Being You, Work, Life and Huge, Crazy Dreams

by Elisa Van Arnam on · 1 comment

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“To be your­self in a world that is con­stantly try­ing to make you some­thing else is the great­est accom­plish­ment.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was a cou­ple of years ago and we were out of money. My hus­band, who had done really, really well finan­cially had been let go a year and a half before from a 7 year con­sult­ing job. He’d then put all his time and efforts into a soft­ware deal that went south at the last minute. We’d gone through our sav­ings, our retire­ment, we were in fore­clo­sure and out of time.

I’d started a small inspi­ra­tional card and gift com­pany with a part­ner and my hus­band didn’t want me to stop try­ing to make it work to help pay our bills. We had 2 kids in a great school and we didn’t want to (nor could we afford to) leave the area we were liv­ing in and there were not a ton of jobs for 44 year-old inter­net busi­ness devel­op­ment con­sul­tants. He was very brave and said he’d fig­ure it all out on his own.

After a year of anx­i­ety, fear and the roller coaster ride of the soft­ware deal, we were in des­per­ate need of money and sta­bil­ity. To me, sta­bil­ity looked like him putting on a but­ton down shirt, a nice pair of slacks and going to work every­day at 8 or so and com­ing home around 6. I would meet him at the door with a drink and a hot meal. It looked like know­ing what each day would bring.

To be hon­est, I’m not sure what it looked like for him. I know for sure it was killing him that he felt he wasn’t pro­vid­ing for his fam­ily and he was will­ing to do any­thing it took to not feel that way.

Before I tell you the rest of this story I need you to know a few things about my hus­band. When he walks into a room, it’s like the sun sud­denly comes out…and not because I love him so much, it’s because he has this larger than life pres­ence. He is charis­matic. He is loud. He is intense. He is a but­ton pusher. He is also incred­i­bly kind, gen­er­ous, open and wel­com­ing. He’s hand­some. He’s deeply sup­port­ive and amaz­ingly cre­ative and I am lucky to have him.

He is the guy you go to when you have a huge, crazy dream. He makes huge, crazy dreams come true…for real. That’s why he is such a great con­sul­tant. I’ve never met any­one like him and some­times I look at all he’s been able to do in this life­time (he started with absolutely noth­ing) and I am blown away.

The other thing I need to say is that we live in a small, small town. We moved here from Los Ange­les and what peo­ple expect from each other here is very, very dif­fer­ent from what peo­ple expect from each other in Los Ange­les. And not in a bad way, just dif­fer­ent. Small is good here. Not rock­ing the boat is good here. Peo­ple come here to get away from that sort of thing.

Any­way, my sweet hus­band put together his resume and found a job in sales for a ful­fill­ment center…it’s wasn’t enough money and it was really chal­leng­ing because the peo­ple who owned the place wanted him to be small. They wanted him to do sales the way they’d always done sales, like with lead track­ing pro­grams, and daily sales check ins, etc. He squirmed every time he walked into the office. It was a hor­ri­ble fit.

And because the money was so bad, he took another job as a sales­man for a web devel­op­ment firm. It was a bad fit too because they want him to be quiet and tell the short ver­sion of every­thing. And that’s so not him. When he brought in huge leads, leads that meant the com­pany would need to expand and hire more peo­ple to do the huge job, they neigh-sayed it, then sab­o­taged it.

He leaves the first job after only a cou­ple weeks and takes another one with a water fil­tra­tion com­pany as their sales guy. This is a bad fit too because as my hus­band makes things move for­ward at an incred­i­bly fast pace, he’s met with absolute dis­be­lief and the nag­ging feel­ing that the owner will blow the deal he’s putting together because he’s afraid of change. Then there was the bar­tend­ing job and another web design firm…it was awful.

Through­out this time, this man who was used to tak­ing com­pa­nies who made $500k a year and grow­ing them to 10 mil­lion a year, couldn’t close a sale. He was baf­fled. And maybe it was them, maybe they weren’t ready for the force of nature that was my hus­band, or maybe, just maybe, my hus­band was try­ing to be some­one he wasn’t. To fit into an idea that wasn’t who he was at all.

My hus­band did his best to be opti­mistic. But as time went by, my hus­band went to work each day with absolute dread, with a brick in his heart. I watched as he grew smaller, as his pride sank and his con­fi­dence fal­tered. It was like he was griev­ing. It was beyond awful. I began to won­der how on earth he would sur­vive. I won­dered how he would ever get him­self back. I began to ques­tion our future, our hopes and dreams, the ideals I had about “The Amer­i­can Dream.” I felt like our real­ity, the real­ity we had cre­ated in the 10 years of our mar­riage was gone…and might never be recovered.

