Being You, Work, Life and Huge, Crazy Dreams

by Elisa Van Arnam on · 1 comment

“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
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