Thoughts from (anonymous author)
As told to Pamela Gerloff
I have wonderful memories of childhood -loving, supportive parents and gregarious brothers-but we didn't have a lot of money. Ours was a middle class family with four children, and there was a lot of stress around finances. We didn't have a lot of opportunities and my parents said we couldn't afford a lot of things; so, at a young age, I decided I would become self-sufficient financially.
I was lucky, because I was very athletic, and sports opened many doors for me. I worked hard, got good grades, and received a scholarship to a college I couldn't otherwise have afforded.
My aim was always to build the best résumé I could. At an early age I had wanted to succeed at big things. I had imagined becoming an astronaut, a senator, or the CEO of a large company. After I graduated from college and worked for a while, I decided to get an advanced degree from Harvard Business School (HBS), because I wanted every door to be open to me. I never worried about money to support my endeavors because I believed that money would always come.
While attending HBS, I helped the school launch a program for low-income kids from Boston. Every Saturday morning they would come to our gym and play. Though I was incredibly stressed out from school, I found those Saturday mornings the most satisfying thing I had ever done in my life. Donating my time to those children, talking to them about their dreams and hopes-it just felt right. It was a wake-up call for me. It said, "Here is something I love doing." I wanted to keep going.
However, after receiving my degree, I took a job in Minneapolis with General Mills. I was still building my résumé, but it didn't feel right anymore. I was learning a lot about marketing and selling products, but I wasn't feeling fulfilled. Soon, I got married, and my husband and I, who were both from New Hampshire, decided to have children and move closer to home. We had three kids in four years and the pressures started to come.
The Internet boom was happening, so I thought, "Wow. I'd like to get in on that." I took a part-time job with an Internet company and within a year became a millionaire (on paper). My husband was also doing really well financially.
Money kept flying in. We kept looking at our bank statement and feeling giddy. Neither of us had ever anticipated having that kind of money to do what we wanted to do. We got caught up in it. We bought a bigger house, nice cars, and got very focused on what we wanted. We didn't completely lose sight of our families, but we got sucked into the craze of the Internet and living in an affluent town. I took a full-time job, kept getting promoted, and kept being given more and more responsibility. I was 35, our kids were very young, and my husband was always taking off somewhere, traveling like crazy. It was a heady lifestyle.
The pace was so quick we couldn't keep up with it. My husband began having health problems, and I began to realize that I had become detached from my husband and children. It wasn't working, so my husband and I decided that I would stay home. I couldn't be a good mother, be good at my job, and support my husband with his travel schedule and the health difficulties that seemed to be caused by his level of stress, all at the same time.
What happened next knocked me completely into left field. I learned that my husband had a longstanding relationship with someone else. We ended up getting a divorce.
I don't think our obsession with money is what drove us apart, but our lifestyle wasn't sustainable and it wasn't real. By that I mean that there was nothing we did that really meant anything. All we were doing was trying to keep up.
Although our divorce was horrible for me, it showed me that I don't ever need all this stuff, and I don't want it. I want to be with my family, my children, and do all the things I've always wanted to do. The sudden changes that occurred in my personal life caused me to reflect on what is really important to me. I thought, "What am I waiting for? I am building my résumé for what? My passions are caring for my kids and also helping out the underdog. Which cause can I participate in that will help the most?"
A Lowell, Massachusetts nonprofit that provides interview clothing, support services, mentoring, and workshops for economically challenged women, to help them become self-sufficient and economically independent. This is one of many organizations around the U.S. doing similar work.
The Jericho Road Project
A project of a church in Concord, Massachusetts, designed to assist nonprofits and small businesses in less affluent nearby communities. Church members donate their time, talents, and skills to assist the community organizations as they help individuals and families become economically self-sustaining. The project's current focus is on Lowell, Massachusetts.
978-369-9602 ext. 457
Now I'm using all of my resources and the good fortune I've had in my own life to help other mothers. I recently joined the board of a company called Suitability. We help women get off welfare and become economically self-sufficient. Besides providing job training and other services, we give them one suit to wear to job interviews and another to wear when they start their job. My involvement in that project is part of Jericho Road, a nonprofit organization that the church I attend is launching. We're taking the resources and talents of members of our church and matching them up with a town that could clearly use help. When I first heard about the project, I thought, "That's exactly what I want to do." I want to help out where I can.
Because I am still raw from my divorce, I don't know if I would say that I'm "happier" than I was before. But from a professional standpoint, I'm not in a building-my-résumé mode any more. I know I could never even think about going back into the corporate world to do something I don't truly believe in. I want to be able to share the good fortune I've received and have a big impact on a lot of people. I'm taking steps in that direction. I know I'm on the right path.
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