A Lost Decade, Saved Unexpectedly
I entered this decade with my head in the sand. Head down, plowing forward with no vision, I managed to survive my existence day-to-day. But there wasn't much joy in it. It was shaping up to be a lost decade. But I learned something counter intuitive along the way that, in the end, transformed it completely...
In The Beginning
I rolled into 2010 with a house, a wife, a corporate job, two cats, a minivan, and three kids between the ages of 1 and 6. As a child of 1970 (not the 70s, literally 1970), I knew that I was heading towards my 40th birthday later that year. I didn't know what else I was headed towards.
I also thought that I knew a few other things.
* I "had to" work a corporate job to provide for my family.
* It was "up to me" to "make sure" that my wife and kids were happy.
* There "wasn't time" for my hobbies, let alone any desires or ambitions.
* Staying "productive and responsible" was "the most important thing" I could do.
There's a not so subtle thread in that list if you read it closely. It's all about everyone else, not me. See, I had long viewed the word "selfish" with disdain. Unfortunately I misunderstood its meaning and took on a stance of doing for others endlessly so that I wouldn't feel selfish.
It's no surprise that these were the outcomes:
* My career had become passionless. I openly and regularly joked about my soul being crushed. (In retrospect: Yikes!)
* I stopped being interesting, fun, and sexy to my wife.
* I began to feel two-dimensional, like only two things in life mattered: my kids and working.
The Inevitable Crash
Gripping the sands of my life ever more tightly with each year created a result that I hadn't foreseen, yet was entirely predictable. I lost almost all of it. It spilled right through my fingers as I grasped harder and harder.
By 2013 the house, the wife, the cats, and the minivan were all gone. (I wasn't that sad about the cats and the minivan, but still...) What was left? Those two dimensions - the three kids that I adored and the corporate job that was grinding me into dust.
The dream - or perhaps a better word is "mirage" - that was in front of me at the start of the decade had vanished. In its place was emptiness and loss. On a few occasions I fell into bouts of depression and I struggled to see much hope for my future. Most of the time I just wanted to survive it.
Losing my grandmother in late 2015 brought me to a new level of despair. Belatedly recognizing that she had been a primary care giver, I struggled to understand why my grief, which was mixed with intense stress from my ongoing divorce and my job, was so deep. I experienced a profound period of burnout. I felt like I had reached the bottom of the pit.
The Last Hurrah?
Despite my super-responsible tendencies, in the wake of my grandmother's death I checked out for a month and stopped working to get my head straight.
Yes, you understood that right. My antidote to decades of putting my focus on everyone else in my life, and finally reaching a crushing conclusion, was to take a one month break. One month. And then I jumped right back into it!
Wanna know the best part? Within a few weeks of my return to work, I achieved the long-awaited promotion I had been building towards for years. I was now the President of a company. I had reached my professional peak!! Right?
Wrong. While I had great experience for the job, worked incredibly hard at it, and was very effective in many ways, I was still giving myself away to other people. I wasn't doing the job for me. I was doing it for the status, for the accomplishment, and for the benefit of others. As I've become fond of saying since, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should".
So in late 2016 I decided to walk away from my dream job. Partially crushed and partially relieved, I looked forward to a new beginning. I had learned started to learn something important.
I thought it would happen immediately. But time is funny. It ended up taking a couple more years and a challenging detour until I arrived at...
The Best For Last
I almost didn't get to my "best for last". See, I took a detour back into something "safe". Following "common wisdom", I took another corporate job, one that felt easy. Unsurprisingly I quickly started to find stress, soul-pain, and misery again. The problem was I wasn't honoring that thing I'd started to learn in 2016, but which I didn't yet trust.
That key lesson, the one that was counter intuitive for me? I needed to keep the focus on myself.
I don't mean that in a selfish way, of course. Rather, I finally understood how to do that in a way that honors my values, that gets me excited, that makes me an interesting, lively, and fun person to be around. I got honest with myself and what I really wanted from my life, not what I thought everyone else wanted from me.
So in the middle of 2018, I finally took the last big step of the decade. I pulled my head up out of the sand, looked around and saw something calling to me. I became "The Centered Coach", opening a doorway to use my passions, experience, and skills to help people slow things down, connect with their true selves and those around them, and create as joyful an existence as they can.
It has been, after all, a great decade.
I can't wait to see what the 20's has to offer!!!
Epi(b)logue: A Surprising List
Despite my struggles this past decade, I gratefully have a long, fun list of things to celebrate:
I jumped out of an airplane
I ran two half-marathons
I served on my city's school committee (I won the election in late 2009...)
I went swimming in 38 degree water (intentionally) and loved it
I took up a new hobby - improv! - and fell in love
I sang "It's Good to be King" with a live band in front of a live audience at a club
I performed in dozens of improv comedy shows in front of live audiences
I rebuilt a loving relationship with my ex-wife, with whom I co-parent three wonderful kids
I bought an old house and made it a new home
I re-dedicated myself to learning and found a passionate new career
I discovered that I have a broad and deep range of emotions
I committed myself to being the best Dad I can possibly be
I put the focus on myself.
Jim Young focuses on creating harmony and joy in the world, starting with himself. Because we all know the analogy from the airplane safety instructions about putting the oxygen mask on ourselves first. (Right, Jim?) ((Right.))
Jim still loves to help people, too. He just does it now from a much more centered place. (Get it??) If you are looking to refocus where your life, which includes your work, is headed as we start up a new decade, Jim would love to share his experiences, passions, and skills with you to help you discover what's been calling to you.
You can set up a free, 2-hour coaching session with Jim to see if coaching could help you start a great new chapter by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.