Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Having It All?

While I have a lot on my mind with the upcoming CFA, adjusting to Charlotte, and working through this injury, I have also had a lot of downtime since I got to Charlotte.  And a lot of (solo) downtime means that I have had a lot of time to think over the last 6+ weeks.

I am too old for a quarter-life crisis and I am too young for a mid-life crisis, and I wouldn't use the word 'crisis' to describe my state of mind.  Maybe instead it would be better to call it a 'what exactly am I doing with my life' frame of mind. 

Years ago when I decided to pursue my MBA, I made a commitment to making my career one of the top priorities in my life.  Except my 25-year old self didn't really realize it then.  Getting my MBA just seemed like a natural next step and it was a personal accomplishment I wanted to have.  I did not properly consider the financial ramifications of that decision at the time.  Yes, I am financially secure and able to provide for myself and pay back my student loans, but the student loans associated with that MBA are a ball and chain around my neck that I tote around.  It dictates how much I need to earn, which means I have less flexibility when it comes to the kind of opportunities I pursue.

All this is not to say that I don't want a challenging career.  I have worked hard to get to where I am at and have invested a lot of money in my education and time into the CFA.  And I like to be challenged.  I guess what I am questioning is how big of a career is big enough for me?  How many sacrifices - like the ones I am currently making - do I want to make along the way for my career?

I don't really know the answer to all of these questions.  A couple of years ago I thought I could have it all.  I could have a challenging career, live close to family, and hopefully one day get married and have kids.  Now?  I don't feel that way anymore.  Eventually, I'm going to have to make some choices and figure out what I want as I really never see myself living in Charlotte, working in my position, and having a husband and children.

Right now, I find myself in a position where I am putting my life on hold to focus on my career.  Don't get me wrong, I love my career and feel fortunate that I can say that.  I just don't know if I love it enough to let go of the other things that I want in life.  I thought for the longest time that if I just kept focusing on what was in my control (my career), the rest (marriage and a family) would fall into place on it's own.  But now that focus on my career has led me away from my boyfriend, family, and friends to a city where I would never want to settle down and raise a family.  Thus, I feel like I am getting further and further from what matters the most to me.  I could have a challenging, lucrative career, but what is the sense of earning more and more money if I don't have someone to eat dinner with or travel with, or friends to spend time with?  And if I continue down this path of only pursuing my career aspirations, what am I going to have to show for it at the end of my life? 

I guess it was inevitable that I was going to hit a fork in the road at some point that would require me to make somewhat of a choice between my career and my personal life.  I'm not saying it is an either/or proposition.  I know I can have a great career and a great personal life, I just don't feel like that is the case right now.

So at this point, my goal is to pay off my grad school loans as aggressively as I possibly can so that I will eventually have the financial flexibility to possibly take a pay cut in order to find a job in a geographical location that is closer to my family and friends. 

Have you ever found yourself questioning whether you are on the right path in life?  I think I am particularly struggling because I don't really feel like moving to Charlotte was a path I chose - it was something I felt like I had to do to ensure I'd have financial stability.  Nonetheless, I'm on this path and it's up to me to figure out how to change course.


abbi said...

We should come up with a new term for this or maybe I'm just late on the quarter-life crisis. I've dealt with something similar over the past few years. Mine is more about doing something with a purpose and not just climbing a corporate ladder.

Mandy said...

I love you friend. I hope you can find your way back to family, friends, and the city you love soon.

I have definitely felt this way. I never realized how important my family was until I moved away from them. I always thought it would be really important for me to move away and get out of my valley. But now I believe the opposite is true. I know I'm right where Im supposed to be and will probably stay in the vicinity (Pittsburgh area) for long term.

Gracie said...

I agree with your goal. I think your career is not dictating your life choices - your debt is! I went crazy frugal straight out of school to pay off loans just to avoid having to consider loans when selecting a job. Of course, it was rough at first - I picked up a lot of overtime, didn't buy new anything, and didn't have a lot of feasible job options. But once they were paid off I feel like I have more freedom of choice.

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

You will definitely find your way back, and I know I am an idealist, but I think you still CAN have it all. That being said, you have to think realistically though, and you are doing just that. Taking a pay cut would NOT be a big deal at all to come back closer to family, friends and the place you want to settle down and start a family.

This reminds me so much of when I moved to South Carolina. I was seduced by a much larger salary and barely stopped to think about it, I just said yes! I was homesick within 6 months and I vowed to never take the Midwest for granted again.

I know you'll make it home after this year adventure in Charlotte. There is bound to be a job in Mlps that you are qualified for that would pay competitively.

Praying for you!

missris said...

I feel like I keep going through this same thing that it sounds like you're going through. I could challenge myself and have a big deal career, or I could have a better work/life balance and support D (whose career is totally also his passion) and just work to live instead of live to work. It's taken me a long time to realize that I might be one of those people for whom a job is just a job, and that I'll find fulfillment elsewhere. I think it was really hard for me to finally come to this realization (and think it was ok) because both of my parents are super accomplished in their careers. Sigh.

