I keep remembering a conversation that I had with an old friend of mine pretty recently. Whenever that happens, it means that there is something that I need to share with you.
This friend recently retired – freedom 55!
We started out working together doing the same job at a government agency and we became friends. She’s had an eventful and changing career. She’s extremely bright and an excellent communicator and ended her career as a Director in an important policy position in the Federal Government.
But what that really means is that now, retired, and in good health, she has the freedom to create whatever life she wants. I was thinking about that because I could have had a similar career trajectory.
Or like another old friend of mine who also started out in the same job and ended up as a Senior Vice President of this government agency before also retiring early.
My friends’ careers look like what mine would have been, had I not shifted direction in my early thirties. And I started to wonder why I just hadn’t done what they did. Why hadn’t I just continued on? It didn’t seem so bad. They had lots of financial security. Both women have the freedom to travel and live where they please. They did their 25 years and then they got out!
But there is something that I totally forgot – that my friend reminded me of.
She said, “Bev, you were miserable. You were SO unhappy.”
And I was.
I tried to hide my misery on the job. It was my secret pain. I was in existential angst wondering Is this all there is?
I suffered. I had no energy when I came home from work and collapsed on the couch.
I thought something was wrong with me because everyone else seemed to be able to do this (work) and it seemed like they were okay. What was wrong with me? I tried switching jobs. I had the same misery. And, my jobs always had a noble cause, so on top of my misery, I felt guilty about my suffering.
And I silently suffered throughout the 5 different, increasingly responsible & remunerated positions I held in my entire corporate career. For 7 long years – rarely sharing my pain with anyone, but constantly feeling lost and alone.
But because I thought I had no right to be so miserable, got to travel for business, had an expense account and a small staff and designed innovative programs for people, I kept my misery inside. I shoved it down. And it started to eat away at my soul and spirit.
I’m talking about this now because I’ve glossed over the pain I actually felt – and only remembered it when my old friend reminded me.
She said, “You couldn’t stay. It would have killed you.”
Sometimes I think that’s dramatic and, in the past, I’ve interpreted this as meaning something was wrong with me, that I couldn’t cope with a “good” job.
I mean, aren’t we supposed to cope with a “good” job?
Isn’t that why we call it work – because it’s not fun?
Isn’t the whole point of work to make money and buy freedom?
Well it wasn’t for me.
I wasn’t like “everyone” even though I thought I should be.
If I could go back now to my younger self and tell her something, here’s what I’d say:
For me it always feels like we, in the Purpose Tribe (I made that up btw) made some kind of agreement before we showed up on earth, knowing we’d forget this as soon as we came, that we needed a signal to remind us when we were purpose adjacent, off the meaning path. And that signal was pain and existential angst. But so many of us interpreted those feelings instead as a signal that we were somehow damaged.
People that are in the Purpose Tribe feel deep pain and suffering when their work is meaningless, that they can’t explain to others and that pain will NOT go away until you find, create or do meaningful work.
People in the Purpose Tribe, came here to use who they are to help, transform or renew the world. And you can’t heal your pain by making more money or getting famous or buying more stuff.
I would have told my younger self that I had one choice to make. Either….
You can continue to try to make your pain go away by ignoring it, distracting yourself from it, trying to change yourself, heal yourself or improve yourself which WON’T work.
You dare to decide to find or create personally meaningful work.
Which one do you choose?
If only I’d known that at 28 at 35 and even later on down the road when I created my own work and got slightly bored and frustrated because I’d once again fallen of the meaning track.
And if this resonates with you, you’re probably part of the Purpose Tribe too. Some people are fine doing their survival work so that they can provide for the needs of their family. Some people need accomplishment and challenge and recognition from their work to be satisfied, and when they get that all is well!
But if you’re anything like me, you won’t be fulfilled by any of that.
Unless you have meaning, you’ll suffer – no matter how much accomplishment, challenge, recognition and money you get.
I think that’s because we, members of the Purpose Tribe, came here with a mission – to facilitate the renewal of the planet and unless we find our own personally meaningful work and do that, we shrivel up.
So if you're tired of not being able to find your purpose after trying to do that all your life.... and if you're suffering because you're not doing work that feels deeply meaningful....
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