Monday, August 18, 2008

Call Follow-Up

I wanted to provide a brief follow-up to an earlier post about a conversation I had with my mom that did not go so well. During that very tense, unpleasant conversation I basically came clean about wanting to quit my job just so that I could pursue happiness on my own terms.


My mom and one of my sisters were in town this weekend. More than anything I wanted to see my mom so that we could come to some kind of detente. Nixon eventually visited China. The Soviet Union was all about perestroika for a while in the 80s. My hope last Friday was simple: if my mom and I could have an open, direct conversation about my Plan she would see the wisdom of my plans, she would be impressed by my maturity, and, more importantly, she would be inspired towards simplicity herself.


Well, so how did it go, you ask? Not so good. Jack was, as always, a victim of stupid, naïve, idealism. Following the format of my previous post, I wanted to share the following observations about our only face-to-face conversation:


Jack’s Mom Loves Him Dearly

“I love you Jack. You are a wonderful person and an even more wonderful son.”


Jack’s Mom is Set in Her Ways

“Back when I was young the focus was always to work all your life, take care of your kids and only relax after you retire. To do anything else is pretty much just being lazy. And I know you are not a lazy person.”


Jack Suspects That His Mom May Be a Bit Jealous of His Plan

“I mean, who decides to essentially retire before they are even 32? Look at me…I’ve gotten up at 6:00am every Mon through Friday for decades just to take care of my family. That’s the way life is. To do anything else is just plain weird.”


Jack Suspects That His Mom’s Ego May be Involved

“What am I going to tell your family? What about all my friends? What am I going to tell them? That my only son, the son who graduated from Ivy League Law School X, who makes $X a year wants to give it all up just to be a bum? Because that is precisely what you will be Jack, a bum.”


BOTTOM LINE

The bottom line is that nothing was really resolved; my mom still thinks that I'm absolutely nuts ala "who are you and what have you done with my son.” I may never be able to make her understand what this process means to me or how much I value this new life I am slowly crafting for myself. But you know what? I don’t care. I can’t care. She is in her late 50s and has lived her life in her own way. She is who she is, just as I am who I am or, at least, who I hope to be.


What matters to me at this point is that I am, indeed, determined to complete this journey. I am focused. My mind is resolved. My will is unshaken. My mind is strong. I am not giving in. I am not giving up. And to hell with anyone who stands in my way. Including my mom.

34 comments:

Amanda said...

I'm sorry that the difference between your and your mother's worldview is causing heartache on both sides. That's rough.

One thought I had on the earlier family post, which I didn't put out here because there were so many other posts already, is that you might benefit greatly from some form of mentorship as you go through this process. Whether it's a spiritual advisor, or a therapist -- someone who is personally removed from your situation and who can help you maintain clarity and the kind of gentle compassion you're going to need on this journey. I bring this up because three years (yes, it's a slow process) of talk therapy has gotten me to a point where I have a productive and loving relationship with my parents -- whose often rigid and fearful views greatly contrast with my own, but whose resistance is often helpful in pointing out things I hadn't thought of (or reminding me that some things are better left un-thought).

Anyway, I greatly admire the huge life change you are undertaking, and do feel that you are so thoughtful and introspective that you will learn well from everything that comes your way on this journey. You might just want to make sure you have a good sounding board somewhere (other than the internet...) :)

Best of luck!

Elizabeth said...

I was naive and idealistic when it came to my parents once and, because of it, I gave advice that I have been sorry for ever since. [The event would still have occurred, but I would have been more realistic about the outcome.] I feel your pain.

It may be that for her, actions speak louder than words - in that, as you move along the process and she sees that her fears are unfounded, she will come to understand and support your path. Hopefully anyway [and here I should point out that I am infernally optimistic ;-)

-jd said...

Stay strong...I think your goal of simple hapiness is a devout one. And, being a "bum" very pleasing. Good luck.

Sharon J said...

