Back in university, I studied, worked and volunteered my ass off to earn a "Women in S.T.E.M. Leadership Award," which included a financial stipend and paid internship in the country's premier engineering firm.
I think I did well at work, though my memory of that time is all so hazy. I was under tremendous pressure to graduate on time with my friends/peers. So I was studying full-time (full course load), and working full-time (40 hours / week).
There's no way I was going to prolong my suffering by staying a semester longer in school. I'd rather die. And there's no way I could not work full-time, with my dad retiring in a year, and me having to become their retirement savings account and my younger siblings' higher education fund.
So I negotiated 4 months of time off from filial piety, and went on an 11-country around-the-world trip, as my pre-prison celebration. Back then, I thought, "I escaped the prison of academia. I'm about to enter the prison of corporation. This is my last chance at a last hurrah!"
(Gosh, how little I knew. How dramatic I was! That around-the-world trip was just the beginning, planting seeds for traveling 131 countries with my coaching business in tow, 14 years later.)
When I returned from my trip, I reached out to the engineering firm where I interned and was offered a full-time position, as a systems designer.
I remember surrendering / capitulating to my duties, "Go ahead, put on the golden shackles, I am ready to become the work ox and ATM machine I was born to be."
Even though my memories of that time were so hazy (surely due to stress and trauma), I performed so well during my internship that the firm offered me a full-time position, without even an interview, in any of their national offices, in the department of my choice (as long as the supervisor in charge was ok with it). What a gift!
I took that opportunity to move across the country, to where it doesn't snow. I was paid $54,000 / year (by 2020 standards) which was beyond any university grad's wildest dreams.
Even though this job sparked no passion, nor joy, I took comfort in knowing that a decade of burning the midnight oil, of mental Calculus and micro-chip design, CNC machining and wild simulation software that I could master within 2 weeks was not for nothing.
I was now standing on the Everest of my career, working on the electronic communication systems for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics skytrain. Our team was going to stand at the forefront of the ribbon cutting ceremony. What a cool legacy that would touch every transit rider for decades to come!
LETTING GO / WALKING AWAY
But I let it all go. After 3 days of work, I started to feel a heaviness in my shoes. With every passing day, my feet felt like cement blocks (you know, the ones used to anchor picnic parasols). I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. I spend my days being treated like a secretary, by boring old, white men.
I got home around 6pm with just enough energy to crawl into bed at 6:30pm and hope that tomorrow wouldn't come. My life felt like I was inserting needles under my fingernails every morning, taking them out every night for a short reprieve, knowing they'd be re-inserted the very next day... and the very next week, month and year.
My boss's boss was pretty cool, but my direct boss, not so much. He was regularly threatened by my talent and speed. He got paid double for taking credit for my work, oh hell no!
Worst of all, I'd have to sell 10 years of my life to this company, just to earn a third week of vacation. Ten f*ucking years!!!
I was on a 90-day probation, meaning they could fire me without notice and I could leave without notice. I made it to day 89 and... <insert drum roll> I resigned. I walked away ONE day before the golden handcuffs went on.
FEARS / EMOTIONAL RUMBLE
Agony of accepting sunken cost (10 years of blood, sweat, tears this Everest top that now feels like a prison sentence)
Fear of being perceived a an "ungrateful little bitch" for leaving this good job that I got without an interview
Hopelessness and dread of being stuck in a listless future (even if I applied to different companies, I already knew that any role would be the same prison, just different jail cell)
Terror of not knowing how I'd to pay for my younger siblings' tuition and retire my parents in comfort by my 24th birthday (I only had a 3 months left to achieve this ticking time bomb)
Sorrow of knowing even if I fully provided for my family, there'd be no energy, time or money left to take care of my own well-being, security, and retirement
Torment of mental war: if I choose filial piety (being a subservient daughter and ATM machine), then my soul dies; if I choose my soul, then my family dies
Grief of knowing that I have to become the best father, mother, husband, and wife to myself because no one else will
Deep depression after not being shown an ounce of gratitude for moving my family across the country, buying my parents' a home, and retiring them in comfort by 24 (but was definitely criticized for lacking to provide a 4th bedroom and a full-size garage)
Grief of letting go of wanting dad's validation, knowing I'll never have it
You know what the problem with you is? You're too ambitious. [They said it as if ambition was a disease or plague.]
