Friday, August 2, 2013

Mission Accomplished: Finding Me

This summer, I've actually had time

Time to seek balance.
Time to reflect and think. 
*So much time to think, that I decided to inadvertently quit my job.* 
A decision that is completely out of character. 
Thus, supporting the general theme of this post. 

I have mentioned on many occasions, the struggle I had with going back to work after having Lyla.
An all-too-familiar feeling that most moms have after maternity leave. 

Many mamas adjust by making more-flexible career changes.
Others love their jobs and find joy in the balance it provides. 
And a few lucky ones leave the workforce all together. 
While most have to stick it out because they have no other choice. 

Needless to say, last year was hard.
One of the most difficult times I've ever faced, in fact. 
There were many variables that made it so painful. 
But I'm going to focus on one variable in particular:
My struggle with the question, "Who Am I?"

First, allow me to introduce myself. 

I'm Angela. 
A hard-working, high-achieving, people-pleasing, perfect-seeking, social butterfly who is trying to figure out this whole working mom thing and how to overcome a serious overcommitment problem.
(Yes I said working mom. As in present tense. I'll get back to that). 

Let me start by focusing on who I am as a person. 
At my core. 

Coincidentally, Gabe came home from a work conference a couple nights ago, and he couldn't wait to share about a tool he used throughout the week. 
He wanted to perform an in-depth personality test on me. (The same test the F.B.I. uses to profile people). 
My results are *always* the same with these assessments.
And this test was no different.  
I was labeled primarily as an "I" or "Influential". 

"Outgoing, magnetic, warm, enthusiastic, at-times impulsive, motivated by friendship and social recognition, fears disapproval, seeks popularity, and weakness is overcommitment."

Spot on. 
Except it didn't say anything about being a sometimes-Type-A perfectionist.
{That part was in my secondary profile match.}

But I'd like to take a minute to focus on those primary characteristics.
Those are me.
In a nice, packaged little nutshell.

Except they went missing for quite awhile.
I could never quite find my groove last year.
Never really felt like myself.

And in hindsight, I did a very good job of hiding that.
Because of course little bursts of me would shine through.
*Those little bursts of energy are hard for me to control*.

But aside from the hour each night I got to spend with Lyla, I wasn't happy.
I may have appeared it on the outside.
But I sure wasn't Me happy.
Bubbly, carefree, always-wants-to-socialize, make-others-smile happy.

And I tried so desperately to find my old self.
Everyday, I prayed and searched deep in my soul for me.

 I was living in a lopsided, non-balanced world of teaching and baby.

Those truly were the only two things my life consisted of.

It finally hit me one evening after a night out with friends.
The first night, I might add, in a really long time where I actually had fun.
And laughed.
A lot.
But then we got home.
And Gabe said to me, "Are you relax? To have fun?"
I was so confused, "Did I not look like I was having fun tonight?"
"Well. Not really."
So even though I truly was having fun, apparently I still looked miserable.

That conversation was the push I needed.
I decided to seek help.
And begin counseling.
Because I absolutely refused to reflect any of my sadness onto my child.

I went to a few cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.
It was so nice to let it all out.
I'm just so good at talking, you know?
And the exercises were so mind-blowingly effective, yet so simple.
They train your brain to completely let go and relax. Much like yoga or relaxation techniques we learned in our birthing classes.
Then, there were the countless Saturday morning coffee talks with my supportive husband.
These were *just as* beneficial, and I owe him my sanity.

After a month or so, my eyes were opened to so many things.
Most of these things revolved around trying to find me again.

The hardest part was realizing that having a baby changed me.
Or at least did a major overhaul on my priorities.

Some of my core traits were conflicting with what I desperately wanted out of my life.

I've always thrived by pouring myself into all that I do. 
Mostly my career. 

So here I was.
This overcommitted overachiever who really just wanted to slow down and simplify.
I didn't know how to handle that.

It all began when I got pregnant with Lyla just as I was beginning a new career.
Completely unexpected.

And all new teachers will tell you the first years are brutal.
Building your resources.
Hours of creating and crafting.
All-nighters planning and preparing.