You can't please all of the people all of the time and some of the people you'll never please at all. Live life YOUR way, Jack :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a mother in her late 50s with a son attending an Ivy League law school. We paid for the undergrad degree and he is paying for this one. I never tell my son what to do. At this point, he is an adult and it is his life. This is your life!!! You have to decide what is best for you and go for it. I think your mother is out of line here and is more concerned about what her friends will think rather than your happiness. Maybe a little counseling for her would be in order. If you're family struggled financially, that may have some impact on her feelings. You might also remind her that if you don't like your new path, you can always get a job!!! Good luck to you!

LiveWorkDream said...

I feel for you. Hang in there and stick to your guns. A mentor is a great idea.

My parents are 75 years old, and at the point in their lives when they can be honest with themselves and others about so many things. When Jim and I hit the road, my Dad was kind enough to admit that yes, he is jealous of our "semi-retirement" and wishes he would've done it at our age. Now he says it's too late for them.

Perhaps when your Mom is much older, she will come around as well. Hang in there.

Living the good life....together!! said...

Jack,

I thought you might enjoy reading 7:21pm. Maybe it will help in some small way. 721pm.blogspot.com

Lori

Sub Girl said...

Follow your own bliss, Jake. Mom's are not always right.

Jade of the Jungle said...

You know what, the saddest thing about your situation is the fact that this friction is bourne out of the fact that your mother clearly loves you, is so proud of you, and ultimately wants the best for you. You've just got to help her understand what you know is best for you isn't exactly what she thinks it might be. You're a bright guy, you can find a way to do that. Of course it's not going to happen overnight - for x years she (and i guess you) have been thinking your career is what you were meant to do, and she knows how much hard work you've put into it.

Give her time, it is maddening but it's because she has your best interests at heart, bless her. Don't forget that!

J

Carolyn said...

I am glad you talked to your Mom. Maybe with some time to think about it she will come to understand and support you in your life style choice.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

Well.... I'm sorry it went that way with your mom. I suppose living up to expectations is what matters most for some. It's mattered at times for all of us i suppose, but it's definintly the bigger person who can turn around and be proud of what they are doing and what decisions they've made, then those who continually face the crowd and hope....

You're doing a great job. It takes a lot of thinking, reading, observing, learning, writing, and patience to tread a path less taken....

Keep going... and by the way... did you ever have that beer???? :-)

Hugs,
Dana

Jerry Critter said...

Hi Jack,

You are "a victim of stupid, naïve, idealism" and you will be "a bum". SO WHAT! I think this world would be a much better place with more bums following a stupid, naive, and idealistic life style. At least they don't attack countries and blow up people.

I drink to stupid, naive, idealist bums! I wish I were one. Unfortunately, I am only 3 out of 4, but I am working on #4.

stranger in a strange van said...

hey, thanks for all your support with my saga...ugh. it can be difficult, it many ways to pursue your own path, but you can lean on us for advice, and shoulders to cry on. i've be disapproved of by my parents many times, i'm used to it, and chances are you will get there too. when you are living your new life, your mom may understand it at that point. it's just hard for her to see the beauty of it now.
return to your own moral ground, and as long as you are solid there, do not worry about how it differs from your moms.

Katrina said...

Jack,

I am so proud of you that you have kept your resolve despite the pressures. This is how you know in your gut that this is the right path for you. It is better to seek yourself and this path out now, rather than later, and regret it. It does seem that she is a little envious and that there is a little ego involved, though I am sure she cares about your well being. However, there comes a point in our lives where we have to branch out and assert that we are our own persons. The worst thing to live with in life is regret. If you upped and quit in a week, I would say you are being too irrational, but you are doing it in a responsible way and trying to make sure you have some income to pay for necessities. Just keep your cool with them, but rest assured that it is better to follow your own path than those others plan for us.

Thaumata said...

Well, there is no sense in you getting angry about it, though. Your mom has her own way of doing things and you have to expect that many people (not just her) might take your sudden change as a kind of rejection of the life they think is best.

The best way to bring your mom aroudn to your side is to smile, be nice and just show her how it works, instead of telling her. In a year or something, when she sees that you're not dead or high or starving to death, she will maybe come around. But fighting with her in the meantime will surely just leave a bad taste in her mouth about it and cause her to give you even more trouble at every turn.

Just be smarter, is all. :)

Jack said...

