Back in 2008, I quit teaching. It was a career I had loved for 19, 20 years, one I had poured my heart and soul into.
But I gradually found myself losing my passion, feeling that teaching was more “work” than “love.” I had promised myself that if I found myself getting bitter, poisoning the environment around me as I’d seen others do as they hung on to make it to the required 30 years for retirement – and if I had the financial option – I would quit.
I’d quit when I felt the bitterness seeping in.
And so I did. I quit teaching after 23 years in the classroom.
I took what I called my “Jubilee Year” when I did what spoke to me. I took a couple of Western Excursions, I joined community groups, I helped a former student (and current friend) make a movie, I went on retreat.
I had a ball.
And as that Jubilee Year ended, I felt guilty that I wasn’t working, that I wasn’t being a productive member of society.
Where did I get that idea, the one that I had to be working and producing income to be “worthy”?? I have struggled with that guilt for the past five or more years.
Who am I and what is my value if I don’t have an income-producing job?
The guilt was a nagging undercurrent from the end of my Jubilee Year through my breast cancer journey and through my recovery time. When would I get a job and be “valuable” again? Was I just a slacker, somebody too lazy for our society, somebody who was not a worthwhile person?
I had beautiful experiences, got to spend time with people I loved in wonderful places both here at home and in my travels. I had the time to recover from cancer.
But still my lack of a job – and material, measurable output – worried me over and over, a current running under everything I did.
And then I had a breakthrough.
I realized that I had wasted so much time worrying about not having worth that I missed being in the moment, that I missed enjoying the beauty of the Now that was.
I wasn’t truly present because of my guilt. I missed the joys of what was right in front of me at each instant.
I realized that my whole perspective was stupid! What a lack of wisdom and insight . . . and trust.
I realized ONCE AGAIN that I’m not in control. That I’m blessed in innumerable ways. That I’ve had a financial situation that has let me not work and still not be in debt. That when the time is right, I’ll be back on the income-producing track, but that track doesn’t make me a more valuable human being than the one who didn’t have a job. That I can be out in the world seeking – and that what I need will come to me when I need it.
That if I trust and act and let go, that’s enough.
And that I can let myself appreciate what I do have in each moment. The health to take a walk and enjoy the blooming spring flowers. The once-stray cat who adopted me and who finally rolled over on her back to let me scratch her belly. The freedom to take a trip to Savannah and revel in the live oaks and azaleas and Spanish moss and the ships on the Savannah River. Time to start a new television series and binge watch on some days. Time to have long lunches with friends. Time to take a nap when I’m tired. Time to stay up late and sleep in sometimes. Free time with no obligations, no rushing around, no must-do list.
So many, many gifts. Ones I didn’t fully appreciate because of the lingering guilt I felt.
Until just recently.
And then I finally gave myself permission to enjoy the Now, to forgive myself for being too ignorant to let go of guilt about working, about being valuable, about contributing to society through a job.
Finally to let myself be blessed each day, each moment, each Now.