It’s safe to say that over the past 10 years my life has changed in ways I could never have imagined.
A decade ago I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with my first child in a long-term relationship that had become unfulfilling for both of us. To add to the complexity of the situation, I had recently heard news that my salaried role as a senior manager in the education sector had been made redundant.
No matter how impressive your wage, how senior your role, how well respected you are or how passionate your job makes you feel, living from pay cheque to pay cheque is a precarious position at the best of times. Throw in some undesired and/or unexpected change and you are looking at a situation with far reaching practical, emotional and financial implications.
Suddenly in free fall professionally, emotionally and financially, I found myself on a rollercoaster experience of personal discovery. I moved through separation from the father of my two children, the uncertainty of a new business set up, the challenges of single motherhood, near bankruptcy, living in a friend’s caravan and navigating the dating scene aged 40 to learning to love and trust again.
Until that point I had only ever known myself as a person for whom things went rather well most of the time. I discovered that you only truly know yourself when your back is against the wall; when you realize you don’t have all the answers you need at your disposal. When you don’t even know what question to ask in order to find the answer you are looking for.
That’s when life gets interesting; interesting magical and interesting downright scary. When the tools and approaches that you previously relied on no longer deliver a solution, you get curious. By necessity, you learn. You learn as a result of becoming more open to trying new things and listening to different perspectives. These conditions happen when you run out of answers at your fingertips. Then you find yourself getting curious about all sorts of things. It’s rather addictive in fact.
Pretty soon you realize that you can’t unlearn what you now know (and neither do you want to). You are fundamentally different as a person. The same at the core of course but altered in some way and you rather like it. Despite the struggle, despite the fear, you realize that if you were given the option to swallow a magic pill and go back to where you were to begin with… you wouldn’t take it. What you experienced as a result of being initially out of your depth and uncomfortable, ultimately delivers way more magic, excitement and insight than you would ever wish away.
For a while you are riding high. You feel euphoric, alive, invincible, different, compelling. You realize that you are achieving things that you didn’t dare to imagine possible. Your capacity to step outside your comfort zone and experience meaningful growth increases exponentially.
It’s important to bask in the glow and comfort of your successes awhile; to appreciate yourself for the distance you have travelled and the wisdom you have gathered. But I’ve learnt to become wary of a rest period that goes beyond its sell by date.
10 years on and I am married to someone so perfect for me that for most of my life I didn’t believe he existed. I have become the mother I aspired to be and now I have new parental aspirations. My life has shifted from fear and uncertainty to happiness and security. It’s a beautiful moment of grace when you achieve what you set out to be, do and have. And then like an old friend, a new symptom of unrest comes knocking . . . ignore it at your peril. It is your invitation to step up once more. Like any other feeling, comfort is not a permanent state and we are called to grow again.
You can’t expect a tiger to be happy in a terrarium.