Backward = forward

Today, I started a new job, which is actually my old job that I left 3-1/2 years ago.

It’s one of the few times in my life where going backward actually means I’m going forward. How is this possible?

I’ve spent the last 3-1/2 years working in an extremely challenging work environment, culminating in a department where bullying is the norm. It’s bad enough for someone without a history of severe trauma to deal with bullying and severe daily stress, but for me, it has been emotionally and even physically devastating.

Thanks to the kindness and love of a good friend/colleague, whom I first met when I was in this role previously, I was asked to come back. Today is my first day in my new/old job, and it’s been the easiest first day ever. Familiar and friendly faces, fun work projects, nice work environment.

Honestly, it feels like I’ve been let out of prison. Or thrown a life line. Or been given a second chance. Name the cliche’, and that’s how it feels.

But the biggest reason it feels like a step forward is because now, with a really good 9-to-5 setup, I feel free.

Ironic, right? Working 9-to-5 but feeling free?

My mind is free: free to pursue my entrepreneurial goals during the rest of my time, which I’m doing actively every single day. Free to pursue my physical goals of regaining my health by going back to the gym. Free to pursue my emotional goals of (nearly) eliminating stress in my daily life and tuning in to my own voice consistently. (More on this last point in an upcoming post, something that can be very helpful to trauma survivors.)

Yes, I’m in a cubicle. But for the first time in my life, I don’t care. I feel free.

Correction: I AM FREE.


I can’t outrun it

Photo by my daughter

Sometimes I feel like, if I just keep moving, keep doing, I can get rid of it.

I can leave it behind in the last block, turn a corner and be done with it.

Get on a plane.

Take a bus.

Ride the subway.

Leave it at the gate.

At the stop.

On the platform.

But it’s always with me.

It always will be with me.

I’ll never outlive it; it wells up inside me without warning and spills out of my eyes for no apparent reason.

I’ll never be rid of it; it seeps into my body overnight, rushing through my dreams like scalding hot water.

So I look for ways to cope: exercise, work, therapy, prayer, acupressure.

On days like today, I just wish I could run faster. But then I remember.

I can’t outrun trauma.

This is why I’m doing what I’m doing

Yesterday, I saw a posting on Facebook that really made an impact on me. It was by a blogger that I read fairly regularly, and it was a photograph of a list he wrote about a year ago, outlining his “major life purpose.”

He said that he had no idea that just a year or so later, he would have reached all of the goals he set for himself.

So I decided it was time to write out my own “major life purpose.” Although I wrote many things, my life’s purpose boils down to this: I want to create a life in which I’m free to be myself, work for myself and be “location independent” — all so that I’m able to live near my daughter.

Several years ago, I had a similar goal. When my daughter was in second grade, I made a promise to myself that by the time she was in middle school, I’d be able to be home at 3 pm every day.

I reached that goal. I was really proud of myself for doing it, too, because it was tough. In order to do it, I had to get two master’s degrees (and incur some student loan debt) and hustle like crazy to get work that would allow me to telecommute and/or set my own schedule. All in a small, rural city where work was definitely not plentiful.

As I wrote out my major life purpose today, I realized that what fulfills me is being a good mother to my daughter, even now that she’s grown. She still needs me. Not in the same way, of course, but she and I both agreed recently that we’d like to live near each other, travel together, spend time together. We love each other and share a bond that is beautiful, despite being forged, in part, through our tragic life circumstances.

If I could reach my goal back then, I know that I can do it now, too. Not to be home at 3 pm, but to be a safe harbor for my daughter, an open embrace whenever she needs it.