And then one night…in the midst of his strug­gle, my hus­band had a huge, crazy idea. The hugest, cra­zi­est idea he’d ever had. And even though he had absolutely no idea how to make this huge, crazy idea hap­pen or where he would find the strength to get behind it, it was enough. It was food for his starv­ing sense of self. The next day he made a call. Then a cou­ple days later he made another call and another and soon, he was mov­ing the huge, crazy idea foward and I could feel him com­ing back again.

This would be the mon­tage part of this story: my hus­band talk­ing on the phone, him pitch­ing his idea at var­i­ous cof­fee shops to any­one who would lis­ten, mark­ing pos­si­ble con­nec­tors off his big hand writ­ten list, draw­ing dia­grams on his white board, him turn­ing in his bar­tender apron, him clear­ing all the papers off a desk at one of the many offices he worked at with his whole fore­arm, grab­bing his fam­ily por­trait out of the pile and walk­ing out with his head held high, and finally a guy in a suit sign­ing a con­tract and shak­ing his hand.

I can see the whole thing, a lot more clearly, as I look back on it. My hus­band had to do some­thing and he did what he had to do to get us through the rough­est time we’d ever had. I admire him tremen­dously for doing that. He is and will always be my hero because of the sac­ri­fice he was will­ing to make to keep us afloat. How­ever going so deeply against his nature nearly destroyed him.

I am not sug­gest­ing that any of these jobs aren’t per­fectly great jobs, they are. And I know lots of peo­ple that would be more than happy for the job oppor­tu­ni­ties that he had. These jobs just weren’t him. He couldn’t be who he was and do what they wanted/needed him to do. And the harder he tried to not be him­self, the more he tried to fit into a box, the worse it got. The proof was in the pud­ding, he couldn’t close a deal and now we can both see why.

What I want to offer, and what I know is hard to hear/accept (yet it should be really, really good news) is that it is only by being your­self and doing what is in your nature, what is pleas­ing to you, what is your truth, that you will wildly succeed.

What makes me sad is know­ing that so many peo­ple out there are in a place of need, a place of finan­cial des­per­a­tion that makes them have to do the things they know they can’t stand doing, and that trag­i­cally, at some point, the door of their dream closes down. They become so sucked into the minu­tia of “just get­ting by” that they for­get how incred­i­bly amaz­ing they are. How the world is wait­ing on their gifts and tal­ents. And that no one else can do it like they do.

The deep­est truth of this piece is that there is room for everyone’s suc­cess. There is room for everyone’s dreams to come true. If we all did exactly what we wanted to do, what we were pas­sion­ate about, we’d all fill dif­fer­ent roles. Every­one doesn’t want to be the same thing. We are each unique. We each have indi­vid­ual gifts that we have to offer. And I know, from this expe­ri­ence that by doing what makes your heart sing, by being true to your­self, being YOU, you will find ful­fill­ment, hap­pi­ness and success.

This story has a happy end­ing, or maybe a happy begin­ning. My hus­band is work­ing away on his huge, crazy dream and he has peo­ple around him who believe in him, who are pay­ing him to turn his dream into real­ity. He is back…fully back; light­ing up rooms, being loud and offer­ing sup­port to any­one who needs a lit­tle boost towards mak­ing their huge, crazy dream come true.

He has grown immea­sur­ably from this expe­ri­ence, as have I. Watch­ing his light dimin­ish and then come back made me know, deep within my soul that being any­thing other than who we are is sense­less. It is actu­ally the quick­est way to fail­ure and worse, it is a crime against your­self, against the very nature of the con­cept of YOU as a beau­ti­ful, unique, indi­vid­ual. Remem­ber, not only is the uni­verse count­ing on you, you should be count­ing on you too.


by Elisa Van Arnam

Elisa Van Arnam is a wife, mother, writer and co-founder of SoulKu; an inspi­ra­tional con­cep­tual card com­pany ded­i­cated to help­ing peo­ple BE THE CHANGE. Elisa is also the co-author of One Namaste a Day, a SoulKu blog­ging adven­ture about see­ing the light in others.
Elisa Van Arnam
View all posts by Elisa Van Arnam

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Yum Yucky March 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

ahhh-MAZING! Your words slapped, hit AND punched me in the face. All in a good way, of course. This is speaking to me what I already knew about my hopes for the future, but didn’t have the courage to convince myself to wholly chase after and invest in fully. I’ll be reading this post again. And again… and again. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some moves to make. ;)
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