Amanda,

Thanks for the comment. I think the mentorship idea is fabulous, though I have no idea how to implement it. I want to treat this in a later post, but I really do feel a sense of loneliness on this issue; not everyone can really understand where I am going with this and the fact is that I don’t know anyone on a personal level near where I live that I could turn to. I think a therapist could work, though I confess that I’ve always been suspicious of that process…maybe what I’m scared of what I would find out…

Elizabeth,

The idea that actions can demonstrate resolve and show that I’m onto something seems like a common theme that I think I may have missed when I talked to my mom. That’s a very good point. I guess only time will allow the actions to affect how she feels about this whole thing.

JD,

I’m all about being a “bum” if being one means I am happy. Thanks for the comment and btw, dig your blog. Been on it for a while now.

Jack said...

Sharon,

As always, you are right on point. Thanks.

Anonymous,

Thanks for the comment. Do you want to be my mom? :) And yes, I mentioned the fact that I could always go back to the law if I needed. That was always a good move with her.

Liveworkdream,

As I mention above, there is something to allowing actions to demonstrate your resolve and to show that you are actually on the right track. I just wish my mom didn’t have to get older for her to see how great things could be. I just wish it was not too late for anyone to pursue happiness.

Jack said...

Lori,

Thanks! I’ve actually been following Chris for a while. There’s also some overlap with Lydia’s blog Freedomvan. BTW, you guys are just friggin awesome!! Did you leave that house yet? Is the van fixed yet?

Jade, Carolyn,

I know my mom loves me. One thing that I had a hard time expressing in these posts is that she is, indeed, happy with the person that I turned out to be and even more happy that she is my mom. And, as you suggest, the rub lies in that her understanding of who I “turned out to be” is being challenged by this process. Time is probably the answer…as I mention above, time allows me to focus on actions which is probably the only way to demonstrate the wisdom of my choices.

Dana,

Thanks for the support. Always nice to hear from you. And of course I had the beer(s)!

Jack said...

Sub girl,

Thanks for the comment. No kidding! :)


Jerry,

Right back at ya! 3 out of 4 for me as well. When I become a bum we should hang out. The people will say, “hey, look at those bums!”

Stranger,

No worries. Just making sure you are ok. And as for this whole mom thing, as I said above, maybe the thing to do is to wait enough time so that the cool stuff I am planning comes to fruition. I just hope my mom sees the beauty of this whole thing then.

PleaseRecycle said...

"Why did we (or you) spend all that money (and time) on college/law school/internships etc. if you were just going to give it all up and be a bum?" It sounds like that is your mom's perspective.

As a stay at home mom with B.S. and PhD from Harvard I've had those feelings about myself at times. I just keep reminding myself that I wouldn't be who I am without those experiences. I'm doing what I need to do right now. Life is short and you can't go back, so do what you think is right for you.

I also have book recommendation for you:

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I pick this up and read it whenever I am feeling uncertain about my own path in life.

Best of luck!

Buddy said...

Jack, I've been been uber busy, and I've missed you. I've also been glued to the Olympics, which hasn't helped anything except to give me a remarkable je ne sais quois in the field of everyday banter, and help me to be sleepy more often than not.

Sorry the mom realm is not on the rebound yet. Some things just take time, and sometimes a lot of time.

I have major cr*p to deal with the next two weeks. If all goes well I will be well on the way. And actually, if all does not go well, I will be well on the way too. I'm over it, and want to be rid of it all.

Well, have a good one buddy.

Buddy

Amanda said...

Hi Jack,

It just occurred to me that life coaching might be a good place to look for mentoring. It's less "scary" than therapy because it's much more now-focused than past-focused. Here's wikipedia about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaching

And while I was searching for a local woman who is starting to do life coaching, I found a testimonial she wrote for this woman: http://www.pulplifecoaching.com/pages/index.html

Oh, and I just remembered that a dear friend of mine is a life coach (one of those dear friends I never get around to seeing very much, but still)... his website is here: http://www.abrightpath.com/index.html
It might seem a little hokey, but I can vouch that he asks great questions and is really an insightful person. Not that my vouching for anything means anything, since you don't know me. :)

If you start wanting to look at family patterns and dynamics, then talk therapy is a good option and one way to find someone who fits with you is to just start asking around. If you don't want to tap your friends, then tap into the local human services network. There's probably a first call for help near you, and they probably have a listing of local therapists (my therapist is actually a Licenced Social Worker, or LicSW).

