How My Side Business Helped Me Escape the Conditioning of My Family Upbringing and an Unfulfilling Office Job to Live the Life of My Dreams
I’m going to tell you the story I lived for 13 years…day in and day out…before I ever decided I could actually change it. And then I’m going to tell you how I freed myself from that prison of thought, of the indoctrination of people who raised me, those I worked with and the people who supervised me.
First of all, I…like many people of a certain generation or socially conditioned collective…thought that graduating high school and just getting stable employment with “the city” where I lived would be enough. Actually, when I got a position in the local government office of my hometown my family celebrated…you know, because the “health benefits are so good.”
While that may be true, it shows you the extent of ‘dreaming’ I was raised to believe I can accomplish. That the best I…a young, southern lady…could hope for was this cubicle outside the big boss’ office. That was the equivalent of attaining the brass ring in my family.
At the time, I thought I’d made it! Like, I really thought it was special to be in my position. I met and mingled with numerous politicians during working hours and was privy to a number of very important decision making meetings that impacted our community. Never mind that I was just taking notes and not a contributor of ideas. I was there, in the same room, with the mayor, city council members and members of the House of Representatives while they made decisions about me and people living at my income level…which wasn’t much. Looking back, I’m sure it was considered a perk of the job to be among such esteemed members of society. (eyeroll)
This way of thinking gave me a fixed mindset that I was “less than” the people around me. Less than because I wasn’t rich, less than because I didn’t live in a nicer part of town, less than because I didn’t have a college degree, less than because I was a female. Less than in nearly every way save for the fact that I was good enough to be hired and maintain this job for important people…people more important than me. It also made me incredibly compliant and unsure of myself so I rarely saw raises or bonuses. I was too scared to request such a thing for fear that I was replaceable by someone who would gladly accept less to fill the same role. This insipid thought process was just another way I “fell in line.”
You might wonder where I got such ideas about myself. Well, it began with my mother. She was a gentle and kind soul who loved nothing more than being a homemaker and raising children. She never thought of herself as anything more than someone’s wife and mother. This was her version of a fulfilling life, but she never thought I would want something more. Through her beliefs, it was instilled in me that I should be, do and want the same things she had attained. And because I was a well-mannered, respectful and dutiful daughter, I complied and took the path of least resistance. This path also happened to run the polar opposite of my wildest dreams.
The ladies at the office were a lot like my mother. They played mother hen and also office gossips…though they would probably be profoundly insulted if anyone ever referred to them as such. They sucked all the fun right out the room with their practical approaches to, nearly, everything. They made judgments and talked incessantly about other people…especially other women.
In the beginning I overlooked all the bad because I was a glass-half-full individual. I woke up happy and felt genuinely good, most of the time. My boss referred to me as “a breath of fresh air.” I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought until I was entrenched in the job and well into the first year of working the position. It became glaringly obvious that my outlook ran in deep contrast to the women I worked with on a daily basis. Then I began to notice that the happier and more positive I was the less kind and more negatively they treated me. In short, I wasn’t “one of them.”
Well, being the team player and in staying with the compliant manner in which I was raised, that just wouldn’t do. I had to be accepted and part of their group. So I did the only thing I could do to earn their acceptance…I lowered myself, I dimmed my light, I flew under the radar and joined in their circle of gossip and meddling. And I felt just AWFUL all the time!
But I was accepted into the fold, and at the time that mattered most to my limited way of thinking.
Then, suddenly, my mother died. It was painful, and a hole was left in my heart. But something else was left, also…a deep void of unrealized dreams. The more I thought about the box my mother lived in, having never traveled far outside our community, having lived a life in service to everyone else, (which is a wonderful gift to me and my brothers and sisters, and is to be commended)…I wondered how much of my life I was living simply because that’s what was modeled for me. Was there another way? Where was I? What did life mean for me?
Quite plainly, I was lost. I had to determine my place in the world.
I ran into an old classmate. She and I had been very close friends throughout grade school and into high school, we hadn’t stayed in touch after she moved to the coast. We met for lunch one afternoon and spent time catching up on the past 13 years. She had so much to talk about, having traveled to four different countries, with photos to illustrate her gloriously, extravagant lifestyle. I don’t mean extravagant luxury, but rather engrossing adventures!
When we got to the part of our conversation where I could share my story, I just didn’t have much to say, and I broke down in tears. This was a moment of stark realization that I had wasted some of the best years of my life with little to show for the time. I was devastated. I was more sad and alone than I’d ever felt in my entire life.
Never one to stew in negativity, my friend comforted me and listened, and then she opened a door of opportunity I didn’t even realize was possible. It was the first time in many years that I recalled being hopeful, free and inspired.
My friend, an angel in human form, shared HOW she managed to create this grand lifestyle, without limitations, with her home-based business. She only worked it on the side, in the beginning, but it quickly became the vehicle she used to fuel her travels and fulfill her dreams.
I was reluctant, at first, but figured if she could do it, so could I. She looked so vibrant and youthful. Her energy was palpable, and I wanted to look and feel the same way!
So I got started with a simple system that was in place with my friend as my mentor. The first thing she emphasized was personal development. I had NO IDEA what she meant by that term, but she was happy and successful and living the kind of life I had secretly dreamed of, so I was all in to follow her lead.
And it CHANGED THE COURSE OF MY LIFE BEGINNING WITH THE DISTANCE BETWEEN MY EARS! I had been a prisoner of my own thinking. I had let other people control me. I had allowed something outside myself to steer my life. I had been complicit in robbing my own joy! I broke down and then I broke through. I found acceptance and a way out of despair and into a growth mindset!
…and let me tell you, it is the most magnificent way of feeling, living, thinking and doing! It’s sublime!
It began little by little with my home and what I did in my spare time. I fit in opportunities to share with other people by joining a gym and getting involved with the local garden club. Then I made little sprucing up choices to help my environment reflect my newfound path of optimism. I painted the walls in my home a different color to reflect the changes taking place in my life, and cleared out a space for “my home office.” I stopped engaging in negative, gossiping talk at work, and I began spending more time with people like my friend…people too busy lifting others up to even consider pointing fingers of judgement.
I was happy and my boss took notice. He began calling me “a breath of fresh air” again. He treated me to lunch and we had a heart-to-heart. After I shared the impetus for the changes taking place in my life, he told me how he’d worried about me for quite some time as he watched my outlook match that of my co-workers. He was glad I’d snapped out of it, yet he apologized for not having done more to be a better mentor.
And then he asked me if I’d share the opportunity with him and his wife! BINGO…just like that, I felt even more validated that this new path I was on was the right decision!
I continued working for the government for another year while I was growing my side business. I managed to build a substantial savings account with the residual income from my home-based business in my spare time.
A few of the office ladies took notice and joined me. That was one of my favorite parts of being involved in a side-gig…that I was able to put empowering tools of personal development in the hands of people who really needed it. But, let’s face it, we ALL need personal development. Even multi-millionaires talk about the importance of this factor in their lives toward creating success.
My journey isn’t over. I’m building a successful home-based business with people I enjoy working with, and when one of us is successful we all experience more success. I travel, I get monthly bonuses, I get annual bonuses, and I get a $500 car bonus and drive a Lexus.
I am more fulfilled and complete than at any point in my life, and I really love what I do. I make a very comfortable income, and I get to go on tropical adventures and build my business in other countries. But the best thing about being part of this industry is that, no matter what, I’m worthy of a life of fantastical possibility, and the only thing “less” in my life right now is the number of things I don’t worry about!
There’s plenty of room to join me. I hope you do. – Abby.