Living Your Dream

Last weekend I attended the Quitter Conference in Nashville. Quitter is a book written by Jon Acuff that talks about the right way to transition from your day job to your dream job. The conference was an extension of that book. I know, I know…I don’t have a job so how in the world does this topic pertain to me? I wondered that too but one of the sessions offered was a writers workshop that I knew would offer much advice and words of wisdom for this aspiring writer.

Truth be told, figuring out my “dream job” is something I’ve always struggled with – more so over the past year of not working. When I was little I wanted to be a teacher. Then I worked as a teacher’s aid and quickly realized there was more to that job than I wanted. As a teenager I wanted to be a doctor. Then I worked as a nurse’s aid at the hospital and quickly realized there was more to that job than I wanted. When I enrolled in college I decided on psychology as my major – I was going to be a psychologist. It didn’t take long before (you guessed it) I realized that was not the profession for me. A few weeks after graduation I got an office job. It’s been nearly 10 years and I just sort of floated from desk to desk without giving much thought to what I really wanted to do with my life.

I never wanted to be a stay at home mom. At least I didn’t think I did. When I was pregnant with Mikayla, Mike and I took a tour of one of the day care centers we had chosen. As soon as we hit the parking lot after our tour I had an emotional break down. There wasn’t anything wrong with the day care – it was a fine day care – but it was very apparent to me that I wanted to be at home with my baby. I worked from home for a while then worked part time for a while then did some babysitting for a while. All still floating along from opportunity to opportunity without much thought about what I really wanted to do with my life.

For the last eight months I have been completely unemployed. This is the first time since I was 14 that I’m not earning an income. This is the first time that my day to day productivity isn’t being monitored or approved or paid for. I’ve struggled with this sense of guilt over not working. I felt like I needed to be making money to be “living my dream” and I couldn’t figure out a “job” that would fit my definition of “dream” and still allow me to make money and still be home with Mikayla. Plus I felt guilty for not contributing to our family income. I had assumed (incorrectly, as it turns out) that Mike wanted me to contribute financially and that I was letting him down.

I went to the Quitter Conference – not because I want to quit what I’m doing now but because I was hoping to figure out what in the world I want to do with my life. It really was a great conference. Jon Acuff is a very engaging speaker and he’s funny – hours passed quickly even though we were sitting elbow to elbow with a bunch of strangers in chairs that were made for tall people (my feet barely hit the floor, sadly, not a joke). The presentation and environment were top notch – it was evident that the Dave Ramsey team is an old pro when it comes to putting together events like this. And we got some cool free stuff – a t-shirt, a Hello Somebody watch and poster, and a journal. Free stuff is awesome!!

The content presented was even awesomer!! We kicked off the weekend with a session about figuring out your passion. The idea being that if you can figure out what you’re passionate about you’ll find a ton of job opportunities that allow you to live that passion – rather than figuring out a specific job and hoping you’ll be passionate about it. I won’t describe every session, but it was really good, solid content all weekend long. Not all of it applied specifically to me – since I’m not currently working in a job. But every discussion had principles that could be applied to all of life – not just a day job. I’m so glad I went and would definitely encourage others to attend the next conference.

Just before lunch on Saturday I talked with a woman sitting behind me. She was attending the conference with her husband. She said she was already living her dream but wanted to be supportive of him. They have three children which she home schools and they recently finished the licensing process to be foster parents. We talked about the conference and about what we’d learned so far. Then she said something that caught my attention – that even though she was already living her dream the things she’d learned at the conference had challenged her to find new ways to make her day to day life more fulfilling both for her and her children.

I wondered if that could be true for me as well. I wondered if my dream job was the one I never thought I wanted. It occurred to me that perhaps the guilt I was feeling about not having a paying job was self imposed and unnecessary. I spent the next few days thinking about the things I love to do – reading, writing, teaching Mikayla – and about the things I used to love but haven’t done in a while. I thought about what would happen if my day to day life remained pretty much the same but I let go of the guilt I was feeling about not having an income. My guess is that I’d enjoy my day to day life quite a bit more and would overall be happier and more content. I bet I’d be better at doing the things I love just by allowing myself to do them without feeling unnecessary pressure to make money.

