People often question how I left a 27 year career as a self-employed freelance litigation assistant, making over $70,000 a year, for a $9.00 an hour library position supplemented by part-time babysitting, Ebay/Craigslist selling, flea market booths, and picking up oil-stained pennies from parking lots.
Most everyone was positive that I was in the midst of my second mid-life crisis, a meltdown of sorts; the first being just before my 40th birthday. I often struggle to find the words or the logic to convey my reasoning, but I refer to this change, not as a mid-life crisis, but as a mid-life epiphany. Do I miss the Christmas parties on the yachts, the bonuses, the victory toasts and the high of prevailing on cases that I had sometimes assisted on for years? You bet I do. But somewhere, somehow, in the process of the rush, I lost my soul. Often, I found myself daydreaming (in the guise of thinking about work), longing for something more fulfilling, and yet there I was seemingly stuck in the all-American rut; I couldn't give up the money and I was afraid to step outside of my comfort zone. In hindsight, no matter how many bottles of champagne or toasts, I only really felt victorious if I truly believed we were on the right side of the law, legally and ethically. Even then, the motions, the frustrations suffered by the clients, the money spent on lawyers which often times was greater than the sum of monetary damages, the wins, and the appeals....I began to wonder if anybody ever really won. I think not. The celebratory victories were no longer enough to keep me satisfied. And so, I quit. At the peak of my career, I threw the towel in. I said "no more, I'm done."
Although I left in what seemed to be a spur of the moment irresponsible decision, I believe my subconscious had been planning it for years. My daughters were almost out of high school, and I had given them the best of everything I could as a single mother, from trips to Hawaii, Alaska, Minnesota, dance competitions in Florida, private tutors, and community theatre. I even forked out $6,000 (thanks to my parents and brother for kicking in the remaining thousand needed), so Nicole could represent the United States as a Student Ambassador in Australia; 21 days of enrichment and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.
I loved being able to give my daughters all that I did during difficult times, but I felt like it was my turn now. Ironically when I came home and told them that I had quit, Nicole exclaimed "Mom! What are you going to do????" and Monica asked adamantly as a mother to a child "Do you have a plan????" The answers were simply, "I don't know." and "No."
Ultimately, I went back to college, which I had never completed, and received a paraprofessional certificate in Library and Information Technology. It sounds impressive, but in this economy where library staffing is the first to be be cut, it doesn't pay the bills, and three years later I am still pushing a cart (which I absolutely love by the way). A few days ago as I was shelving books in the juvenile section, a little girl asked me to show her where she could locate the "early readers." As usual, I lit up at her request. From Dr. Seuss to Junie B. Jones, I gave her options, or as I believe, doors to her future; information that will one day open a world of choices and allow her empowerment over her own destiny.
Then, yesterday as I was driving the two young boys that I take care of to their swimming lesson, the six year old very seriously asked "How did the dead grasshopper get in your car?" Just last week he had asked me why my car was so dirty. The older brother, remembering what I had answered the week before, replied, "Probably because of the plants that she puts in her car from Home Depot." I was puzzled. I said, "But I just vacuumed my car out. There shouldn't be any dead grasshoppers in my car!" And the little one said "I know, ......sigggghhhhhhh......I just wanted to say 'thank you'."
Call it a mid-life crisis, call it what you will, but in this madness called life, I do believe I have found my soul, and sometimes we find it in the most unexpected places.
Sweet dreams and always, GOOD dreams,