Anyway, sorry to ramble. Connecting people to services is a big part of my job, so it's kinda a habit now. :) Good luck! If you want more ideas, feel free to email me.

Oh, and for when you quit your job -- think about AmeriCorps. There are a million non-profits who would love to have someone with your skills and background come help them out for a few months. www.americorps.gov

Take care,
a.

claire said...

Perhaps your mother is just concerned for you - its understandable, my mother has never been interested in my career, but if you framed the escape as a sabatical perhaps this would temper her a bit - after all you could always return to the law, or am i being naive?

Peter Dodson said...

Hi Jack,

When I graduated from University I decided not to get a full time job, but instead do contract work (part-time). People still look at me as though I'm a bum and a failure and to an extent, given the meanings of those words within the context of civilization I am. Somedays I accept that and am happy with that, other days its harder. But the point is that it gets easier to shrug off the disapproval of others as we find our own path and our own definition of happiness.

All the best,

Peter

Jack said...

Katrina,

Thanks for the encouragement. I am certain she cares about my wellbeing; the only issue I see is how to minimize any negative feedback I get while things are moving forward. We shall see…

Thaumata,

Understood. Point taken. I certainly did not intend to sound angry. It’s just good to assert your own beliefs and focus on a goal. I agree with your strategy; I just hate all the time it might take to have her change her mind. Oh Well!

Pleaserecycle

Life is, indeed short. Maybe that is the most important realization of all. I need to do what is best for me. On my own terms. I just want to take my mom along for the ride. BTW, already read S. I love Hesse.

Jack said...

Buddy,

Been focused on the Olympics myself. Well, whenever I can get out of the office, of course. Good luck with the cr*p. Sounds like either way, you will, indeed, be on your way. Check back in when it starts.

Amanda,

You know, I’ve always heard of life coaching but always found the concept so foreign to me. Maybe it’s my own independence (stubbornness?) and inability to let go. Will need to look in to it, plus will check out the sites. And yes, AmeriCorps is a possibility though I will need to figure out how that works with a long-term goal of working for a nonprofit sustainability-related entity.

Claire,

She is definitely concerned about me. The sabbatical strategy is good, except that she can smell a life change a mile away. Long-term not a good strategy (I see 6-7 months down the line… “so when are you coming back to work??”)

Living the good life....together!! said...

Dearest Jack,

Yes we finally got the van fixed. After replacing the solenoid and stripping the terminals we were able to get her started again. The cost $30 with buying tools and parts. Though in the end we found we only needed one tool $7.00. But thats ok atleast we have a new solenoid. It did take us a while to find the soleniod but we triumphed!! We are at his parents for the moment doing some laundry. Then its off to Fayetteville, AR to pick up some groovy new stuff for the van. I found a Kitchen combo for the van for $100, it includes mini fridge, stove, burners, and sink (all electric). And also picking up a nice sleighbed-like futon for the van, it even has a tye dye mattress, $65. I love bargain shopping online. Craigslist is the best!!
You are awesome, too!! I understand what your going through with your parents, we have both been and still going through it with our families.

:)
Lori

Amanda said...

Jack,

AmeriCorps can be a good entree into the non profit sector. Most members nation wide are placed in community based organizations or schools -- there are a ton of programs that deal with environmental/sustainability issues. It would be a good way to do really meaningful service for awhile (receive barely a livable stipend in exchanged), while gaining skills in a new area for you. When I left my high paying private school teaching job, disgusted with myself for doing work I didn't believe in because I wanted the money, doing a term of AmeriCorps basically cleansed my spirit. I loved doing really needed work for very little money. It became my career path, for now... Five years later I direct the community service programs division of a mid-size nonprofit. And I make more than I ever did as a teacher, and feel really good about it.

On the life coaching and therapy front: most good life coaches and therapists will emphasize that *you* are the one doing the work, and that it's their role to support you in doing it. If anything it's like you working independently, but smarter.