I’m not sure I have it all figured out. I feel like I’m still processing things I learned from the conference as well as my own thoughts and feelings. What I do know is that I’m truly blessed to be able to stay home with my daughter. I’m truly blessed to have a husband who goes to work everyday and actually does make money so that we don’t starve. For those things I am thankful. And, for now, I think I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m freeing myself from the pressure to get a job and enjoying day to day life with my sweet family.

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8 responses to “Living Your Dream

  1. Jenna B. February 18, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Thanks for sharing this! I hope to go to the next Quitter Conf, if there is one… I can relate to much of your struggle in finding your passion. I work full time now, but spent many years as a stay at home mom. I’m feeling a bit ‘stuck’ at the moment, but am working through that. I love that you realize maybe the guilt you are feeling is self imposed. My kids are pretty much grown, and those years spent at home are something I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world. I wish you all the best as you seek to fill your days with awesomeness. 🙂

    • Chrystal February 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM

      I would definitely recommend attending the conference – or at least read the Quitter book if you haven’t already. Lots of great advice. It’s encouraging to know I’m not alone in feeling “stuck” sometimes. Thanks so much Jenna.

  2. CyndaP February 18, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Chrystal, I, too, never thought I’d be a stay at home mom. Talk to any of my college friends and they’ll all tell you that I was going to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Women in management were not that common in my field – aerospace engineering, but I had it made. The company was paying for my Master’s degree when I got pregnant. It was a planned pregnancy, we were both employed, our careers were on the fast track and we could afford a nanny for the baby. Long story short, I never returned to my career, but like you I felt guilty. I continued my Master’s degree and graduated after my second child was born. I planned to go back to the corporate world when the children entered school or sooner if possible. When they were in the first and third grades, I was offered a wonderful executive job with a fabulous company that had a track record for being family friendly. That’s when it finally hit me – I wanted to be a mom, not a corporate executive. It was an incredible moment. I stayed home, home schooled my children for several years, and watched them grow into fabulous adults. They both graduated in the top of their high school class and attended (and graduated from) top tier colleges. Now, I’m an empty nester and have gone back to the work force, not as an executive, but making a difference for my employer and the people we serve. Let me encourage you – be a mom, enjoy your time with Mikayla, make home a refuge for your husband, write about your experiences, hone your skills as you can. What you are doing has eternal significance. You are blessed to realize this sooner than I did.

  3. Melissa February 18, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    I attended the Quitter conference last year and shared similar thoughts to yours, though slightly modified. “I felt like I needed to be making [more] money to be ‘living my dream’ and I couldn’t figure out a ‘job’ that would fit my definition of ‘dream’ and still allow me to make [more] money.” Before the conference, I thought a higher paying job in my field would be my dream job. I foolishly believed the problem was lack of income, not lack of passion. How wrong I was!

    The conference and book gave me clarity, and I wrote out some dreams I’ve had over the years: be a stay at home mom (I’m 30 and still single, so I can’t count on this one), start a company (my passion is residential construction and this isn’t the right time to enter the market), be a college professor…that one was intriguing to me. I’m not sure it’s my “dream job” but it has definite possibilities. The first step towards this dream is to obtain a Master’s degree. I mailed my grad school applications and now have to wait an agonizing 2 months to find out if I’ve been accepted.

    I’m trying to prepare myself in the event I don’t get accepted. I will try to remember what you said “I’m freeing myself from the pressure to get a [dream] job and enjoying day to day life…” I have so many personal dreams and goals that have nothing to do with employment. So, I will focus on those until I figure out what my dream job is. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reminding me not to miss out on life while I try to figure out my career.

    • Chrystal February 18, 2012 at 11:31 PM

      Waiting for answers is quite possibly one of the worst things in life. I can sympathize with what you’re feeling (and will be feeling for 2 whole months). It’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one trying to figure this thing out. Good luck with school and thanks for sharing your story Melissa.

  4. unknownjim February 18, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Great post Chrystal! I was at the conference as well and this is a fantastic recap. I think my biggest take away from the conference is this: be excited and passionate about using your gifts everyday, even when you feel like you have nothing to give, dig deeper and work even harder. That and we need each other to succeed. Having a brag table is important too.

    • Chrystal February 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM

      Thanks Jim! I too think that having fellow quitters/dreamers is important. That was one of the great things about the conference – getting to meet others going through a similar journey.

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