Recently I left my career in child welfare after thirty-one years. I held numerous positions; none more important than the other with some being more satisfying than others. I am still not sure whether I left the job or retired.
I wrote many things but nothing of this sort. I am struck by some of the difficulty in writing part of my story. Perhaps it is my fear that it exposes me too much. One of my earliest memories of writing was in grade six. The teacher had asked us to write a short piece. After much hard work and anxiety my teacher responded with: “I think you can do better than that." I was off to a poor start.
There was a phrase I became familiar with while growing up. It was: “Let’s tuck that away." The idea was that you could later retrieve from memory this life lesson or positive thought which would help guide or nourish you. This thought was wrapped in a symbolic blanket and was meant to be comforting. Come to think of it, the things which we were encouraged to tuck away were always good things. My memory suggests we were encouraged to forget about the troubling things and move on with life.
Somewhere along the way I lost part of myself as I began to struggle with day to day living. Work was becoming extremely difficult for me and what I felt were poor outcomes was leading to some very worrying thoughts. “Tucking it away" now became that “hiding it away" coping mechanism. I really didn’t want to retrieve these thoughts or memories as managing them was too painful. There was no comfort to be found in these difficulties. This pattern of thinking also affected my home life. I don’t know whether the chicken or the egg came first. Success was difficult to see as it was covered with the cloud of failure and worrisome thoughts. It seemed easier to become robot-like – but even robots break down.
I want to be clear that I don’t blame work or the system for my difficulties. Who knows? It was just where I found myself in life and work. The time came when there were choices I could make. I needed to be honest with myself and find the courage to follow the answer.
Nature has a way of telling you that you are out of sync with your world. I tried to ignore or explain these warnings away because I was afraid of the practical aspects of making the decisions that were necessary for my health. Change was still a bit scary and full of the unknown. There is some irony in that last sentence as when I left I was actively involved in a change process within our program.
Fortunately, nature didn’t give up and sent stronger messages in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. I was also blessed with a wonderful wife and an extremely supportive supervisor who helped me find my answer. I will always be grateful to them.
Now if I can pretend and could be granted one wish about all this; it would be that I wouldn’t have tried to hide things away. I think I would have liked to have been more fearless and shared the good and the bad about me in my work experiences. The bad experiences were just as real to me as the good ones. I could have then tucked them away as they would have served as useful gifts to bring forward at some point in time. I might have then discovered more about myself and at least moved a little closer to a more authentic self.