Nora said...

Yup, I have had this, too.
It happened when I lived in Wisconsin about my career and it still happens now.

I know working for the family business isn't earning me a ton of money (and yes I'd like more) but it does afford me a flexibility (sometimes) that I don't think I'd find elsewhere, and it has afforded me unique experiences. The work/life balance is hard and one I certainly don't have mastered. I am pretty sure that what I'm doing now isn't my life job or even my career. Feels funny to say that at close to 30 but that's how I feel about it.

All this to say: you are not alone in this! xo

Abby said...

I'm sorry you're feeling in a bit of a rut right now. I think we all go through these phases throughout our life -- it's how we evauluate our life and make changes. Just know that you have the power to make this move temporary. The CFA needs to get behind you.

I'm kind of in that situation now -- I'm not incredibly thrilled with my career & have no idea where to move.

Wow, you were 25 when you got your MBA -- it seemed like you were so older then. It's so weird when I look at what you were doing when you were 25 compared to what I'm doing right now. I feel immature (lol). You've always had your life so together, it amazes me. I know you'll get through this! Wish I could help you or had the wisdom to give you advise. Sending hugs your way

San said...

I've definitely felt that way. I think everyone does at one point or another - if that is any comfort to you (it is for me).

I think it's important to love your career, but it shouldn't take precedence over everything else. I am sure you'll figure out your priorities and will find your way back to the people that you love.

I am over here rooting for you.

Jeanie said...

Oh, my dear friend. First, I send you hugs, and realize I must finish the piece I'm working on for you soon, so that you may have a little extra joy in your mailbox!

Lisa, you didn't choose Charlotte. You were given a nearly impossible option and you did what you had to do. But look -- you are nearly done with the CFA and you have your MBA. With those skills you aren't tied to one thing or place -- you will have amazing options -- options that will bring to you the people and places you love.

I know the importance of family and career. Because of family, I chose to stay put in my city of origin. Do I regret it? Sometimes. Mostly now. But you are right -- sometimes you need to adjust your thoughts. Doesn't mean you can't have it all; just means you have it all differently.

When you have bills and loans to pay, money matters. But you have all the tools to be able to make that money someplace you love.

I have to confess I am feeling a similar crisis right now, but mine is the opposite -- I am nearing the end of my career. I need to make choices on how to spend the rest of my life. I always worked in a job I adored, and then it changed and the people changed. But I still owe on the house, have all the obligations like taxes and just living. Can I retire this young, when I can still have a life and afford it? I don't know. We'll see.

The point is -- we will always have a crisis of some sort, whether we have it all or just a little. But when you have the support of the people who matter, we will ALL find the right way home. You will, too. Of this I am certain.

Stephany said...

I really hope you find your way back to the Midwest soon, but maybe this move to Charlotte was a wake-up call for you to figure out just what you want from your life: what your priorities are and all that. Taking a paycut is hard to deal with but when keeping a job because of the $$ is affecting your quality of life? That's when it's time to decide what matters most of all.

Hopefully, though, once the CFA is behind you, you can focus on paving a life in Charlotte for now and getting out and doing more. It sucks that your move came in the middle of studying AND your injury when you moved.

Thinking of you!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Oh, Lisa, how I wish I could hug you right now. I know we've talked about this before and I've shared with you the choices I've made in my own life. As others are sharing with you today, at one point or another, we all question what we're doing with our lives and whether we're heading in a direction we want.

I've thought about this a bit from a more universal standpoint (now that I'm out of the thick of making similar kinds of decisions). Our mothers fought for freedoms and equalities in the workplace, from which our generation of women (mostly) benefits. We were raised to believe we deserved education and high flying careers and that we would be able to balance those things with raising a family.

And, while on one hand, we really have benefited from these opportunities, I also think it has sort of crippled our society. Large numbers of women putting an emphasis on their education and careers has meant in many urban centers (and beyond) that women wait to get married and have children. And, quite frankly, men are now OK waiting, too. Only, a woman's biological clock is still the same, so in essence, we are squeezing that window in which we can start a family of our own.

My heart goes out to you. None of this comes easy. And no one can really provide answers, but yourself. Know you are loved and supported and you will get through this difficult time. I know it.

Karen said...

I totally get this. I kept having issues pop up when I was in the military, and I'd be in a constant game of waiting out a crappy deployment, crappy boss, the next move will be better, the next position at this next place will work out, deploying will solve all my problems, et cetera. I didn't realize how much it really wasn't working out for me until I realized I would sit in my car in the parking lot outside work every morning until I absolutely positively had to go inside. I hated it that much.
BUT, I'll also point out that there's no way I could be where I am today without having gone through all that. Like, it was my specific job experience from beginning to end that allowed me to take this civilian position. So you never know what you have to get through to get where you want to go. You know?

