Writer, Sara Mann, of the Sanity Plan shares her story on how following her heart changed her life.
When the Path to Your Calling is Not Straight or Clear
I bet most of us have a few dreams we’ve tucked away, deemed impractical or too hard to reach. And the longer they sit in the back of our minds, the layers of excuses bury them like dust in the attic.
I have had several callings in my lifetime. Some were clear and easy to achieve. I have always been passionate about traveling, my interest sparked by travel when I was young. So, I studied abroad twice in college, a semester in England and a short course in Hong Kong. Both trips are included in the highlights of my life.
My career calling was not as clear. I studied Psychology because I was fascinated by how the mind works, only to decide that becoming a Psychologist was not the career for me. I stumbled into a job in Finance after my degree because I’d worked in banking while going to school. The reason I continued? It seemed like a steady career path with plenty of opportunities. I think it was easy for me to follow in my father’s footsteps of being a career person; working in one field and one industry was very straightforward.
I struggled to find my place in Finance. Every job I had would contain aspects that I loved and aspects that I hated. I wanted to be able to be more creative and adventurous in my work. In an effort to advance and possibly expand my business opportunities, I signed on for a fancy MBA program (read: expensive). This program was awesome in the way it opened up my thinking and broadened my world viewpoint. But, it didn’t ultimately lead to any practical career progression.
I went back to work in Finance afterwards, stuck on the track I’d already established. Due to poor economic times, I was forced to take an entry level job that didn’t even require a Master’s Degree. I ended up staying at this company for more than 5 years, and finally moved into a position that I truly enjoyed. It was a great combination of strategy and finance, which I loved. And to top it off, I was able to telecommute and it commanded a higher salary than the area in which I was living.
But, despite all the perks, something else was calling me.
And that something was actually someone: my daughter. During those past 5 years, I’d gotten married, bought a home, and started a family. And here in front of me was a little person that was everything I’d ever needed or wanted. But, practicality won. How could I give up a great salary and the ability to work from home to stay home with her full time? I couldn’t. Not yet.
It killed me inside. I watched our nanny get to do all of the things I wanted to do with her. I shoved it down and put it aside. Moved forward. Trudged through another year of working, while my heart was pulled homeward.
Then, completely out of the blue, my department was eliminated in the first round of mass layoffs. This became the catalyst that finally changed my direction.
I was 8 months pregnant with my son, so I decided to give myself 1 year at home after he was born, taking the time to enjoy both my children.
Staying home opened up new doors for me. Because I was no longer caught in the rat race, my creativity began to flow back into my life. Without deadlines and passionless work to suck me dry, I began to dream again. I spent time doing things just because I enjoyed them.
I even took a short job working for a startup, which juiced me up again about business and entrepreneurship. I was able to be much more loyal to myself now, though, and when I found it wasn’t working for me, I quit.
By this point, a very old calling of mine had resurfaced: my love of writing.
A writer was the only thing I had ever wanted to be. Everything else I’d done career wise felt as though I had been pushed into by external forces. My writing dream, however, had been squashed by my father out of practicality. “You’ll never make any money writing,” he’d told me when I was a young child. I have often thought of writing throughout my adult life but never actually put pen to paper.
I decided it was time. I had nothing stopping me now. I started writing. I started The Sanity Plan, to detail my family’s journey to carve our own path. I started to learn the ropes, humbled by my new venture. To my surprise, my writing began to be read, and published.
By the time 2017 arrived, writing had become an integral part of my life. I completed a personal essay writing class and hired a writing coach to help me with my long-term goals. I obtained a regular writing position in addition to my own site.
Right now, I work hard to balance both of these callings. There are times when writing is easy and there are times when my home life completely interferes.
I am still not sure what the future holds. Maybe someday I’ll return to corporate work in some capacity. Maybe someday I’ll create a product and start my own company. But no matter what, you can be sure I will remain devoted to my family and my writing.
They are no longer just dreams.
Sara Mann is trying to keep the peace in a household of 5 on overdrive. She writes about her strategies for keeping sane (mostly) at The Sanity Plan and @thesanityplan on Twitter, @thesanityplan on Facebook, and @thesanityplan on Pinterest.