You know what the problem with you is? You think you're better than us. [I don't think that. You think that. You put yourself in the "less than" box, not me.]
You know what the problem with you is? You won't settle down. You'll never get anywhere at this rate. [Actually, the problem with me is... YOU.]
You finally have a full-time, long-term grown-up 9-to-5 job. Why can't you be satisfied with that?
When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?
Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?
The cost of misery is too high a price to pay.
– ELLANY LEA
UNFOLDING DESTINY / LESSONS
Grit: 12/10 | Grace: 2/10
It be another 12 years before I'd stumble upon The Heroine's Journey on a flatmate's bookshelf and learn of "spiritual aridity." That is what I was feeling. There's a name for it!
Spiritual aridity or spiritual depression is a super intelligent internal alarm system.
If we ignore it, the Universe will put metaphorical pebbles in our shoes. If we ignore those, it'll throw pellets at our forehead. If we ignore those, it'll eventually drop a boulder on our house in the form of cancer, divorce, bankruptcy or other crisis.
I had no clue back that that's how our soul communicates with us.
The interesting part is, never once did I cry about filial piety being unfair. There was not an entitled bone in my body. What I did feel, but silently kept to myself, was "This hurts so much. I don't know how much longer I can hold up the sky by myself."
If you've ever been everything to everyone, all the time, you know what I'm talking about.
It just never occurred to me that I had any other purpose than to be a cash cow, until a "big sister" sat me down, grabbed me by the shoulders, starred me in the eyes, and said "It is not a child's job to raise her parents." Gosh, I cried myself to sleep for months after that.
My greatest lesson and takeaway is three-fold:
- The cost of misery is too high a price to pay. I won't pay it! I will pay with courage chips, decisiveness coins, and trust tokens, but I will not pay for misery.
- Having no choice can pay off. Because I had no choice, because I had to succeed or my family would die, I was forced to develop some mad skills, not just in my careers, but in how to save, budget, qualify for a mortgage, assess / buy / sell properties, do DIY home renovations, conduct transcontinental relocations, look after the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of my family. If I didn't, no one would.
- Poverty and scarcity can alchemize into fierce resourcefulness, creativity, and stamina. Had I been born with a silver spoon, would I have the spiritual sovereignty, emotional invincibility, and surrendered joy I have today? Likely not...
SACRED BRAND ARCHETYPES
I've had enough identity re-inventions by now to see the pattern: I just can't stand archaic and/or patriarchal systems. They're so broken and outdated. No matter how golden the shackles, I wanted to break free and gather my non-conformists to revolt against "the man, the machine." Who knew that leaving a job could stir such a cataclysmic inner evolution!
It'd be another 14 years before I fully comprehended the nature of our soul, which is to express itself organically, regardless of egoic control. Here, my soul was expressing itself through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Ruler (primary) and Maverick (secondary). These two archetypes had never appeared before!!! Who knew?!?
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Can you clearly articulate the identity of your soul, therefore the brand of your business? Are the two aligned?
In this series...
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Computer Teacher (Part 1/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Web Developer (Part 2/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Industrial Machinist (Part 3/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Banking Officer (Part 4/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Aerospace Engineer (Part 5/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Energy Researcher (Part 6/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Systems Designer (Part 7/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an International Aid Worker (Part 8/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Global E-Strategist (Part 9/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a United Nations Consultant (Part 10/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Web Design Agency (Part 11/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Success Coach (Part 12/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Wealth Mentor (Part 13/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Aerial Yoga Studio (Part 14/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Psychotherapist (Part 15/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Spiritual Guide (Part 16/16)
Fan the flames
"Fear not the flames. You are the fire."
May these liberation tools and reclamation stories inspire and guide you to navigate time, identity, and creativity, gracefully and joyfully. xo Ella
To free and renew an identity or business, start with Freedom Fundamentals. ⤵︎
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