. It might be strange to think of quitting a job as an accomplishment, but as I look back on my past year, or even 10 years, it ranks near the top of things I’m proud to have done.
The decision did not come easily. There were dozens of pro and con lists. The list of pros for staying was long: good company, people I liked, well compensated, travel, some schedule flexibility, and I had helped build the company. I felt like I was leaving a piece of myself behind. All of those months of hard work and pulling together as a team to create something from scratch, and I was going to walk away? Maybe, because, con: I’m exhausted. I spent a lot of time convincing myself that I was lucky to be where I was, and there were at least a million people in NYC who would gladly push their grandmothers under a bus to have my job. Probably true, but I had to admit to myself that it was irrelevant. I was feeling burnt out and run down.
After months of mental gymnastics I still wasn’t convinced, and the cycle of analysis-paralysis wasn’t getting me anywhere. This is when my inner Tracy Flick* took over and gave me my solution. I decided I could leave if I got right to work on another new venture. Yes! This was the answer. I’ll start over and build my own business this time. I’ll help women learn how to take care of their financial futures! I can use my skills and also do some good for people. Sure it’s an insane amount of blood, sweat and tears but what the hell, I like that. It will GIVE me energy. It will take a few months to sort out all of the filings and registrations necessary, but 8 or 10 weeks, tops, and I’ll be up and running with my shiny new shingle out for the world to see.
With this decision made, I chose a quit date and pulled the plug in March of this year. The day after I left my job I set off for Club Med Bahamas to meet my friend Leah from Los Angeles for a week of relaxation before I got to work on the new venture. When we arrived at the resort I was in full on New York type-A mode. I dragged her to the introductory information meeting and sat in the front row taking notes. I immediately picked up the weekly schedule of events and started planning which days to snorkel, play volleyball and take Zumba class. This was when my friend started to laugh, looked me in the eye and said, “Katherine, you can’t ‘win’ Club Med! Relax. There’s no first prize here. Just have fun and chill out.” Until that moment I didn’t realize how wound up I had been. I took her advice to the extreme and by day 3 I had lost all motivation to schedule anything. We woke up when we woke up, headed to the pool, and maybe took the water aerobics class. Prior to the trip I thought the two of us would spend hours discussing business ideas and planning the months ahead. Instead, we read magazines and bad fiction, and chatted about life, relationships and travel. I realize that this is what vacation is supposed to be about, but I had been so focused on the next step that I lost sight of the need for a break.
By the end of the week starting a business was the furthest thing from my mind. I was spending my time contemplating what I could do to support myself living in the Caribbean. I could sell my possessions and live the island life! I actually researched which islands allow you to bring a dog. I called my attorney and told him to postpone filing the LLC documents he had prepared for a little while longer. I had to figure out a few things first.
Deep down I never thought a change that drastic was what I wanted, but I realized then that a serious break was in order. I decided to “lean in” to my new found freedom. I slept late, walked my dog miles every morning, worked out daily, met friends for happy hours and dinners, and stayed up late watching TV. I spent the month of May in Colorado with my friend Joyce who had also quit to take an extended break. We rented an apartment and lived like locals, with some gorgeous time out in the mountains. I contemplated moving there permanently to lead an easier, less expensive life, but deep down NY was home and I was ready to go back. That brought me to June, and a full three months of relaxing and figuring out my next steps.
Back in New York the days flew by at warp speed. I was never bored but always had that nagging voice in my head telling me that I should be “figuring it out.” I read a lot of books on entrepreneurship, leadership and passion. I answered surveys and built timelines and journaled pages and pages of ideas. The more I explored, however, the more I realized that I wasn't sure what kind of business I wanted to build. I was holding onto ideas in my comfort zone – what I had done in the past. The problem was when I examined exactly what I would need to do to make it successful I had to admit that I didn’t like doing a lot of those things. I knew I wanted to help women, but I wasn't sure how to combine the education part with actually making a living. Time to hit reset.
The next few months after admitting that the business wasn’t going to happen the way I had imagined were rough sailing. I felt loss, disappointment, shame and embarrassment. I had made a big deal about building something and now I had to tell people it wasn’t happening. Even worse, when they asked the follow up question of what I was going to do instead, I didn’t have an answer. I felt guilty and indulgent about the time I had taken away from my career even though I knew on some level it was something I needed. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the deeply buried reasons I made the decision to quit.
It’s now mid-November and I’m still in the process of figuring it out, but I’ve come a long way. I grew to understand why I felt so burnt out and accept that I had legitimate reasons. The past 8 years have been filled with many of the biggest life changing events possible. I had helped start 3 new businesses from the ground up. I wrote a book. I moved cross country from NY to Los Angeles and then back again 5 years later, regularly traveling coast to coast in the interim. I had a long term relationship turn into a long distance relationship and then break up. And finally, both of my parents went through extended illnesses and eventually passed away. Until then I had never appreciated the amount of continuous energy I had to keep pumping out to power through all of these major events. Throughout these years I rarely slept through the night. I think back to the concerned faces of friends asking me if I felt ok because I didn’t look so good. I chalked it up to the life of an entrepreneur and would respond with something like, “well, we can sleep when we’re dead, right?” It took me a full 6 months to realize that this break was the best thing I had ever done for myself, mentally and physically.
The last two months have been filled with projects. I’ve tried to help other people who are working on their dreams, I’ve built a website, I started writing again and collaborating with friends who are on the same journey as me. I’m exploring job opportunities that could be about creating something new. During this process I have felt free to think creatively and explore new ideas as they pop into my head. I’ve discovered what really motivates me, and I’ve also discovered some things that I thought motivated me but actually do not. I’m learning to steer clear of these things that I gravitate toward out of habit.
Everyone I see these days tells me I look happy and relaxed, and that’s exactly how I feel despite the uncertainty of what my future holds. If I hadn’t taken that blind leap back in March I never would have had the energy to discover all of these new things about myself. I know my days of unencumbered freedom are nearing an end, but I am ready for the next chapter. I’m excited to get back to work and bring to it a new awareness and motivation that comes from being honest with myself about who I am and what I want my life to be.
*Tracy Flick was a character in the move Election. If you haven't seen it, go stream it.