Lately it seems, there isn't anything that is harder to measure, grasp, slap a label on... than contribution. It is truly a chameleon of a thing, taking so many different forms, and sometimes disappearing right before our sight.
I have been riding a roller coaster of emotions for the past few years that seem to stem from one particular place that until last week, I haven't really been able to name. I have felt a cloud of heaviness over me, casting a shapeless shadow of fear, doubt, shame, sadness, and isolation over the dreams that once belonged to a naiive girl who had yet to experience the obstacles of 'the real world'. Having worked consistently since I was 16, in roles I sought out entirely on my own and for businesses I felt a strong sense of personal connection to, I never imagined I would struggle to find work or feel productive in a workplace. When I graduated college I felt invincible; convinced I could waltz into any interview and land upon a comfortable rung on my dream-job ladder. I didn't anticipate the job offers not coming, the paychecks not to pour in, or the strain uneven incomes put on our marriage and the shallow, self-pity that came as a result.
Two years later, I am still struggling with not feeling a strong sense of purpose or identity when it comes to work. Part of this is because I spent a very long year applying to roughly eighty two countless positions I felt were a perfect fit for me, and vice versa, that didn't culminate in an interview. Part of this is because I took a very expensive and time-consuming blind leap down the hungry mouth of a beast known as the real estate industry that can sniff out your biggest insecurities from miles away and I am learning first hand what it feels like to be my own boss and manage my days down to the minute and cent. And part of this is frankly, because I don't get to experience the instant gratification of holding a crisp, paper paycheck in my hands after every two weeks of hard, even exhausting, work.
Which brings me to the issue of contribution. What is it, what does it look like, what does it mean...to contribute? As much as I try to convince myself that contribution can look like dinner on the table, a clean house, cared for pets, completed chores, volunteer work, and impressive projects- I can't seem to escape the thought that contribution equals cash. The truth is, I regularly do do all of the above, on top of working 30+ hours a week on building my real estate business, but because those things don't build up our bank account, I feel they are...well... worth - less. Worth less than my husband's career because his pay check is our primary, consistent, source of income.
Somewhere, sometime last week though, as my roller coaster began again its slow, steady climb, I decided it was time to stop riding with eyes-closed and white-knuckles and instead plant my feet firmly on the floor and in an act of pure self-pity-defiance, lift- however slowly at first- my arms toward the sky and brace myself for the ride.
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much,
because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory, nor defeat.