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Vulnerability? No thanks!


I haven’t been wanting to write recently. Why? Because I haven’t been feeling great. I don’t feel secure. I feel uncertain. I generally don’t tell the world when I’m feeling this way. I had asked a friend of mine what ideas she had for things I should write about. She suggested that I write about, “what it takes to be me.” When I asked her more about what she meant, she suggested I detail how I knew that I financially could risk loosing/quitting my job. As I just finished rewatching Brene Brown’s “Call to Courage,” I’m going to merge this idea with another idea, which is vulnerability. We’ll see where it lands. (By the way, if there is anything you'd like me to write about, feel free to let me know)!


It's “normal” to not want to talk about the harder aspects of what I’m doing. We’re programed that way. I remember my mother telling me when I was little that in life, we always needed to show the world the happiness and the joy, and hide the pain. Ironic that my grandfather was an alcoholic. Having worked in the addiction field, it’s quite common for people to portray a pretty picture of what life is to others instead of what it really looks like. But, addiction or not, in society (at least US) we like to act like things are all good, when they aren’t always perfect. In fact, they are often anything but. Just look at social media. There, we can see smiling faces, pictures of vacations, happy families, people in love. We don’t generally see people struggling with mental health, substance use disorders, body issues, abuse, neglect, sadness, loss, anger, et cetera. But, large swaths of the population struggle with all of those things. Especially now. We just don’t talk about it. Or, at least not too much. We don’t want to be seen as “too needy” and we don’t want people to think we are “too much of a mess.”


So, I’m not a mess. There is a lot that is going well for me right now. I am not lying when I say that I am grateful for where the pandemic lead me. I’m grateful to be in a healthy relationship. I am grateful that I have the flexibility to explore my passions. I am grateful that I have had a lot of support in my life. I would not be where I am without any one of those things. Yet, every one of those things has been a winding road. Not a single one has been without difficulty and struggle and a lot of work. Even diving. I had a really terrifying diving experience years ago. I easily could have given it up. I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive again at all, let alone become a diving instructor. It was an interesting road back.

Right now, I’m going through a period where everything feels up in the air and tenuous. It is super uncomfortable. I saw a legal job advertised the other day, and thought very strongly about applying. But, I’m trying to play out this dream right now, and it doesn’t include getting back to law just yet. That would be easier. Working for someone else has always been easier. Truly putting yourself out there, and going after your own dreams is really fricken hard. It’s exhausting. For the last week, I’ve been wanting to crawl into a hole and hide. That’s why it’s so hard to write. Because it goes against every instinct in my body to tell you all this. I KNOW how lucky I am. I know that not everyone has this opportunity. I know it might sound like whining. And yet, it is how I’m feeling.


So, how did I know I could take the financial leap and quit my job? I didn’t. I still don’t. We are in the midst of this experiment, and I can’t tell you for certain that it will work out. Financially things are very tight at the moment. Part of that is because I’ve made some risky decisions recently. You’ll hear more about that over the coming weeks. There are reasons for those risks. They aren’t out of nowhere. But, they are still risks. Part of it, however, is just going from working full-time to working part-time. It is going to take some time before this little dream of mine can really come together fully. And, in the meantime, that means there is financial uncertainty.


To get to my friend’s underlying question though – how did I know I could take the risk? Well, I plotted it out. I calculated how much money I would need to simply pay my bills monthly. I knew my static monthly bills consisted of mortgage, student loans, food and health insurance. If I was living elsewhere, I would also have to weigh in those expenses. Thus, I came up with a number of clients that from the jump I had to see in order to break even. On top of that, I had six month of living expenses saved in order to feel comfortable. So, if things went terribly wrong and I could no longer work, I knew I could survive for six months before I would run out of money. Also, I have a life partner, who pays half of the bills and who, for my plan to work well, needed to be able to pay his half of the bills. Is this fail-proof? Absolutely not. There is much that could still go wrong; however, I now have three potential professions from which I could garner an income, and thus I felt fairly certain I could find a job relatively quickly if things really went to shit. Beyond that, I have worked many jobs in the past. Often, I have had more than one job at a time (I had three jobs for about five years). I am versatile, flexible and I do not believe I am above any job. Thus, I am confident I can earn money if I need to. Obviously, this is not the recipe for everyone. This is what I personally felt comfortable with. I do not have children (nor a plan to have any) and I have money for retirement, that I have vowed not to touch, but I could if I absolutely had to.


One thing I will say, however, is that in going after this dream of mine, I have put myself out there in a way that I haven’t before. Even this blog is a bit beyond my comfort zone. But, when I first quit my job (they asked me to stay part-time at that point) I cold-called a dive shop in Colombia and asked them if I could volunteer for them. I’m still a little in shock that I did that. The other day I did something similar (I’m not going to tell you about that until I know for certain that it is working out, just so I don’t jinx myself). But, when people ask how I knew I could do this – the answer is really, I didn’t. I just felt (still feel) I could. And, truly when it comes down to it, I think having confidence in your ability to make things work if you need to, is key. Does that mean I have 100% confidence in myself every minute? Heck no. That is why this is exhausting. There is much about what I am doing that is considerably out of my comfort zone. But I do feel I am a capable person. I also trust that my social network would (kindly) bop me on the head if my ideas got too wild. They have done so in the past, and thus I have some reliance that my friends would not let me go off the path too much before they stopped me.


So, how does financial questions speak to vulnerability? I think for me it comes down to being open to putting myself out there. I did not take a major risk without having any fall-back plans. I am a planner, after all. But, I have also taken risks, both financial risk and emotional risk. Will it work out? I don’t know for certain. It may not. However, isn’t life about taking some risks? Also, one of the best things for me is that I’m a therapist. Can I really challenge my clients to change their thinking and put themselves out there if I’m not willing to do the same? Hypocrisy is not my thing.

Many many moons ago, I worked at a job where things were quite unsafe. I was deeply unhappy and yet felt that I could not voice my opinions about any of it. People got fired at the drop of a hat. My boss did a 360 review of me (this is where they get input from your clients, your peers and your supervisor(s)). At any rate, a woman I worked with said, “Jen should speak up more because maybe she would complain less.” I was shocked, because up until that point, I considered that woman a friend. She had never voiced that concern to me. However, as hurt as I was, I realized she was right. How could I act as a mouthpiece for clients if I couldn’t even speak up for myself? I vowed that I would not stand by without saying anything again. I’m not perfect. However, I’ve mostly stood by this motto. (I also quit that job pretty soon thereafter, but c’est la vie). These days, I do my best to try not to suggest people do things I'm not willing to do myself.


So, you might read some whining as I step through this angst and uncertainty. I’m vowing to be open to where the universe wants to take me and to be open enough to share some of that with you. If it gets too much, feel free to fast forward on. And, hopefully things work out. But, as much as I hate it, there is no reward without risk. I do not want to be on my deathbed wishing I had the courage to go after my dreams. If we only get one life (and, in this way, I am not certain, but I think this is the only life that will be this way), I want to make sure I’m living it, and not just sitting by letting life happen.


"Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream." (Sound of Music)

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Guest
Jul 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Jen , I’m an observer, and a vague acquaintance, so take this with a grain of salt.But I like you a lot!

You have got your shit together and should go with your dreams.

Go for it!!! ♥️♥️♥

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jeniferfoster2
Jul 23, 2023
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Wow - thank you! I very much appreciate that!

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Guest
Jul 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Follow your dreams Jen, you are amazingly brave but you have broken the chain....live the dream xx

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jeniferfoster2
Jul 23, 2023
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Thank you for this! I needed to hear it tonight. :)

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