I could feel my heart beat in my throat.
Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump…
I grabbed the door handle with a sweaty palm, adjusting my posture to appear confident. I took a deep breath as I swung the door open and stepped inside the office.
I can feel the tiny hairs on my arm relax as I enter the warm room. The walls are a calming blue but the air inside is stiff and still. I’ve always wondered why this is the only blue office, as all the others are the same drab khaki color that remind me of my mother’s voice giving me advice when selling a home. “All the walls need to be off-white,” she said. I assume the walls are blue to create a relaxing environment, especially considering some of the decisions that have to be made here, but it’s only speculation.
The secretary here doesn’t like me. She’s never said that to me, but it’s the vibe I get each time we cross paths. I worked with her for a few years before I knew we were related- pretty closely, in fact- but even that doesn’t stop the matter-of-fact attitude I sense. She looks up from her computer, eyes gleaming at me from under her glasses. She gives me the “What do you want?” look before he chimes in.
“Neeli! Come in.” Here we go.
He makes me very nervous. I don’t know why; I’m normally not a nervous person, but something about him intimidates me. In previous conversation with a coworker, I told her I thought the nervousness came from the fact that he was a fast walker. She laughed at me and asked, “What does that have to do with anything?” We had a good chuckle before I responded, “It’s not a very calm walk. It’s like he flies into the room…like a poltergeist. He scares the shit out of me.”
I am counting to ten in my head to calm myself as I ask him, “Do you mind if I close the door?”
“I’m not sure how I should answer that. When that happens, it doesn’t normally go good for me,” he responds.
I laugh a little bit, nervously, as I close the door gently. He turns around in his chair as I creep closer to the visitor’s chairs in front of his desk. I stay standing as I’m speaking, but he holds his hand out and points toward one of the chairs as a gesture for me to have a seat. I sit, awkwardly, and think to myself I should have brought some damn notes.
I don’t remember word for word how the conversation started. My brain jumped out of my head and sat there on the floor, drained and befuddled, as I attempted to get my words out. I intended to only give him my verbal resignation while assuring him I would still coordinate the large-scale festival I had been asked by him to oversee the day before, but I ended up giving long, incoherent answers to any and all questions. Within three minutes of entering his office, I had forgotten why I came to him in the first place.
“Why?” he inquired once I informed him of my resignation. His eyes were affixed directly to mine, unmoving and unforgiving, as he waited for an answer.
“I’m just not happy,” I said.
I could sense his annoyance. His true, Type-A personality was reading through his facial expressions clear as sunlight. He let out a semi-chuckle as he probed further, each answer I gave becoming more meddlesome as the conversation waned on. We are each two very different people, but the divide between us was clear now in this fifteen minute exchange- probably one of the longest consecutive dialogues we have ever had together- as I realized he just wasn’t going to comprehend where my mind was at this very moment.
I left his office feeling accomplished but also nervous. Was I making the right choice, the choice to take the road less traveled? Should idealism be overshadowed by the reality of life? After all, I was leaving my job, my means of an income, to pursue…happiness? Is that crazy?
Recently I asked my Facebook friends how they would define value. A few of my friends answered with a much longer explanation than what I assumed would be posted, but one person provided an answer that matched what I was looking for perfectly. That person- my sister- said, “I find value in what gives me purpose.”
Several months ago, I spoke in this post about planning for a major life change, a change that I thought would catapult me into a lifestyle that would allow me to experience the world more than what I am able to now. I was seeking limitless opportunities for my daughter who, maybe one day, would be as daring and determined as I was at a younger age to achieve goals that I hadn’t even thought up yet- something magical, something great, and something worth being proud of.
Right now, I don’t serve much of a purpose. My life, in general, is just a series of day-in day-out routines of daycare drop-offs, work, meetings, and a rush to complete mommy duties in the very, very short amount of time I have at home after work ends. Each day is like Groundhog Day in that I complete the same activities in the exact same order and fashion as the day before. I work, I get paid, I pay bills, and I work some more. I allowed myself to put work before my family- something I said I would never do- by striving to go above and beyond in my job duties with the hope of advancing in my rather non-existent career. I’ve allowed my competitive nature to overshadow the most important thing in my life, and for what? If I died today, what would I have accomplished?
I don’t want my daughter growing up witnessing her mother work without purpose. I don’t want her to remember me as someone who just worked to pay bills. I want her to see the real values we should cherish- our time, relationships, and experiences, not money, careers, or our possessions. When she defines value, I want her to list her purpose. I want her to have a full heart, to love and serve, and to be truly, truly happy.
Yes, it might be crazy to leave a job without having something else lined up, or even a plan of what the hell to do next. To me, that’s a risk I am willing to take for my own happiness and for the well being of those I love the most. The golden fire I once had as a twenty-something had fizzled out, leaving the embers burning slowly for many, many years. And after much thought, prayer, and council, I decided to take a leap of faith and blow oxygen on those embers, sparking a flame that simply can’t be put out.
These last few months full of let downs and struggles to put on a smile has taught me one thing: Happiness is priceless.
When I told my mother that I wanted to not work and stay with my daughter, she told me, “Well, Neeli, that’s what every mother wants to do!”
The difference between those mothers and me? I just do it.