It was not all that long ago, but when I remember it, it seems like another lifetime ago.
I was a father and husband. My son was still very little. I was the breadwinner for our family. I had a lot of pride in my job and my profession. It felt like I was on the fast track to anywhere I could imagine going.
We moved to a large city with literally a week’s notice. If I had stopped to notice, I would have seen everything crumbling then, but everything was about work and keeping people happy, so they would elevate me how I believed they would.
Things went really well for a few years. My bosses bosses’ spoke to me a lot about business, and the future. I pretty much never stopped working. I didn’t take breaks and worked through lunch almost every day. Maybe this was why the higher-ups liked me. I didn’t ever stop to find out. I was addicted to feeling successful. My home life was a shambles, but at least I had work.
Right about the time I was in line for a promotion, everything seemed to change. One of the people who was in my district manager’s ear had it out for me, though I didn’t know this at the time. Not only was I passed for the promotion I had been told I was getting, for the next several years, I was quietly transferred to lower-profile locations and finally eradicated from the company.
To be honest, I would have done the same. At the time, my personal life was a mess. In hindsight, I feel most of it had to do with putting work ahead of everything else. The reason I was doing it was for my family, but I didn’t see how I should have said “Fuck It” to a whole lot of situations that I was enabling.
Fast forward seven years. Life still isn’t easy. There are still things that I have no choice but to deal with. But today, I’m a lot clearer about what I will and will not allow. I have my own lines in the sand that come from experiencing many less-than-ideal situations.
I’m very lucky and blessed to have a partner who has my back just as much as I have hers. I have a son who must find his own way and define who he is as he gets closer to adulthood. These relationships, and a handful of others, are things that I value and prioritize. This means having things like regular office hours, so that I have time to spend, and don’t damage my relationships with the people who mean the most. It means putting people first: always being honest and transparent with everyone. Remembering that family and loved ones deserve me at my best, not at my worst. It means having reasonable boundaries, and expecting the same respect that I give to others.
That’s another amazing thing that has happened to me in the last five years. Through dedication and work, I’ve been able to create a new career path for myself. No one gave me this education; I had to take it for myself. It has been a major component in reclaiming the personal power and self-respect that I relinquished from my life for so long.
Things are still growing. It hasn’t been all unicorns and rainbows. But I don’t regret my decisions for a second. Money comes and goes, but who you choose to become is what remains with you. That’s the part that endures and matters.
I feel good about my world. It took me a while to get here. But I know who I am, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m not about to let that change.