Years ago, when I worked in the financial services industry, I remember a colleague vividly describing Black Monday – the single biggest one-day drop in the stock market at the time.
“I was surrounded by co-workers doubled over their trash cans throwing up,” he said, “It was sheer panic as we watched what seemed to be the market whittling away to nothing. Panic over their own money. Panic over their clients’ money. One guy threw his desk chair at the window, hoping to hurl it – followed by himself – right on through. Damndest thing about windows in a high rise building though, they don’t break that easily.”
I was too young to be in the game back then, but I’m in certainly in it now.
For years, I just let myself ride the market, taking advice from trusted advisors along the way, but for the most part, I allowed everything to sit where it was because, after all, it was comfortable. It was working for me.
In the last few years, I have seen glimmers of hope that perk up my ears enough to start paying attention again. Enough to watch, heart racing, as things started to look more promising.
But I’ve also held on tightly (breath held) as I’ve watched what I value drop in a steep, scary descent.
In 2018, we are calmed by calling these “market corrections.”
But I wonder, how long do you hold on to the hope that there’s another, more permanent (but steady) upswing somewhere on the horizon before you give up on it? At what point do you realize that your investment is not working for you as much as you work for it?
And I realize now that it’s time not just time for the stock market to correct itself. It’s time for my own market correction.
Which is exactly why I quit my job – why I’m quitting on an investment that doesn’t feel right anymore. And exactly why I’m focusing on me.
But I am not panicked. I’m not doubled over my trash can throwing up.
I stand desk chair in hand, ready to throw it through any barrier that may try to stop me from achieving my dreams.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morning to find my tiny cactus (the bomb) missing from its little ceramic pot.
Imagine my even bigger surprise when I opened the washing machine door only to find the spiny green succulent wrapped in a towel sitting inside – ya know, just in case it hadn’t been defused.
This is how my sleeping patterns went for years – so much so, that I worried that when I went off to college I would walk clear out of my dorm to God-knows-where.
When my boyfriend (then husband, then eventually ex-husband) first moved in with me, I prepared him for the worst, “I walk and talk in my sleep. You just kind of have to… talk me out of it.”
So, he wasn’t surprised the first time when he woke up to me sitting upright and slyly reaching for his toes at the end of the bed.
He was also not surprised when we awoke one morning to find a large painting carefully removed from our bedroom wall and sitting in a different part of the room.
Or when, in the middle of a website redesign for my job, I woke up laughing hysterically because (and I quote) “You can’t use wingdings as a font!”
I think at some point, he just started to sleep through it all – which was fine, because I learned how to talk myself out of it without any outside help.
If I was having a conversation on the phone, for example, I learned to say to the phantom voice on the other end, “I don’t think this is real. I think I’m dreaming,” and then I’d press the receiver (my hand) to my face for confirmation. (Interestingly, in phone call dreams, I still always had the courtesy to say goodbye and hang up the phone.)
Twenty-some years later, my sleep is far less active (but no more restful). My dreams are left to the daytime when I fantasize about what’s next for me as a writer.
I find myself regularly questioning whether this writing thing is really going to take off or whether it’s just a ridiculous dream.
I suppose at this point it doesn’t really matter though – as long as I don’t talk myself out of it.
To my youngest as you talk about your career goals,
Sometime before you had even hit the age of eight, you looked at me wide-eyed and asked, “Mommy, when I’m older can I be a police officer [like his father] or a soldier [like his grandfathers before him]?”
I choked back the tears just thinking about every implication of those career options and replied, “I will support you no matter what career you choose, as long as you are kind, make an honest living and can support yourself by doing it.”
Today, my dear, as you told me for the one-hundredth time that you now want to be a professional video gamer and I rolled my eyes at the thought (again), I realized that I lied to you. I wasn’t supporting you “no matter what career you choose”. I was casting judgment on what seemed to me to be a silly way to make a living.
And I know I’m not the only one who’s done it to you. Just the other day, you told me how one of your teachers snickered when you did a presentation on what you want to do when you grow up. I’ll admit it, I silently nodded in agreement with her while you told the story.
Perhaps it was the sudden gut-punch of recognizing the pain lurking behind your eyes that no one understood – that no one was listening to you – that made me realize my mistake.
At that point, you were my mirror, son.
You were the mirror of every look, every tear, every doubting thought (from myself and others) that prevents me from abandoning a successful career to pursue my own passions.
How had I missed that before now?
I mean, I wrote an entire book about pursuing your passion… and just a few days ago, I gave a talk about how to bring your passion to life!
But here’s the thing, son. When it comes to you, my job is to get you going down the right path to make smart decisions in life. So while I cannot say that I agree with your current choice for your future and I cannot promise that I won’t roll my eyes once in a while, I can promise you that from here on out, I will be more understanding and will arm you with the tools to make those smart and right decisions in life – no matter what career path you choose.
You will continue to work hard for good grades in school
You can and should practice your passion wholeheartedly, but you will not shirk your responsibilities in doing so and must still abide by all rules related to game-play time
You will make your mark as someone who is kind, honest and sportsmanlike on and off the field (no matter what field you choose)
You will go out of your way to learn more about this career path and all the required steps to pursue it (and be successful at it) and then make your best effort
You will understand and respect the possible impact of your choices on you, your family and your friends and take a step back when and if called upon to do so
If you can commit to all that, son, then I promise you we will work together to pursue your wonderful.
But just remember that one day, you’ll still need to support yourself.