A Path to Employment ~ Series introduction

It's been a full year since I started working part-time, by this I mean getting paid to do work for someone else. I've wanted to write about this change in my life for a while but there were too many other writing projects and life happenings on the go. "Working" has been an item on my writing to-do list that has now made it to the top spot.

To write about my job now seems fitting since I started working part-time one year ago this month. It's my work-iversary! It's been a full year and things are still going strong.

This is a blog series since the story is longer than one post (it always is). These posts are reminiscent of another "working" series I published in fall 2016 titled Vocation, Marriage & Work.

That series helped me process and express some painful things that had happened in our marriage, how I was healing from that experience, and where I had landed, at that time, with regards to working outside our home. (Spoiler alert: I wasn't.) That series ended with this:

Right now, I'm not trying to figure out that future career, instead, I'm putting my efforts into what I'm clearly called to do and I'm playing with the Ideas that spark my curiosity. My chief aim is not to produce a product, find a job, or grow an email subscriber list. My goal right now is to nurture a sense of inner confidence, in all my callings, from a place of deep security and well-being. This is a spiritual path, not an employment one.

What's interesting is that being employed this past year (out of financial necessity) helped grow my confidence by leaps and bounds in ways I hadn't anticipated. I'll get into that in the third post in this series. It's like growing my confidence was an employment path after all, at least at this stage of the journey. Funny that.

Life is amazing. We're always learning and evolving. We sometimes set big goals and go after them. Sometimes we meet those goals, other times we fall short. Sometimes we coast along with what's already set in motion in our lives because that's all we have the energy or resources to do.

Sometimes we surge forward, other times it feels like we fall back. Sometimes we fall flat on our face (been there). And in picking ourselves up and dusting off and licking our wounds we learn a lesson we couldn't learn any other way. We re-orient and find courage to walk forward into the unknown, yet again.

This is the "work" of being human. To grow. To learn. To change.

And now the story, in six posts, of my current working situation.

Late 2017 we faced the inescapable reality that we needed a more regular and predictable flow of income. We needed to be able to count on a pay check, not the whims of clients who did or did not pay on time. We needed more money for the stage of life we're in. And we were faced with a big tax bill that Damien's work alone was unable to pay. It was super stressful and it was a situation that pushed both Damien and I into new employment.

Damien found a full-time job with a company and moved away from a self-employment model of income. He is still able to work remotely from home and this is a huge win for our family. And for the first time in seven years, we once again had dental, vision, and medical insurance.

For my American readers, the Canadian and provincial governments provides universal health insurance and coverage for all Canadians. So you won't go bankrupt if you land in the hospital and you don't have to pay to see a doctor. But there is a lot that is not covered by this public plan. Services that are needed, like teeth cleanings and eyeglasses. And don't even get me started on the wait times for government-funded services like physiotherapy. We have a good system in Canada, but it's just that - good. You need more than what the health plan covers and you either pay out of pocket or get private insurance.

Even with Damien's new job and the increased income and regular pay checks (and benefits), I needed a job. We acquired a hefty personal line of credit debt to cover some living costs while Damien was not getting paid for work he had done as a self-employed software engineer. But primarily this line of credit went to pay our unexpected and large tax bill. (A bill we should have seen coming and prepared for better, but we didn't because we're human and make mistakes. See intro.)

It was a hard autumn. At the end of 2017 we were carrying a lot of debt and along with that came feelings of failure and shame.

In my late twenties and early thirties I listened to a lot of Dave Ramsey and read some of his books. As a security-seeking person, I love the security his principles provide. I also love a formula that brings success. All that money in the bank, my dream.

For certain seasons of our lives, specifically a chunk of time in Maine, we lived those principles pretty well, though we've never had "enough" money in the bank for my liking. But our self-employment and adventure-living years, since moving back to Canada, really pushed us into a different financial territory.

Once you get past basic survival (and what counts as "basic" is subjective), money and financial decisions are really all about values. How you earn, save, invest, and spend your money is a reflection of your life values.

I also must point out that financial decisions are not all "values-based", like if you just had different values your financial circumstances would be different. That's bullshit.

Each of us is born into circumstance and culture and some options are just not available to us regardless of how hard we work or what we value. We need to be honest about the fact that depending on who we are, where we're born, who we're married to, where we live, etc... there is a limited range of financial and employment options available to us. Not all things are possible.

The question is what will you do with what is possible in your life?

We had a period of living more adventurously, both in terms of employment and lifestyle, and what great experiences we had! Living in beautiful and interesting places, thru-hiking, and traveling. But it also felt financially vulnerable. We did on all this on one modest, middle-class self-employed income. We had no significant savings. We made value judgements and we took risks.

Since moving back to Canada in 2011, when the kids were 8, 10 and 12, I've worked sporadically. And correspondingly, income from my work has been sporadic. Freelance writing projects, e-books and participating in e-book bundle sales, and homeschool coaching. Amazingly in 2012 my work provided a quarter of our family income. Yay! But that was because our overall income was low that year. Not so yay.

On one hand I had a desire to increase this work, to establish myself more as a writer and professional blogger, but on the other hand I was busy with homemaking and home management (including managing our family finances and a rental house in another country), homeschooling, and adventures which included moving every 9 months or so. Moving became a part-time job.

I was never sure exactly how to move forward on the paid-work path and I had no long term vision for my own work (I preferred doing projects) and so I was relieved to join Damien's vision to produce a video series while hiking the Appalachian Trail. That production and then our actual hike became my work from fall 2013 to fall 2014.

And then I had a midlife crisis on the trail and my life and my marriage got broken down to the foundations and during the period of rebuilding and healing, and our first years living in Montreal, I didn't work for pay.

Four years ago, in January 2015, I wrote this about our division of labor.

I am taking care of kids and home and helping to manage our business finances. Add daily exercise, reading, personal study, and creative pursuits and my days are completely full. I don't have time, in this season, for outside-home-and-family work beyond writing this blog.

Next post: Getting a Job

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  • Mom

    Mom on Jan. 13, 2019, 2:07 p.m.

    I admire your personal unrelenting asking and answering: "the question is what will you do with what is possible in your life?" Thank you for your inspiration. xoxo

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