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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