I'll get off the soapbox. I just have this really strong sense that something like that might work for you. It doesn't for everyone. But maybe for you!

Betty Ann said...

I work freelance which a lot of people don't understand. It is too scary for them each month; some clients drop out of it; can't afford the services; then other work arises........no paid vacation days; no sick days; no health benefits (but I am covered under my ex-husband plan)...........I LOVE IT. I LOVE IT. I'm here before my 12 year old son goes to school and home by 2:20 PM.. and enter reports from home. I'm not using my college degree but something totally different. My mortgage is paid on time for the last 6 years....bills paid..............and I'm in terrific physical health from doing something I love that might not seem practical. At 47 it is my life; and my 2 grown children just graduated college.

Yes.. it is scary losing a client and scrambling for more work; and stressful at times; but I'm HAPPY.

I refused to listen to others that say my line of work is unstable; and better to do 9 to 5 until you die... kind of mentality.

I have an apartment I could rent out too; if I ever have to... but now I'm happy working too many hours some week and then having a whole week as the end with not too much work. It balances out.

You don't have to EXPLAIN yourself; my friends tell me I'm always EXPLAINING my LIFE; or who I broke up with and why; and on and on. I can do what is right for me. I don't have to explain and thy are right.

You don't really have to explain to your MOM; just hug her and reassure her that you are HAPPY; and let that confident of your decision shine through. You are a grown man paying your own bills; and it takes 2 to get into confrontation.

My grandmother used to say just YES everyone and do as you please... say, yes, yes, yes...and then they catch on you are confident and doing as you pleased and it is your life; and you don't have to justify ...........

be well. I love your honesty.

Jack said...

Lori,

Thanks for the follow-up! Wow, so you guys are now mobile, good for you. Any ideas where you might end up? Will you be seriously on the road any time soon? Def love craigslist! Take care.

Amanda,

Sounds like AmeriCorps is a good possibility. I’m still thinking about all the work options at the moment. Need to be sure that my law school will be able to pay for my student loans and they will only do that with certain kinds of jobs. Will just have to look into it. It sounds like it was a positive experience for you. I might send you an email offline about the life coaching. Need more info on that. Thanks again. Seriously.

Betty Ann,

Could you tell me how one goes about doing “freelance” anything? Ideally, it would be something I could do via the net. Data entry would be ideal, but I just have no idea how any of that works. All I got to say is that you sound incredibly independent and free to do with life as you will. Good for you! Will take the mom stuff to heart!

Romana said...

Lovely bro, glad you had the talk with your mom. Even if it was difficult. It stirred something important even if at the end, its a difference of opinion. You on your journey, her on hers. Stay strong, and love her and let her feel it. What the friends will think? It's about her not you. As long as YOU are happy. I think we have been set up by our governments and societies, to live a certain way and you are saying NO, not for me. She is still in that place or working on other goals. I think its all about money anyway. That is the real sinister. As long as it flows, we have freedom. We can walk away from our day jobs any time care free. If the checks stop coming in, we end up in the system of poverty. Perhaps that is her fear? Because the way we are set up, if the money stops coming in we end up in the poverty system and become slaves or die.

Jack said...

romana,

Thanks for the comment. You know, I do sense a little of the poverty thing with her, except that I think 90% of this whole thing is about her friend's perception of me and what I intend to do with my life.

Anonymous said...

Hey, if that's the whole thing, tell her to lie. You've become a lawyer who travels all over the world, doing what ever she wants to dream about. Would she sleep better? Knowing that her friends think great things? What kind of friends and family are those any way? based on what? What you have and what you have to show for it? Am I missing something? Is this too simple?

ryan said...

I'm not meaning to diss your Mom, but she's being very selfish. You can't live your life to fulfill her need for vicarious affirmations. I hope you realize it, although I know it can be one of the hardest things to overcome in life.

I have other friends who are also dependent on the approval of their opinionated mothers, and will do/not do things based solely on whether their mom would approve. And these are grown adults with kids. But their mom, for her own social and psychological fulfillment, brings on one hell of a guilt trip. And that's not fair to do to others.