In my previous blog post (Change and Transition, Part 1), I explained the circumstances that led to my choice to work differently as an independent consultant. As difficult of a decision as anything I have ever experienced, I began to adapt and transition to my new “normal”. As I worked around my parents’ healthcare needs, I adapted to working only during times when someone needed me AND when I was available.
This new “normal” wasn’t always a lucrative experience, and, as my father declined quickly, I lost sleep at night, worrying both about what was to come with my parents, and about whether I had made a huge mistake in my career. There were weeks when I couldn’t work at all because of my parents’ healthcare needs. Adding just a little more stress to the experience, I held my mom’s hand and cried with her as she was diagnosed with leukemia, 5 weeks before my father’s death. In those last 5 weeks, I cared for them both every day the best that I possibly could. Focusing fully on my parents during those 5 weeks was the hardest thing I have ever done, but the most important thing I have ever done. As I look back, I am grateful for the ability to make the choice I made, because it allowed me to be there when they were scared, and to comfort my father when he was despondent in the realization that he was dying. And ultimately, it allowed me to be there with him in his last peaceful moments, as well as being there with my mom as she faced the prospect of navigating the rest of her life alone, for the first time in 48 years.
Now, 20 months after my father’s death, my mom’s health has improved, although she still relies on my siblings and me for assistance. And I am still able to provide that because of this change I never wanted, but felt like I had to make. This journey to self-employment was never something that I planned. Without this necessary change, I know that I would never have tested my ability to rely on myself for employment. I never wanted to make this change at all – I was very comfortable working for a large company, safely making a difference with my 40 hours a week. But I have found that I feel more fulfilled in all my roles than I ever have in my career. There are some weeks when I am busy and excited by my work and the outcomes I help people and organizations to achieve; and I find balance still with giving my family more time. But, there are also other weeks when I have to remind myself not to panic if I have a few days with no work planned. There is give and take, excitement and fear on this journey.
And that is perhaps how I have grown most: understanding that the process of change, regardless of whether the change is desired or unwanted, is THE experience where I have learned the most about myself. It has shown me where I am weak and where I am strong. It has shown me that I can experience painful change and transition, and yet still emerge intact and better for it. It has taught me I can do things I did not think I could do.
So that leaves us with a question that I believe we MUST contemplate: In the experience of change, and the pain of transition, can we look past the anxiety and the desire to regain control and identify how we might grow? If we can do this, can we see change as something we come to appreciate, and maybe embrace? And what are some things we CAN do, but have never tried because we didn’t HAVE to do them?