For the past two decades, I have lived primarily under the notion of “delayed gratification.” I went to school, chose a career, worked my way up the ladder, and moved around for jobs. I made lots of room for fun along the way, but I was living my life under the idea that I was working hard in order to save money for the future, a future that would involve a husband and a kid or two.
During this time, I watched as other women quit jobs to get married, have kids, and follow their husbands to new locations. I soldiered on, figuring my day would come. Meanwhile, the economy tanked not once but twice, and each time, staff was cut and my workload grew exponentially. Deemed competent, I was rewarded with more work. My friends disappeared into marriages and babies, and my social life shrank as my workload grew.
I thought of myself as strong and brave and resilient as I survived the slings and arrows of dating and the disappearance of my friends, moved to new locations as a solo woman, took trips alone, lived far from family, and started anew again and again. This psychological “strength,” as it turns out, took a toll on my physical health, and I’ve finally realized that this is not a healthy way to live.
So I’m taking what feels like a radical leap. Leaving my job. Moving to a smaller city with plans to live with a friend. Signing up for classes that will, yes, improve my marketability but that will also be stimulating and rewarding. Investing in myself. Planning to work part-time for a while, if at all. If possible, working part-time forever (perhaps I will find that elusive thirty-hour job). Designing a life with room for friends, social life, spirituality, physical health, and intellectual stimulation. Creating the space to find love.
My health depends on it. In some ways, my autoimmune disorder has been a blessing, in that it has forced me to reorganize my priorities and reshape my life. After all, retirement funds aren’t much comfort to the dead.