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You can take the girl out of business but you can't take business out of the girl.

July 23, 2023

I was talking to my niece, Jayne, the other day and I was telling her how frustrated I am that my depression has been with me for several weeks now, with little reprieve. The David situation has not helped, but this depression is much bigger. The breakup is only one of what seems a million little triggers that threaten to paralyze me.

She’s a nurse, and I asked her if she had any recommendations for anti-depressants that might help with my runaway anxiety and near constant irritation with my mother. I stopped taking anti-depressants a few years back. I have come to believe I am one of the estimated 30% of people classified as drug resistant.

“You’re very success oriented,” she said. “I think once you begin classes, once you’re immersed in school, you’ll have something meaningful to focus on and your mood will lift.”

I’m hopeful she’s right, and that’s a big reason I decided to pursue these studies. As my mother’s caregiver, I am consumed with her care, even when I am not with her. There really is no break. I welcome the opportunity to focus on subjects that are of great interest to me in my ongoing faith deconstruction journey. I have great hope I will find some answers to the things which trouble me most — even if those answers are that there are no answers. Many of the problems I face, that face all of us, are simply unsolvable. I desperately want to be comfortable with ambiguity, with non-duality. I want to trust the God I know, and trust that regardless of whether or not I get the theology right, it doesn’t matter. I am Her infinitely beloved creation, secure in Her everlasting love. You see? I know that now, I can articulate that now. But it’s not fully internalized. I want that knowing to be always present in my mind — the mind I cannot ever succeed in quieting — not even for the briefest moments.

I feel like those are some pretty lofty aspirations, a world away from my focus when I was in the business world. So, when Jayne said, “You’re very success oriented,” I was gobsmacked. I just do not see myself that way any longer.

I’ve been largely out of the business world since my bipolar breakdown in 2017. Since moving to Louisville to take the corporate management job, I’ve failed at six jobs in six years. The last two were part-time entry level office positions. In each circumstance, it wasn’t exclusively my performance that resulted in the separation; there were many factors beyond my control. However, it is clear my mind no longer works as it did at one time. I no longer excel at executive level problem solving in a business environment. Once I accepted that, instead of being horrified by it, things have become easier. I’ve learned not to base my self-worth and value on performance. Or have I?

There are skills I still have, and in fact skills which I have honed and developed over the last six years. Namely, writing. It’s as if I shifted my mental processing and functioning entirely, and now my abilities are centered in a completely different part of my brain. I don’t know why; I don’t know the root of all of it. And I don’t know if my assessment is even accurate. However, accepting these possible explanations for the overwhelming transformation and reorienting of my mental strengths has enabled me to pursue a direction I had always dreamed of but didn’t ever believe practical or even possible — to devote myself to my writing.

So why is the notion Jayne still sees me as “success oriented” so surprising? What is “success oriented”? What does that mean to me now and in what ways do I act which make it clear to others I am still that way?

Since my colossal failure in business, I’ve struggled with a desire to have commercial success with my writing. When I’m in that mindset, it stifles creativity. It becomes a job, a discipline, and the truths I believe are so important no longer flow freely. And that’s not acceptable. I want my desire to share my heart to be the primary motivation in my stories. So, I’ve aggressively sought to separate my compulsion to make art, to put meaningful words out into the world, from the expectation I might make a living doing that. Have I been successful? Not entirely. Am I capable of completely divorcing my art from the hope it will become an income-generating activity? Probably not.

Even in my seminary admissions interview, the topic of my career goals came up. Even at 60, it is expected one has career goals. I repeatedly denied a desire to go into ministry, although I can’t rule that out entirely, not at this point. But neither was it enough, at least not in my assessment, that I wanted to study theology for my own personal spiritual growth. There’s a transactional nature to pursuing a degree. It may not be financial, but in the world of academics, it is expected you utilize your learning to give back to the world in significant and meaningful ways. So, the line I landed on was, “I hope to study as a way to augment my writing. I’m primarily a memoirist, but I’d like to pursue scholastic writing.” I’m not sure if that’s the line that got me into the program, but it might have been. I know there had to be a significant correlation between what I planned to do with my education that would justify being granted that education.

So, I’ll be pondering on this more, and undoubtedly writing about it more. As of now, I’ve come to the conclusion my success driven nature is apparent in every aspect of my life, clear in any of my chosen pursuits. I’m no longer in the business world, but I will always be in the business of making art and pursuing knowledge.

Photo by Raghav Modi on Unsplash



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