“I felt sad for you when I heard you got the job,” said my friend Kelly in reference to when I was hired over 5 years ago at my factory job.
“I said to myself, ‘This job is going to crush her.’”
We were sitting in a sunny spot of a small café in Carlsbad, California, an ocean side town with cute boutiques and quaint eateries. I hadn’t seen Kelly for several years since my last visit to Southern California. We became friends when she and her family used to live in Portland. It was good to see her, to catch up and knit our hearts together a bit more.
“I needed to be crushed,” I told her. “I needed the job to crush me so I could discover what I really wanna go after… and who I am really meant to be.”
It was so interesting to me that Kelly used the word crush.
Shortly after I began working at the factory, I had a vivid dream. I do not remember dreams very often, nor are they usually as vivid as this one, so when I do have this type of dream I take note of it. There have been many times in my life that I have been gifted a slice of wisdom or insight when my subconscious is feeling generous and plops a killer dream into my sleep time.
In this dream I was at work on the factory floor. Some how I had become pinned underneath some machinery and could not move. A large steel hydraulic plate was slowly coming down at me. This kind of machinery does not actually exist in my workplace, but there I was, wearing my uniform and doing the deal and somehow pinned to the floor with a giant steel plate coming right for me. I was terrified as the plate got closer and closer. I was about to be crushed to death.
I stopped breathing as I waited for my inevitable death. The plate continued coming at me until within less than an inch of my nose, it froze. With my heart pounding, I began to breathe again.
And then I woke up.
I thought about that dream a lot as I struggled with the job. The demanding schedule of 7-day work weeks and frequent 13-hour shifts took a toll on me just about as soon as I started. Throw in there that my teen son was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when I’d been at the factory less than 6 months and man, it was a tough one.
My son got through cancer. I took time off as needed, but continued to work my shifts when I could. The money was good, the benefits even better. It is a solid union job with some of the best wages for a high school graduate like me. I felt weak and guilty whenever the waves of discontentment would roll over me.
But I stayed at it. I was so happy when I got the job. Money isn’t everything but it can give you options (and it can buy you a boat… and a truck to pull it… major points if you know the song I’m referencing!). I am a woman who loves options. My robust wages at this job made it imperative in my mind that I make the best of it and learn how to do life as an overworked factory girl.
“Just hang in there,” said my husband at the time. He has worked at the same factory for nearly 20 years. “It will get better, it just cycles through like this.” We were in a grueling time of production with only one day scheduled off for an entire month. I would joke with people saying, ‘I have two jobs : I work full-time at Nabisco and I work full-time at Nabisco.”
My then husband found me curled up in bed with the covers over my head. I was literally in the fetal position telling him, “I can’t do this job anymore. I have to quit… I have to quit… “
My creativity had come to a screeching halt. My social life – ohmystars if you know me then you know I am a very engaging people person. Just today my friend Mimi texted me saying, “You are a people collector, Pam.” I was exhausted all of the time, isolated from my friends and my art and writing life had shriveled up into oblivion. I functioned as a mom as best I could of my two children who were navigating young adulthood. The job was crushing the zest right out of me.
But the money was good.
So I didn’t quit. I hung in there enduring one internal crisis after another with a sense of This isn’t supposed to be my life. This is not how I want to live.
And then, for reasons completely unrelated to our workplace, my 28-year old marriage was dissolving, quietly and unexpectedly. My life partner and I had decided to go our separate ways. The job had gotten easier by then, the schedule had eased up just as my -ex had assured me it would.
I was so grateful for the job as I navigated the muddy waters of divorce and becoming a financially independent middle-aged single woman. I worked with a number of strong independent single women who inspired me that Yes, you got this, you can land on your feet.
I did land on my feet, and once the dust of my divorce settled, I began to once again feel the waves of what some would call holy discontentment. I had begun to make art again, but never seemed to be able to focus for very long on my art or writing. My love of nature was being frustrated by the still-demanding schedule of the job. New kayaking friends would often invite me to hit the water, but my answer typically was I Can’t. I have to work.
Then, my daughter had a baby and moved in with me which I love that they are with me. My work hours became a constant challenge as I determined to help her raise my grandson. I began to fret about the future, all the missed moments, events and special times of seeing that little boy grow up as I would be stuck inside a giant box of a factory building.
That crushing feeling kept coming up on my soul as well as my body. I have had a work-related strain of one kind or another for the last three years. My current rib injury – though not officially a work injury – was due in part to the repetitive strenuous nature of my job. Many of my coworkers endure similar physical challenges.
But the money’s good.
Eventually there came a day, about a year and a half after my divorce, where I took stock of my life. There came a clarity I had not possessed before about the state of my life… the state of my being. I faced a choice : I could either keep making my peace with my well-paying soul and body crushing job, or I could be decisive and make a change.
How much was my vitality worth and I was I just selling it to the highest bidder ?
That was about seven months ago. I have been laying track little by little to create the life I want to live. I took time for stillness, meditation and writing to get down to the core desires of my being. What I discovered in all of that crushing was that I have 3 things I want my life to be centered on. I call them The Three C’s :
Connecting to nature.
I also have learned from being crushed over and over again in this job that I have a deep capacity and enjoyment for inspiring others. I do this with my art, with my writing, in conversations with friends, in random conversations with total strangers, like the Amazon delivery guy the other day who mentioned something about his acting career and next thing you know, he is hanging on to every word as I tell him, “Believe there are acting jobs out there for you and that positive energy will draw those opportunities to you like a magnet.”
He felt lifted up. I felt lifted up. I love to be inspired and I really love To Inspire. And I have a knack for that shit.
I had to be crushed for a while to discover what I really want out of this one life I have. I had to experience the absence of fulfillment… more than that, I had to live in the muck of discontentment with my self and my life in order to examine my deepest, truest desires.
I am now actively building a creative business. I have made more art in the last seven months than in the last 5 years put together. I am expanding. My vitality is soaring as I network with other artists and business owners who give me opportunity to showcase my art. I have had opportunities to teach art workshops. The project to convert my garage into a studio I will live and work out of is close to beginning. My writing is stronger than ever. A friend just said to me, “Pam, your art is great, but your writing transforms.” I thought my heart would burst from the sheer joy of being affirmed that way.
I have never been more centered, more radiant, more self-possessed with focus about who I am and what I want out of life. I am finally driving in my own lane.
And it feels real good, really really good. It just took a little crushing to get me here.
>>>I have a number of art events and classes coming up. Click HERE to see my calendar and what I got going on in the world out there. I’d love to see you !<<<