Things You Do For Yourself

Sometimes, you have to do things for yourself.  I don’t mean it like “I can’t trust Susan, so I’ll just do it myself.”  I mean that instead of catering to someone else and forgoing your own happiness, you have to choose you and take the happiness for yourself.  We are taught, as Southern women, to put ourselves behind others.  We are taught to always take the high road, put ourselves out there at someone else’s service, and do whatever needs to be done to make sure that everyone around us – but not necessarily us ourselves – feels comfortable and loved.  Forgo yourselves, ladies!  Take care of your husband, kids, friends, church members, and family.  

I say bullocks.

I say it’s time we Southern women do a bit of things for ourselves.  I think there is a happy medium here – where we do things for ourselves but also take care of others in moderation.  We can do it.  I have started on the path to self-awareness, and you can, too.

I have friends from high school living in many different states.  One works at the Pentagon.  One lives in D.C and works at some place that is top secreat double naught spy.  One owns a restaurant in Florida.  One is a teacher in Tenneessee.  One was in the World Trade Center when it came down, but she survived.  One lives in Oklahoma and works as a CNA.  One is an orthodontist in Little Rock.  We were all from the same small town of 1,971 people, and we have all made it somehow, someway.  We all did things that took some gumption and guts.  We didn’t sit on our laurels and wait for someone to hand us the golden nugget.  We didn’t win the lottery (so far as I’m aware).  We did things for ourselves, and in the process, we did things for others, too.  All of the things we did for ourselves have helped the lives of those around us in some manner.

Me, I finally did something for myself in 2004 that I didn’t think was posible.  I told my (now) ex-husband I didn’t love him and wanted a divorce.  9 days before Christmas.  I had not decorated that year at all, and I didn’t even put up a tree.  I had just had enough and could not take it anymore.  Life was either going to end abruptly or it was going to go on.  One way or the other, December 16, 2004 was a turning point in my life.  I also did something for myself in August of 2009.  I started law school.  A dream I’d had forever, I finished in May 2013.  Yes, I did these things for myself, maybe selfishly, but my family has benefitted from the both of them.  

I decided a few weeks ago to do something else for myself.  I quit my long-term job and went to a small law firm.  Making an unknown salary.  So, I went from making about $90K a year to making who-knows-what a year.  It may make $25K this year, and I may make more.  I don’t know and I won’t know.  It’s scary, but it’s also very very cool.  I did it for myself.  Yes, I gave up a high-paying job for peace of mind and happiness.  It is worth it, let me tell you.  It’s changed my attitude in so many ways.

For several weeks, I was really nervous about my decision.  I didn’t kow if I could stand taking my calculator to the grocery store again, like I did throughout the 1990s.  Not going on a vacation every 6 months sounds hideous, until you decide that you love your job and don’t need the escape like you did before.  I cried A LOT during those weeks, totally unsure of what I was doing – was it the right decision?  Was it the wrong decision?  Could I make it?  Was it worth it?

Let me tell you – it is and it was.  I am happier with this job than I have ever been with a job in my whole life.  I have no weariness.  I have little stress, compared to the last job I had.  I know, being an attorney you’d think would be highly stressful.  I guess my body had gotten used to such high stress that I didn’t know what it was like to have none.  It is AMAZING.  The type of stress I feel now is not useless stress over things that don’t matter.  Who cares if you don’t like green laminate?  Who cares if you think beige corridors are “death”?  I don’t.  I can’t imagine a world where that really makes a huge difference, but apparently that world exists.  

Let me tell you what DOES make a difference – 
Knowing that someone will spend their first holiday as a family because of the work you did.
Knowing that a woman is no longer in an abusive marriage because you helped her get a divorce.
Knowing an elderly couple’s assets will go to the family members they wish after they pass away, which you also hope will be far in the future.
Knowing that a young man who reminds you of your own son will be okay after you go to court with him on his minor criminal case.
Knowing that you are helping people, every single day, in something that changes their lives.

All of these things are what I get to do as an attorney.  They are amazingly simple in some respects and amazingly difficult in others.  They are just amazing.

And if not for one simple meeting about 5 years ago, who knows if this would have happened at all.  Who knows?  No one.  I do know this, in order to move on, you have to take a chance.  You have to take a stand.  You have to do something for yourself.  You have to ask yourself if your sacrifice is worth it.  You have to ask your gut, trust it, and do it.  

Make your life happy.  Do something for yourself today.

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