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Let go or be dragged

I worked in financial and hr administration for a government department. We call this the golden handcuffs because you make a decent amount of money, you have a pension, dental and medical benefits, it’s unionized so you have vacation and family days and sick leave and parental leave. It creates a bubble around you where anything outside of this world is not stable work. The outside world is scary. I think we can safely assume that most people feel this way in their corporate jobs. If I don’t do this then what will I do? How will I pay the bills if I leave to start my own business, pursue a different field of work or study? What if I can’t find work? What if I can’t find clients? What if my creative project is a flop?

If you are asking yourself these questions, you are being offered an opportunity to exit that job, career, or world. On the other side of that fear and doubt there is a path that you will activate by making that decision and taking steps towards it.

I wanted to be a social worker when I was in high school and my parents discouraged me. At the time, I had a conversation and what I heard from the conversation is that I would be really shit at helping people because I’m so self centred.

Fast forward a decade and I take my first social work class. I was actually trying to get into a different program and had been taking math and science prerequisites at the university and when I was done the prerequisites I had to wait until the following school year to apply to the program I wanted so I decided to take one of the required first year classes for the program that was open to all students. Intro to Indigenous Social Work.

In the first week of the first class I knew that social work was it for me. It opened my eyes and my mind to see the world in ways I’d never seen it before. To question the beliefs I held as truth about the world and to understand that I was only seeing one view of the world and there were many other worldviews that would challenge what I held as true. I stepped onto my path towards my deepest healing.

I had separated from my husband, the father of my two kids, two years prior and was taking care of my two young kids full time. I had a boyfriend at the time who traveled a lot and shortly after I started my program we broke up. I was back on my own with my two kids, working full time at my corporate job, doing school work at night. I had started with doing one class a semester that first year and then decided to take on full time school, meaning 3 classes a semester, so that I could get through the program and start my own helping business. I dreamt of being a counsellor. I knew I had been through so much and could help people.

In pursuit of this dream I was working myself to the bone. I remember one of my assignments for a gender and work class was to break down my daily activities into categories, paid work, unpaid work, taking care of personal needs, leisure, and rest. I did this exercise and my heart just tore in half. In front of me was the answer to why I felt like shit. I had 3 hours of leisure time a week and only on weeks that my kids were with their dad on the weekend. So 3 hours of down time to relax every 2 weeks.

It’s emotional for me to think back on this time because I was working so hard for everyone else. I gave so much at work, I was such a high performer that vacant positions weren’t filled and I took on the tasks of those positions. Same pay, same title, so much more work. By the time I finished work I was completely exhausted. And I also had two kids to take care of, one of whom needed extra support with things like speech therapy and other medical appointments.

This is what my days looked like:

5:30 am wake up, hair, makeup, get dressed

6:00 am wake up kids, get the dressed and fed, make lunches while they eat

6:30 am get shoes, backpacks, outdoor gear on and get out the door

7:00 am first kid gets dropped off at before school program, say goodbye quickly and rush back to my car to drive to the second drop off

7:30 am second kid gets dropped off at daycare, tears and then rush back to my car to drive home.

7:50 am park my car and start walking to work

8:00 am walk into my office, sit down and start working

4:00 pm finish work and power walk home to grab my car

4:15 pm leave to pick up first kid from after school program

4:30 pm leave the school to go to daycare, sit in traffic and panic

5:00 pm pick up second kid from daycare and head home for the day finally

5:45 pm walk through the door with tired and hungry kids, immediately start making dinner. While it’s cooking maybe clean up the kitchen from the breakfast dishes, unload the dishwasher

6:30 pm kids finish eating dinner, start bath and bedtime with youngest

6:45 pm lay down in bed with youngest and immediately pass out

7:15 pm oldest comes to wake me up so we can hang out

7:45 pm tuck oldest into bed

8:00 pm start doing schoolwork

10:00 pm throw dinner dishes in the dishwasher, start it and hop in the shower

Then my head would hit the pillow and I’d be out cold.

I’m not telling you this for praise or to prove anything to anyone. I’m sharing this because I thought that this was normal. Everyone around me knew I was doing a lot and I would respond with things like “no rest for the wicked” or “it keeps me out of trouble”. I thought that it was normal to work like this. I really thought it was. It was just my life and of course I had to push myself if I wanted to achieve my goals. The entire time my motivation was to be able to be there for my kids when they needed me. I knew the stats and risks for children of single moms and I was terrified of the fate I had destined them for. It was my choice to leave and I believed I deserved to work like a dog to make it right for them. They hadn’t asked to be the kids of a single mother and I wasn’t going to allow my choices to negatively impact their future.

I can see how pushing myself so hard was a way to punish and hurt myself. Because of my trauma, that I didn’t know I had at the time, and the norms set by my family of origin, I thought that it was normal to hurt in these ways. Looking back now I can see that there were easier ways that I could have taken to go through this and I wish I had been well enough to see them.

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