The great longtime teachers put in almost as many hours as new teachers.
You know the ones.
The ones whose classroom everyone wants their child in.
The ones who never become complacent.
Who always strive to provide the best possible education for their students.
And put in countless hours after school.
And *gasp* during summer break.

That was me.
And always *would have been* me.
Never doing the same lesson or following the same basal year after year.
Always trying to keep things fresh and exciting.
Caring *so* much for each individual student, constantly trying to meet his or her needs.

And if I put that much effort into a job?
You can only imagine what I put into another human being.
A little being that I carried for 9 months.
A really cute little being, at that.

Putting an equal effort into my job and my baby was impossible.
Something had to give.
And it eventually broke me. 

I was struggling with so many internal conflicts.
Having an identity crisis of sorts.

I felt I needed to stick it out another year with teaching.
Something I dreamed of doing my entire life.
Something I left a promising corporate career for.
Something I went into *debt* for.
Something I went through the grueling process of getting a masters for.
Something I was naturally good at and worked so hard to excel at.

But then part of me wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom.
Crafting. Teaching my babe at home. Baking. Park Dates.

But part of me still missed the business world.
Adults. Recognition. Ability to advance.

I was all over the place. 

And then I was dealing with my overcommitment problem.
Born with the curse of the inability to say no.

My entire life, I've been involved in everything.
Leadership roles.
And, I never, ever miss out on a social event.

Never sitting still.

However, after having Lyla, I found that I no longer wanted those things.
I no longer craved busy.
And I would cringe at the thought of being "lazy".
Shouldn't I want to be busy?

Instead of busy though, I desperately craved quiet.
And for the first time in my life, I started saying no.
A lot.

But, not wanting to be overcommitted freaked me out.
Again, I struggled with, "Who am I?"

Combine all of that with my perfectionist nature?
And my natural desire to be Pinterest Perfect?
And you've got yourself a recipe for a nervous breakdown. 
*Which I had a couple of those*. 

Until finally.
Summer came. 
And along with it came a mental reprieve. 
And the plan was to go back to school for at least one more year.
Give it one more shot.  

But as summer went on. 
I was able to completely detox my mind. 
And I realized I could not go back. 
Back to a completely-out-of-control whirlwind. 
With no chance to catch my breath. 

And it was finally during one of our Saturday morning coffee talks, Gabe asked a very simple question.  
"What do you want out of life?"

Tears immediately began pooling. 
And I knew exactly what I wanted. 

solid friendships.
time for me.

I want to de-busify. 
To stop over scheduling.

A blogger that I've followed for awhile says it perfectly here. 
I want to stop committing 120% of my time. 
(An actual problem with society today).

I am finally ok with an open calendar. 
And with saying "no". 
And with de-committing. 

I'm ok with completely shifting my focus. 
Saving room for family. 
Being with people I love. 

I personally could not do those things if I continued teaching. 
At least not at this point in my life. 

That being said, I am starting a new job next week
A much simpler job where I can turn off my brain at night. 
With a happy work environment. 
Working with incredible people.
Where the office is closed on Fridays. 
And *most importantly* we get a lunch break. 
**Without getting too specific (because you never know who is lurking this side of the internet), it's a front desk job in a medical office setting. And I'll eventually be working on some exciting social media stuff too as the clinic is in the process of a major rebrand.**

This was never about me not working. 
It was about me finding balance.  

But mostly, it was about getting back to the old me, while embracing the new me. 

Mission Accomplished.


Anonymous said...

So proud of you! It takes such outstanding courage to go outside the norm, to choose what makes you happy, and to be okay with it.

Good for you, my friend! LOVED this post.

Carolyn said...

YAY! I'm so happy for you! :) I hope you enjoy the new job!!

Our family, two feet at a time said...

Good for you!! It took a lot to write that, and come to your current state of balance. I admire your inner strength. Good luck with the new role- and enjoy it!!

Brittany said...

This is such a great post. I am feeling exactly like you explained and Jimmy asks me that question ALL the time. "can you ever relax?" No - I don't feel like I can at all. It's NUTS. So proud of you for doing something about it. Now I just need to finally finish my masters and do something about my life!!

Thanks for the encouragement!!!

Krista said...

Loved this post. I can relate to so many things you wrote. Good for you for making a change!

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

It sounds like you're in a great place!