I have never considered myself to be a bold person. I was a shy and quiet girl, who grew up to be a reserved woman. I always prided myself on the fact that I got along well with others. I liked that I never rocked the boat. I easily melded into most any situation. Overtime, I subtly blended into the background of my own life.
All of that started to change when I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis in 2017. When my only option was medication, rather than accept exactly what I was being told by my doctor, I hit the pause button and asked myself what was really best for me? It was one of the first times I had to stop and evaluate putting myself first. It was the first time in my life I chose to go against the grain, dared to question authority, and did something completely unexpected. Instead of accepting medication as my only option, I researched what else I could do to improve my condition. I discovered a new world of information that included making dietary and lifestyle changes. I worked hard to shift my mindset and perspective. What I knew to be true changed. I found a new norm, replacing the old in an effort to make better choices for my health. It led me to start questioning everything in my life. It led me to ask the question: What else could I change to make my life, and my family’s life, better?
About a year later my husband and I began to toss around the possibility of me leaving my job. At the time, I was 15 years into my career, and 10 years away from the earliest I could retire. Not exactly closing in on that magical number. The main idea behind me leaving before hitting retirement age was to afford our family some flexibility, while also gaining a more structured presence for our boys. My husband’s work schedule was fairly steady, but we both knew it could change on a dime. As a supervisor, he could be moved to a different supervisory position on short notice anytime promotions occurred within the organization. My work schedule was also pretty structured, but revolved around a lot of unknowns. My job was great and I loved where I worked, but it could be extremely stressful at times. Stress, as well as the physical and mental demands of my job, became big concerns after my diagnosis. My leaving was more of an eventually kind of idea, but the wheels were set in motion.
Stress has a largely negative impact on women with autoimmune and chronic illnesses.
While working 42 hour weeks, I experienced several bad flares that lasted anywhere from weeks to months. During each flare, I forced myself to continue working my full time schedule. I acted as if everything was completely normal. You know that saying: It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine… That was me to a T. I did not allow myself to take the time I needed to heal because I did not understand that rest was what I needed. I did not realize my body was screaming for a break. Instead, I believed powering through until the pain went away was the best thing to do. Not the best approach, I assure you.
But even once I realized taking time off to heal was something I needed to do, I still refused. I could not admit to myself that I was that sick. I still could not accept that I was different. That life had drastically changed for me, for forever. My stubborn ego would not allow this to be my reality. Other than my husband, a few family members and my doctors, no one knew how badly I was really doing.
Putting It Into Motion
Exploring ways to get better expanded my horizons. In learning the proper ways to care for myself, I discovered my passion for health. It ignited my desire to help other women achieve better health in spite of their autoimmunity. Helping others has always been something I genuinely enjoy and was a large part of my life. Health coaching was a perfect fit. Once I dove into my health coaching certification, the idea of me eventually leaving my job began to take shape. Maybe I really could go before I hit 25 years. Maybe working as a health coach was a tangible option?
Coronavirus threw fuel on the sparks. I started questioning things even further. I think all of us did. When it was time for school to start, and the very real possibility of schools not reopening had to be discussed, my husband and I found ourselves seriously exploring if I would need to quit my job to stay at home with our boys. We went back and forth for weeks. I knew leaving my job way sooner than I had initially anticipated was what I would need to do if the situation presented itself, but the reality of actually doing that terrified me. My family would be losing my entire salary. I would be losing out on certain retirement benefits. I would be penalized and taxed if I touched my resignation payout within the next 20 years. What was I thinking?! Ultimately, schools did reopen and I did not have to leave my job when the Fall semester began. But you know what? In the midst of the fear surrounding a decision I felt I was going to be forced into, a certain level of clarity emerged. Maybe quitting my job was the right answer after all? Hey it’s 2020, apparently everything is fair game!
Now that I was not being forced into a decision, the doubts screamed louder. Could we actually do this?! I ran down the list of pros and cons. I am a list girl. I have always been a risk assessor and look for worst case scenarios. I am a security hungry, need-to-know-where-this-train-is-headed type of gal. I went over all of the what ifs. I thought of all of the possibilities. What if I left? What if I stayed? I what if-ed to ad nauseam. I what if-ed my husband to death. I compiled my lists and what ifs until my brain could think of no other potential outcomes. I excited myself. I scared myself. I went back and forth. It was not an easy decision by any means, but ultimately I knew the right thing to do.
It may not have been the “right” thing in anyone else’s mind, but it was definitely the right thing for me.
Last month, I noticed my bosses of my intent to resign at the end of the year. As I shared the plot twist with them, I was calm. The fear I expected to arise never did appear. I knew with every bone in my body that this was exactly the right decision for me.
I would be lying if I said I was not a little nervous about their reaction, I’m a recovering people pleaser after all, but as it turned out they could not have been more supportive. I think a lot of times, we hold ourselves back from what we want or need because we are fearful of how others will react. We become overly concerned with other peoples’ opinions. We stop ourselves from doing what is best for us because we worry about the judgements of people who are not living our lives.
My health and the wellbeing of my family became bigger than my fear of leaving the security of a steady paycheck. In leaving my career, I am taking a big risk and a giant leap of faith. But I know, no matter what, I will be okay.
It boiled down to this: What kind of life did I want to live?
On December 21, 2020, I will wake up without having to be at a job. It will be the first time since I was 16 years old that I am not working for someone else. I will no longer have the promise of a steady paycheck. The comfort and structure of a loosely organized day will be a thing of the past.
And with that I will have more time to be a present mom. My boys will no longer be in afterschool care, and I will have more time to spend with them. My youngest has a year and a half of preschool left. I plan on taking advantage of that fleeting time with him before he’s off to school too. There will be no more rushing home to get dinner on the table, pack tomorrow’s lunches, do homework, take baths, and straight to bed only to rinse and repeat the following day. I am excited for the opportunity to explore my cookbooks and make new, healthy meals for my family instead of sticking to the tried and true dinners we always seem to rely on because we’re in a rush.
I will have more time for my business, Thriving on Ashes Coaching. I will no longer be juggling my 9-5 with building the business I am most passionate about. With dedicated work hours, I will no longer be dividing my evenings between my family and my jobs. I will not need to force myself to work when I am rundown or in a flare. I will have more energy to focus on helping other mamas living with autoimmune disease to calm their symptoms in a way that allows them to live their best lives.
In quitting my career I am affording myself a fresh start. I don’t plan on wasting it.
My entire life I have done what was expected of me. I followed the plans and paths set out before me. I met the expectations that I believed were placed on my life. I never really disappointed. I never really exceeded. Average was my speed, and I had always been okay with that. It was fine, until it wasn’t.
Doing everything the “right” way, the “expected” way did not keep me safe. It was stressful, and I have realized I was doing myself a disservice by living my life for everyone else. With psoriatic arthritis, my life boldly changed when I never asked for it to. So now what? To protect my health, and to be the best mother, wife, and me I can be, I have chosen to take action. Being bold was never my goal, but autoimmune disease was never in my plans either.
We are given one life. Even when things don’t go as expected, you always have a choice in how you move forward. Maybe quitting your job isn’t an option. Heck, maybe you have no desire to leave yours, but I did and I am beyond fortunate that I can take advantage of that opportunity to benefit my health. I challenge you to ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to support your wellbeing? If not, what’s one bold thing you can do to improve your health, and better your life?