The Ladder to Lifetime Success

I’ve been upwardly bound my whole life.  I remember thinking when I was in middle school that it was too late for me to be a successful athlete or artist.  I would watch the olympics and see kids my own age who seemed to have started their careers in the womb.  I decided somewhere along the road that every minute counted, and that I needed to progress towards the top running as fast as I could.  I didn’t even really know where I was going, but everything that I did needed to be a progression… something for my lifetime resume.

One year in high school I remember our director declaring at the beginning of the marching band season that he would push us to be our very best in the fashion of a ballad, with each verse getting more and more powerful, an overall croshendo that would follow us in each quarter of the year, then ending in an incredible blast of horns at finals.  This metaphor became how I viewed my life. Every year had to get bigger and bigger.  I was desperate to get somewhere, to make something of myself… even though I didn’t even know what that was.

After high school I went directly into college life.  I searched quickly to declare a major, climbing as I did to be the very best in whatever I was drawn to.  I found my heart in Women’s Studies and the activist movement on the campus and put my all into it.  Each semester was a croshendo leading to the next, ending with an incredible experience that I wouldn’t give back for the world. Allied with some of the most kick-ass people I ever had the pleasure of working with, we crafted demonstrations, lobbied on the state capital, created and taught classes, and founded the Women’s Center.  I never stopped running.  I knew that I loved social justice work, and was drawn to gender and identity politics.  I had the privilege of co-teaching some courses and decided that that becoming a professor was my goal.  With my bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies, and a robust campus activism background I ran straight to get my masters and moved to San Francisco… which was to me the logical next step.  I struggled in the SFSU program, which was the most intense academic experience I had ever had.  I pushed myself hard, not even knowing what I was pushing myself towards.  I thought stress as growth, but I didn’t stop to think “growing in what?” I am proud to say that I completed the program with my masters in Women’s Studies, certified to teach in the field, but then found myself confronted with my goal of teaching.

As I struggled to move up in my masters program and started to doubt my goals, I also started working at Cafe Gratitude.  Almost on cue, as soon as I completed my masters program  I stepped into the Office Manager position and coordinated the goings-on with the office crew and administrative needs for the company. It seems like every year we were opening another cafe.  Growing bigger and bigger.  I constantly felt like there wasn’t enough time in the day to complete everything. At the same time I was building up through the workshops that they offered.  Several times over I took their workshops: The Abounding River, Kindred Spirit, Sacred Commerce, Community Building, Aloha Awakenings, and their leadership program.  Ironically enough, the workshops share how important it is to be present, and enjoy the moment right here, right now.  I was growing in countless ways but not quite listening to that piece as I still searched frantically for my life goal and more ladders to climb.

When the owners came to the heartbreaking decision to close down the company, I panicked in the realization that I needed to re-assess goals and perhaps lose ground in my own personal race.  I didn’t know where I was going.  I was enjoying the work in agriculture, local foods, slow cooking, holistic health practices within Cafe Gratitude… and somewhere along the way I picked up a copy of Shannon Hayes’s Radical Homemakers.  This is where I think I finally got a good look at myself.  I was worn out, exhausted, and didn’t even know where I was running to in this strange one person rat race. When I really stopped to recognize that I was to be laid off within the year, I realized that I had an opportunity to step off the ladder and explore and enjoy the present moment (not race for the future). I finally saw myself in constant worry about the world ahead, not enjoying the present moment right here. I saw myself as someone addicted to consumption in a whole new way (not just products, or money… but in success).

I was finally seeing myself in this light and got a good look at what I was losing.  I have always grinding my teeth, my family wasn’t calling me on emergencies because they thought I was too busy, I was growing a knob between my eyebrows since I always held a worrying expression on my face, all of my dreams were filled with stressful scenarios, and I was consistently holding anxiety and stress in my shoulders and neck, hurting my body.

After reading through Radical Homemakers I got a clearer picture of what my life could look like.  I could keep a simpler life at home.  I didn’t need to buy clothes, but instead take on my dream of making and repairing my own clothes.  Inspired by the possibility of eating cheaply through making things from scratch, I realized that I could learn how to preserve vegetables, go to every farmers market, and create more from the source (not the package). I could grow a green thumb and support the sweet garden that Willian and Laurel have built below our apartment. I love creating, and I realized that I could craft and create my own way after years of doing it for outside organizations.  Now I can bring it all together to create my own website, joining all of my passions.  I can create my own path (right here in the intersection of feminism, homesteading, crafting, and self reflective transformation work) called Deconstruction Crafts.

October 1st was the start of my new life.  I go to the pottery studio at least twice a week, I’ve been making meals from scratch that I’ve never dreamed of making on a regular basis before, I’m planting garlic, and wheatgrass this week, and harvesting the last of my tomatos. I’m sprouting, baking, fixing my sewing machine, and saying yes to all of the invitations that I never gave myself room for before. I signed up with a few groups on and now going to visit and learn from like-minded souls. Instead of filling the mass of my days with a full time job, I’m instead spending less, and working less. I’m part time supporting the efforts of Get That You Matter and the Baywood Learning Center and earning a little income on the side. I’m building up Deconstruction Crafts and selling my wares, and learning new trades as I go. I’m hosting gatherings and craft nights.  Most importantly, I’m letting myself rest a little, and enjoy a lot. It’s never too late to start something just as it’s never too late to stop.

Where are you running to?

What are you creating?

3 thoughts on “The Ladder to Lifetime Success

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