Thursday, September 28, 2006

As Life Evolves...

I was reading a post from Sauntering Soul about some life changes she's been going through and it's inspired me to post about some things in my own life I've been wrestling with.

Our lives are not static; they change and evolve as some things become less of a priority and other things become more important. This is always a hard concept for me to grasp, as I HATE change. Even if I'm not in a good situation I find it hard to make a break. Better "the Devil you know" so to speak. Probably one of the reasons I found it so hard to leave my troubled marriage so many years ago until it was made indisputably clear to me that my and my children's lives were at risk if I stayed. And yet being the diplomat that I am I have a perfectly good relationship with my ex-husband as we try to co-parent our teens today.

I've lived the last 18 years of my life with my children as my main priority. It hasn't been easy, especially since so many of the choices I've made haven't been the "traditional" ones, yet they were made with my kids' best interests at heart. Such as being a working Mom as opposed to a stay at home Mom; I could never have provided a nice home, full benefits and been a strong role model if I had given up that part of myself that needed to be self-sufficient. And all the endless after-work meetings I've done as a union activist have not only brought me to where I am today with a job representing other workers but it's been able to help me show my kids by my actions as well as my words about caring for others and doing what's right for your community. There are those that think I've been a "bad Mom" for taking the time to be as involved in my union as I have, but I know I would never have been able to be all the things I've been for my kids without that work.

So I feel that I'm at kind of a crossroads. There's been a lot of turmoil to say the least in my life lately. My son is making some really bad choices in his life and while I've made it clear that I love him no matter what and I'm here for him when he's ready to get back on track he's made it clear he's not ready to do that yet. My daughter is going to be 18 in just over a week and is going to need my daily involvement less and less. And yet this has been my main focus for 18 years. Where does that leave me?

Then there's my job that's my other main identification of myself. I've always been proud to be a Tradeswoman, the first one at one of the three major domestic auto manufacturers. After 23 years my workplace is still very male dominated but now instead of putting on coveralls every day and wrenching on machines I represent women and minorities in harassment and discrimination situations, and I'm the Women's Advocate for helping women in difficult personal situations such as violent relationships or substance abuse. I get a great deal of satisfaction in helping people resolve these situations, and quite frankly I think I've gotten pretty good at it. Not that all my "customers" are satisfied mind you but I'm nothing if not thorough.

So anyone that follows the news will know that the company I work for is in a great deal of turmoil and we are loosing about half our workforce through plant closures in my city; we've gone from a union membership of over 6,000 members a few years ago to what will likely balance out at about 2,500. It has effected me already by cutting back my hours but more importantly by seeing so many good friends who will be out of work. At this point none of us know who will be "safe", and even though I've been there for 23 years I don't feel "safe".

So there's the crossroads. My two main identifiers, being a Mom and also my job, are both possibly being "phased out". My identity is being erased. What's a girl to do?

Well as far as the kids go, I am transitioning from "Mom" to "mentor". I need to work on my social life. Because I've spent so much time at union meetings and such I've let the social life slide so that I can be there for the kids. It's time I do something about that. I don't know where I'm going to start, but recognition is the first step, right? ;)

As for the job, Mom says I should take the buyout being offered and go back to school. She feels I'd make a great consultant if I had some initials after my name. While I agree with her in concept, I'm not ready to take a buyout. If I can hang in there and the company can hang in there for seven more years I will retire with a full pension. If I take a buyout now I'll have to wait twenty-one years to get any kind of pension. So if I were to start taking some courses now then when I'm eligible I could retire and do something else.

As I said earlier, I don't do well with change. But sometimes change comes steamrolling down the road whether you're ready or not. It's time to stop coasting and put this truck in gear.


Sharon said...

Oh wow, you sound to me like you have achieved so much already and have so much to be proud of.

Life has its ups and downs and our circumstances change but just be true to yourself :)

Sauntering Soul said...

I don't have kids so I can't completely relate, but I have gone through a divorce. Losing my identity as a wife was something that scared me so much. I wasn't sure what "label" to put on myself. Once the divorce was final, however, I realized that wasn't something I necessarily had to do.

Sometimes life forces unwanted changes on us but it usually ends up for the good in the end even if it doesn't seem like anything good can come of it during the process. I resist change most of the time but for some reason I'm learning to embrace it and welcome it (and dare I say I'm even beginning to instigate some of it myself).

I agree with Sharon - you should be very proud of what you've done with your life so far. But who knows what you have left to give that you haven't even dreamed of while you've been resisting change (I say that to myself just as much as I say it to you). I think we all have to learn to trust that we are making decisions in life that are in our best interest and I have no doubt you'll figure out the right path for you.

P.S. I'm so sorry to hear about your kitty.

JustApril said...

That is a lot of changes. I hope you can keep your job for the 7 years, though - 21 is too long! One thing I've heard over and over, though, is that the 'MOM' part of you never changes so much. The role progresses, like you said, but there will be times they'll want you in the previous 'MOM' way, too. Even at 37, sometimes I just want my momma =)

I'm sure there are lots of places that could use your expertise, too, though either sooner or later.