It often takes negative events in life to evoke the positive change that we need to lead the life we truly want to. For Diana, it took a broken ankle for her to realize where she really need to be in her life. Whether it be a life-changing event, or just an event that allows you to change your life, remember to embrace your identity and live your life to its fullest.
By Diana St. Lifer
I would have never thought a fractured ankle would change my life…for the better. It was January 2006 and my health insurance was giving both my doctor and I a hard time about approving an MRI. Weeks passed, and I kept working and walking on it despite the pain. My ankle continued to swell and hurt…a lot. Finally the doctor—in what seemed to have been a last-straw moment in having to deal with insurance approval aggravation one too many times—firmly declared, “Fine. If your insurance company won’t pay for the MRI, I am going to soft cast your foot and I want you out of work for six weeks. Here’s the note.”
At that point, I didn’t argue. I wanted relief from the pain and the thought of not going into the office for more than a weekend didn’t sound so bad. In fact, it sounded damn good. I had worked full time at the same place for the past 16 years, my sons were now 12 and 10 and, quite frankly, I needed a break (although one in my ankle wasn’t exactly what I had in mind).
I worked from home and had a chance to catch up on doing some of the things I loved but that had gotten lost somewhere along the way of graduating college, getting married, having children, and managing a career. Things like reading, journaling, and catching up with friends. Then there were the things I imagined doing if I didn’t have a bum foot, like a mid-afternoon walk or picking up the boys from school and taking them for ice cream.
But the reality was, once my foot healed I’d be back at work. I almost didn’t allow myself to entertain the “what if” thought when my younger son did what had come to be an after-school routine since I’d been home—he stormed through the front door, threw his backpack on the floor, grabbed a handful of cookies, and did a 360 to head back outside to play with the neighborhood kids. But on this day he stopped on his way out, looked at me and said, “I’m glad you’re home.” Laughing, I asked, “Why? You come home and go right outside to play.” He smiled and said without pause, “Yes. But I know you’re here.”
Call it what you will—an a-ha moment or a whisper from the Universe—but it was in that split second that I knew I needed to make a change. Don’t get me wrong, it took some additional thinking, soul-searching, financial analysis, and conversations with my husband, along with several panicked “what am I thinking?” moments to decide that I would leave my full-time job. But it was in that one moment that the feeling came over me that I needed to make a choice, and that choice was to make a change.
The day after I graduated from college I began work as a full-time reporter for a weekly newspaper. The hours were long, the pay was hideous, but I loved every minute it and I was launching “a career.” Five years and two jobs later I got married and continued to work. Three years later my first son was born. I took the standard 12-week leave and went back to work, and I did the same thing two years later when my second son entered the world. I continued to work full time for the next 10 years juggling childcare, after-school care, emergency pick-ups, summer camps, etc.
Yes, it was time for a change.
Once I made the decision to leave my job things began to fall into place. When I gave my notice at work, they asked if I would consider coming back part time. Absolutely! And you can even work from home. Even better. This would be the first full summer I’d spend with the boys. A friend called: she was renting her home at the Jersey shore for the summer. I’ll take it!
I still refer to Summer 2006 as the best summer ever. I reconnected as a mother and wife. We reconnected as a family. And I had an opportunity to reflect how I want the next chapter of my life to unfold. The journey continues to be amazing, and I continue learning and growing along the way. I keep the soft cast as a reminder of how pain can lead to happiness.
I never regret making the decision to leave just as I never regret the years I worked. Where I am today is the result of the choices I’ve made in the past. What I’ve learned is that when I choose consciously from a place of love rather than fear, it will always bring me closer to my goals. Even if I have to limp getting there.
The Identity Five:
1. What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
It took me time to accept that I am in control of creating the life I want. It was time to stop worrying and fearing the unknown, and time to start being and doing.
2. What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
I appreciate the opportunity to be a positive influence to others and that every day my life is more abundant than I could have ever imagined.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
My most rewarding achievement is watching my sons grow into young adults who are kind, good-hearted and have a high standard of integrity and values. My goals include having a successful business, giving back in a meaningful way, and living every day with purpose.
4. What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
I have come to accept that every imperfection is perfection in myself and in others. We are all unique individuals and my not-so-perfect way is still perfectly me. My New York accent is part of what makes me, me.
5. How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?
My imperfect life!