Today is my 46th birthday. To celebrate, I decided that I was going to wake up at 5:00 am, shower, make coffee, and start my day off with some time to reflect. There is plenty to feel grateful for as I climb toward 50…
… Of course, I have a great family, my husband, 14-year old son, 11-year old twin boys, and a dog named Chooch. Old friends, new friends, work friends, family-like neighbors, a home I love, and creative job that makes me happy, the list goes on… However, if you asked me 10 years ago what I was grateful for, the order would have looked very different.
A defining moment came in March of 2010 when one of my twins was diagnosed with Autism, high-functioning type. It was a major fork in the road for me. I could either continue to progress down the road where work led the way or take a new road, the one that meant I would let the personal challenges facing my family lead the way – work had to take a back seat. So, in 2010, I decided to leave my job and embark on a new journey of becoming a parent of a child with special needs and try making a career as a freelance designer.
I am fortunate to have a great network of colleagues. I was able to make some connections early on and have maintained those relationships throughout my 7-years. To say I am grateful would be an understatement. The work has ebbs and flows. At times I find myself looking for more work. I need it. It keeps me focused, productive and I think, valued. I know I am valued at home but my work value is something that gives me confidence.
But, what has been such a big part of this time away from the 9 – 5 (or more like 24/7) work grind is the time I have spent learning more about my children. Their needs, their interests, what they are good at, getting to know their friends and their teachers, it’s been so rewarding. I’ve made time to become active in the care of my 81-year old mother who dealt with breast cancer. Adult things like taking her to appointments, getting her set up with a medical portal, making calls and taking calls from doctors to alleviate worry and concern. Again rewarding. I’ve also taken on some hobbies that I never had the time to explore, and mostly, getting involved in the Burlington community by learning how to offer my skill set as way to give back.
So, that brings me to today, my 46th birthday, 7+ years later my son is making tremendous progress. I’ve learned to speak the language of Special Education and now am on the board of the Burlington Special Education Advisory Council (designing: identity, website, and Facebook group), PTO president at his elementary school, (designing: all collateral material, web site, Facebook page, and event planner) and, volunteering within the community by offering to design a web site and identity for our local People Helping People organisation and community Food Pantry.
So as I look back, I can see that I was wrong to think I was giving something up. Yes, maybe stability and a steady paycheck. But I have gained mindfulness, purpose, and a chance to connect with people and a thoughtfulness towards the work that I was never able to focus on before.
46 and grateful.