Photo Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash.com

Written by Bridgette Simmonds
May 1, 2020

I executed it all perfectly.

  • Get good grades. Check!
  • Go to college. Check!
  • Get a degree. Check!
  • Get a job. Check!

All the things I was “supposed” to do and told to do and everyone else seemed to be doing were “successful” . . . I was doing all those things and doing them well.

I Should Have Been Happy, Right?

According to this well laid out plan that so many had followed before me, I should have been happy, right? I should have woken up feeling satisfied, balanced, and fulfilled. The only things left to check off of my list on entering into the joy of adulthood was to find a husband, buy a home, and have some kids. Life. Would. Be. Complete. 

But would it?!

After I’d flawlessly executed the “to do’s to be successful in America” list, I found myself in a great job, with a great company, and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake.

Did I skip a crucial step in the process? Did I misunderstand what I was actually supposed to do in order to feel successful? When was the “success” feeling supposed to kick in?

Maybe this is where the desire to climb the corporate ladder happens so that I could start feeling complete, fulfilled . . . successful?! After all, isn’t this what it’s all about? 

I couldn’t have escaped the fact that not only did I not really feel successful, but I had absolutely no real desire to climb anyone’s ladder. If I wasn’t feeling successful on the first rung of this ladder, what made me think I’d feel any more of it at the top? Or during the climb?

Thankfully, I didn’t just do it anyway, but I can surely see how that becomes the best option for anyone who considers themselves a “high achiever.” I mean, clearly–to keep being one–you have to be high (up on the ladder that is). 

What was I supposed to do now?

But I didn’t want to climb. Was there some other ladder to look for? What was I supposed to do now? Prior to this, I had the checklist, the parents telling me what to do, and the peers around me doing things that gave me direction. At this stage I felt I was out here on my own with either the choice to climb the ladder–of which it was clear to me that I wasn’t interested in doing–or figure it out. 

Of course, by this point, I’m feeling quite comfortable and happy. The regular paycheck’s rolling in. I’ve got great health insurance. I bought the home. I take trips when I want to with my generous PTOs (paid time off). Life is good. 

But could it be better

The next 13 years rolled by with me resisting the ladder and doing a great job at work and living comfortably. It seemed most others around me were in the same boat, so I had the comfort of the masses on my same page. Sweet! 

But . . . as life would have it, that comfort was knocked right out of my hands as the economy took a sharp turn and I lost my job due to a reduction in force (or layoff). Wow! As I was knocked right on my backside from this comfortable life I was living, following the conditioned path for success, this safety blanket was suddenly not feeling so safe. 

As I tried not to panic . . . I was, indeed, panicking. I only had enough savings to last me a few months (at best) and I also was without a car, because, well, they supplied that for me, too. Not only did I have a mortgage to pay (yup, checked that box too) but I had two.

I was living the American dream that had now become a nightmare. 

I was finding myself drowning in debt, doing my best to secure another job to keep my comfortable life going (the same one that everyone told me to live). 

But then, something magical happened with all of this time off to think. Somewhere between the desperate phone calls to my connections and emailed resumes, I was searching my soul to find out if this is what I was intended to do for the rest of my one, beautiful life–if having a secure job, getting a secure paycheck, with the secure car, paying my mortgage (securely), and live a life that was good was what I truly wanted. 

It wasn’t.

I didn’t feel I was growing much. I felt as though ever since I left the university, my education was up to me and I hadn’t been learning very much. I was comfortable. And as soon as that comfort was taken away when I was laid off, I was forced to face everything I wasn’t facing . . . and that began with facing meWho was I? What was I here on Earth to do? Was I doing that?

As I answered these tough questions, it was revealed that I have a gift. That gift is what I was bringing into the workplace daily, but on a muted scale. How could I turn the volume up?

By paying attention to what made my heart and soul smile. By recalling what made other’s hearts and souls smile when I was present. By looking at what came to me easily that I may miss or not pay attention to because, well, it comes so easily to me.

As I put the pieces of this puzzle together with the help of a certified coach, it was as if I discovered an entirely new and different comfort zone. One that was with me from the time I was born that I abandoned for the sake of looking outside of me for the prescribed path to follow that promised success and happiness and fulfillment.  

Ironically getting kicked off of that path allowed me to find the one I abandoned long ago–the one that wasn’t paved and well-traveled by others, but it was full of natural God-given beauty and there was a way that somehow I just knew how to follow it.

Yes, there are times I still get lost on the path and get tempted to hop back on the paved, conditioned path; but this path that’s my own has unique creatures and flowers and rewards there! The discoveries on this path delight and amaze and astound me!

But only when I trust the path–that’s the new comfort–and it’s incredible! It’s crossed paths with others on their unique paths that I learn from daily and gives me the encouragement to keep going and be curious about what comes next on this path.  

I feel so grateful for the entire journey. The parts where I followed what I was told–checking all the boxes–and achieving great results there (as well as getting the boot from it too!). It all landed me on the perfect path for me and I’m able to use the skills I picked up on that paved road on this, my unique path.

It’s allowed me to learn the power of trusting in myself, the journey, and all the joy that comes along with it when you realize the only box to check and to keep on checking is YES! Yes, I’m willing to learn and grow and adjust course anytime I want to. It’s all one big adventure that I get to choose.

Photo Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash.com

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