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Sigh. This is really hard. I think it's easy in our early 20s to feel like we have forever to do what we want, and just naturally go the career way. Eric has really helped me see that you can have "it all" but it might not be in the success way that means a lot of money, or a lot of prestige etc. It may be a job you really love and a family/friends. In the end, I think that's the most important- but unfortunately money ends up getting in the way. But like you said, whats the point of money if not to spend it with friends and family?
I also have experienced what I call a quarter + crisis haha. I'm right now considering quitting tutoring next year (after the summer), at least temporarily. It will be a pretty significant pay cut, but the stress in my life seems to be having a negative effect on my health in multiple ways and that is the only thing that I think CAN give. It's still a big decision for me though, so it takes thought :) On a small scale than you, but I can relate. Hugs!

Shoshanah said...

Did you ever read the book I Don't Know How She Does it? It's the one they turned into a movie with Sarah Jessica Parker? I thought I was getting into a cute chick lit when I started it, but in a way it's more of a social commentary about how you can't have it all.

I think you can, but within reason. You can have the huge job as president of a company and a family life, but the likelihood is you may not be there for every moment of your families' life. But you still have it.

Or you can still have a career you're really happy and involved with, it may just not be the highest possible career you have the potential for. It definitely is a juggling act about what important, and I'm not really sure I have the answer for myself yet, but at least it's something to think about.

And yes, I will feel FAR more comfortable with my life once my loans are completely paid off.

Amber said...

Hugs. I really like what your sister said. We go through these phases because it's how we evaluate our lives and choose to make changes.

I also want to share this quote from Cheryl Strayed that really really spoke to me the other day:

"Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering." I think most of us know that to be true and yet something in us stops us from truly believing it. We project the ideal onto the other. Both life and Sugar have taught me that when it comes to the lives of others, until you know it all, you don't know a thing."

I know it doesn't relate to your exact situation, but I think it really relates to the idea or concept of having it all. Even those who APPEAR to have it all probably don't.

This was a really awesome, open and brave post. I'm glad that if nothing else your time in Charlotte has allowed you time to think and reflect which will in turn allow you to take the next path that is RIGHT for YOU. Even if it's not the path you always thought you would take.

Big big hugs.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

You are definitely at a crossroads-type place in life, and I've definitely been there. I often wonder if I'm on the right path for me. I think it's good that you gave moving a chance, but eventually you'll know if it's just not right, or maybe you'll come to realize it was exactly the right decision, you just didn't know it at the time.

Elizabeth said...

Oh lady, I feel ya..... Life has a funny, funny way of rearranging our entire mindset no? Still sending hugs and prayers your way!

Le temps des cerises said...

This is my fist time commenting here, but I have been reading for a while now...

This post was so incredibly thoughtful and really summed up a lot of thoughts I have been having over the past 6 months.

I acutally experienced the other side if the coin, giving up a rewarding (sometimes stressful) career to move from Australia to Belgium to be with my boyfriend... I have to say I felt really lost for a while, though my first job here had heaps of flexibility, it was not at all something I was passionate about and I took a big pay cut in accepting it (beggers can't be choosers in the crisis that this is the Euro economy atm)...
But having said that after 2 years, I am slowly finding that balance between personal and professional, ambition vs lifestyle...
I really sympathise with your position, especially moving across the country on your own! Good luck with the adjustment, and keeping aiming for what you want! We might not be able to have everything, but at least if we aim for the stars and fail, we will still land on the moon...

Alli said...

First let me take down the term, "having it all." I HATE that term because of what the media has turned it in to. The truth is that everyone (not just women) can have it all a long as you, and only you, defines what having it all means because it means something different for everyone.

Lisa, our path's have been so different than what we thought they would be, but that does not mean that we won't still reach the right destinations. I know that right now you and I are just working on ok and it's a struggle just to get there, but that doesn't mean we won't ever get to great. I promise we'll get to great; you and me both, ok?

Becky said...

I'm catching up on past posts so I'm just now seeing this. I definitely feel like Ben and I are at a fork in the road with wanting to start a family and seeing where/how/what we should do.

I think that as hard as it this is at times it's great you're giving yourself a goal - paying off your loans aggressively - something you can look at and see the progress - that's tangible until you get to the long-term goal of being somewhere else/near family you love.

Hang in there my friend! Hoping your load will lessen once the CFA is behind you!

Melissa said...

I think this was bound to happen, especially with all the huge changes going on in your life. We all go through this, and I don't think we'll ever *stop* going through these "crises" of sorts. Anytime things seem to settle down, there's always another question that pops up and threatens your happiness. I think you just have to keep giving it your best and focusing on what matters most to you. You can only make one decision at a time, and you have to do what feels right at that moment!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Hopefully it will work out so you can have both, but if not, then I would definitely pick pay cut and family/friends/love over the alternative! However, right now you are still securing yourself in a place where you will have a bigger leg to stand on when it comes to negotiations.

Where I am now is very similar. I took a big pay cut (and lifestyle change!) in order to be near my friends and family. Do I miss my old life and job sometimes? Definitely! But I don't regret being able to spend more time with the people I care about, in an area that I love. It's totally worth it. And there is a time for everything; I wouldn't have moved here 3 years ago, but's good.