The struggle is real.
Yesterday, while going through the bookshelves in my office, I came across a Mediations For WOMEN Who Do Too Much Journal.
It was one of those journals that places a word and a quote prompt on the top of each page. There didn’t seem to be any reason to keep it since I’d only written on the first five pages. I pitched it in the recycling bin, but then thought that I should at least read what I wrote.
The first entry was dated December 20, 1994, almost twenty-one years ago. The word struggle was matched with the following quote by Oriana Fallaci:
You wear yourself out in the pursuit of wealth or love or freedom, you do everything to gain some right, and once it’s gained, you take no pleasure in it.
I was curious about what my twenty-nine-year-old self thought was a struggle. I fully expected to be amused. But what I wrote sounded eerily familiar.
I am in the midst of struggle. I’m struggling with my career. Where do I go? What do I do? I seem to be entrenched in the struggle. My life is passing me by.
Though older, and presumably wiser, I can relate to the sentiments of my younger self. Since 1994, I have struggled with my career. In fact, if you were sitting here next to me and we were talking, I would have used air quotes around the words my career.
For the majority of my adult life I have sat on the proverbial fence between motherhood and my career. Though part of me wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, I seemed to intuitively know that I wouldn’t be completely happy in the role. Early in my marriage, I didn’t have much of a choice. I needed to work. However, by the time my daughter was born, my husband had advanced in his career to the point that I was able to stay home. But to be honest after a year at home with three young children, I was more than a little ready to go back to work.
I held professional, salaried positions, but family remained my number one priority. My job had to be flexible. It helped that for the first ten years of my work-life every supervisor I had was a divorced single mother. But it’s difficult to build a career around flexibility. And as a result, I never felt that did either thing well.
I struggled. And I’m still struggling.
I still haven’t learned how to balance family with the pursuit of my career. I often wonder if that is even possible. But as I start to embrace the reality of being an empty-nester, I realize I have to let go of the striving and be who I am. Sometimes that means saying no to my family. Sometimes that means saying no to one professional pursuit.
At the bottom of the journal, there was a few words of encouragement written by Anne Wilson Schaef, the author of Meditations for WOMEN who do too much. It said:
Sometimes we have to struggle –– sometimes not. The issue is not the romance of the struggle. The issue is who we are as we engage in it.
My journal entry that day ended by questioning whether or not I enjoyed struggling. Looking back, I think a part of me did. But now, I truly understand there is no romance in the struggle. The real allure should be who we become as a result.
I decided to keep the journal. And in other twenty years I can read it along with this blog post.