Reflections on 10 Years

On 10 Years

I went to an event recently in Nashville. The energy was high but the mood was relaxed. Music and laughter filled the air while trays of wine and gourmet pastries floated around the room. There were a lot of creative types mingling with each other and it was one of those parties where everyone eventually asks what creative field you work in. I fumbled over my answer almost every time I spoke with someone.

“Oh, uh, I’m a barista … and I do admin work for my husband’s design company.”

“Yeah, but you must be doing something creatively. Everyone is creative.”

I graduated high school ten years ago. On one hand, the start of college seems like a lifetime ago but also like yesterday. A lot of things happened while I was in college. One of those things was marriage. I got married young, at least according to the national average. In the middle of handing in final end-of-year projects for my junior year of college, I was walking down the aisle. I don’t regret that day or the decision of timing. When I graduated, I wasn’t exactly sure what my life would look like in five+ years, heck, even six months. I just needed a job with benefits and so I found one.

I commuted 60 miles a day for 2.5 years. My job in Chicago was for a big name that all of you would recognize. I took pride in saying the name. It was fun and I enjoyed the people I worked with, but after a while my personal well-being suffered. I didn’t have the energy to cook dinner, regularly workout, or maintain relationships with friends and family in the way I wanted and needed. Almost all my extra time was spent commuting! Jordan and I went through a period of time where we hardly shared a day off together. It was straining for our young marriage.

I took a long hard look at my situation and realized the pace I was on wasn’t sustainable. I would ask myself, “Is this all there is to life?” The big catalyst happened when I realized my time spent in my car each week was over 10 hours. Some people decide that their job is worth a long commute. Not for me. Once my school loans were paid off, I left my job in the city and went to work as a barista. I went from an hour drive each way to work, to just about five minutes. The pay cut was significant, but many things were also cut in the process; the cost of gas, meals, work clothes etc. were drastically reduced. It’s not a glamorous job, but my life is more fulfilling. I get to spend more time with the people and activities that bring me real joy.

Because I work in retail and am not a manager, many people assume I’m still in school or have another reason why I don’t work in an office (ie. not qualified, motivated etc). What they don’t know is I came to a realization that to live a fulfilling life, I had to find a way to provide benefits but not sacrifice relationships. I’ve determined my values, but I still find myself slightly embarrassed when I respond with what I do for work.

In the past 3 1/2 years, I haven’t had to turn down seeing friends when they visit. I’m able to participate in hobbies such as blogging and baking or to help a friend with last-minute babysitting. I get to go on some amazing adventures. I’m living in community. Jordan went freelance 7 months after I changed my career path and I was able to take on more responsibilities in our day-to-day life to help balance his new workload. It’s been amazing.

Jordan and I work hard, but we work hard to live a full life.

Maybe my newly graduated self would be a little surprised that she’s not yet a mother or homeowner, but I also think she’d be proud to know she took risks, cultivated deep friendships and traveled to places she always dreamed about (like Europe!).

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21 thoughts on “Reflections on 10 Years”

  1. I kept picking out sentences from this post to quote and say, “This one’s my favorite!” but this is all so good, Catherine. It would probably have to be this: “she’d be proud to know she took risks, cultivated deep friendships and traveled to places she always dreamed about.” Yes, yes, yes. I love how much my own career story mirrors this — I was wasting all my time commuting (living in Chicago), so I became a server for a while and then took a job in a new field — a job I now really love — at a significant pay cut. Every penny lost was worth it. You’re right to be proud of the life you’ve built for yourself and with Jordan. <3

  2. I agree with you about commuting. I made the decision to move to a crew base when I started flying so I would not have to spend 2 additional days a week commuting to work.

  3. I admire this SO much. I think if people lived more intentionally–seeking out the things that truly matter, rather than what they think looks good or is valuable–more people would make the kinds of changes you’re talking about. You are inspiring!

    1. Thank you, Anna! You are right about intentional living and some of that comes with time because it takes time to fully understand what your priorities are as an adult and as a spouse. I’m so thankful that Jordan was willing to take the leap with me!

  4. You’ve definitely made the right choice in changing jobs! I’m a graphic designer and recently gave up a really nice paying job for the uncertainty of unemployment, for many of the reasons you listed (switch your commute time with a terrible set of managers for me, and we’re set.) We haven’t had as much spending money, etc, but it has been so nice to have the freedom and piece of mind. I love doing freelance from home when I can get it, and I’ve said many times that going back to being a barista would be the perfect job for me! (I can design during off times!) If we weren’t moving so soon I would have already tried to land a job in a coffee shop somewhere. Maybe after we get settled!

    1. It was a risk when Jordan left his job especially considering you can’t live off of a barista’s paycheck. There were many months when I worried that it just wouldn’t work out. We’re just now at a place where I see the hard work paying off.

      But a barista position is great for when you have another side endeavor. Good luck!

  5. I’m so pleased to be reading about how you’ve led your life, Catherine! I know it can feel weird to “justify” our choices to others, but we make them for a reason. And good for you for not turning down friends’ visits and also making time to travel! Tons of people don’t realize how important those things are until they’re much older.

  6. These reflections were so fun to read! I think it’s great that you have work life balance and I don’t think you should feel bad about that in the least. As a physician, my job is basically the opposite of balanced and I struggle with that all the time.

    1. Thank you, Kelly. I don’t know how medical professionals do it! Hats off to you! Many of my customers work at Vanderbilt and are always in need of some extra caffeine. πŸ˜‰

  7. I love this post. I have spent the better part of the last 30 years figuring this out. Thinking I needed to have a “real” job, something impressive etc. What I found is that whatever I decide to do with my time is important. My time is valuable and I need to enjoy my work whatever it is, paid or unpaid, office or not. I choose people over potential. Relationships over regulations. Thanks so much for your insight!

  8. This post helps my heart so much! I too get that nervous knot in my stomach when someone asks what it is “I do,” when the answer is really a hodgepodge of multiple things that I never really feel adds up to a career. But I love all the little pieces of what I do and I think that is the most important part. And I think even though your self 10 years ago may be surprised at where you are today, your self 50 years from now will be overwhelmed at the sense of fulfillment you lived out during the time you were given. Love this post!

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