Stability is Overrated

If you flap long and hard enough, your wings will eventually take you to where you were always meant to be.

When I was 32, I took a flight to LaGuardia, caught a car service up to Connecticut, waltzed into my boss’ office, and told him I was quitting. Just over a year removed from winning the coveted Reach the Peak award — the highest honor my company gave out for “sales excellence” — I was the victim of an early midlife crisis. My boss, who I’ve remained in contact with to this day, was taken aback.

He assumed that I was going to a competitor, with the help of a slick-talking recruiter, of course. They made a living off of guys like me, essentially stealing us from one company before offering us to another, from which, of course, they’d hope to again snatch us as soon as enough time had passed.

I used to get calls from those clowns all the time. And, sure, I went on a few interviews — even got a couple of offers — one of them from Fidelity Investments. It was a hard gig to pass up, but when push came to shove, I did just that. It seemed so…pointless. Calling on the exact same people, wearing the exact same tailored suits, but hawking a different family of investments.

Part of the reason for my early midlife crisis was wrapped up in all of that — the notion that my white-collared compadres and I were little more than interchangeable parts. To me, there was no soul to what I was doing. I wanted more and I was aware of that for a long time. And I had finally gotten up enough courage to do something about it. Sure, prudence suggested that I find another gig before moving on, but I had saved up enough money to live off of for a year — maybe two. Plus, I’ve never really been all that into being prudent.

“What are you going to do?” my boss asked with a confused look on his face.

“Go to Jazz Fest and run the San Diego marathon,” I answered with a shrug. Beyond that, I hadn’t a clue.

Luckily, things worked out for me. I eventually landed in my hometown and wound up joining my sister-in-law in starting a blue-collar business that fabricates and installs granite countertops. But this June, after over seven years of being co-owner of that business, I found myself in a similar spot to where I’d been nearly a decade before.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the countertop company. And I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. It’s an outstanding little shop. Conservatively run, with very low debt and profitable to boot. But like before, suddenly I wanted more. So in June, I told my business partner that I wanted out. Throughout the months that followed, we worked hard to reach a solution agreeable to us both. And now, it’s finally official.

Yesterday, I went to say goodbye to the fellas. And it was tough. Especially when I said goodbye to our shop foreman who’s been working for us for over six years. He looked me in the eye and thanked me for being what he described as the single biggest influence in his life over the past several years. He told me that he doubted if I even realized how much I had taught him. About life. And that he’d never forget it. Or me. We shared a long embrace before I finally pulled back, dried my tears with the back of my hand, and drove away from the company I helped build for the very last time.

But as hard as yesterday was, the most difficult part of the transition was the actual decision, itself. Primarily because of the eerie peace it brought me from the moment I made it. Paradoxical? Perhaps. But the utter ease with which I made such a big decision initially made me wonder if I could really trust it. The last go round? Getting the courage to quit had been an arduous process. And back then, as a single buffoon who was be-bopping his way through life, I had far fewer things about which to fret than I do now. So why, I wondered, was a similar decision actually easier this time? I pondered that question for 48 straight hours until I finally accepted that there was no answer.

Except faith.

So what, exactly, will I do? Well, I can’t go to Jazz Fest or run a marathon because of those damn triplets. And Pookie, too. Besides, I’m way too content with my family to leave them for any significant period of time. (note to Lovie — except when I go on my annual backpacking trips.) So, instead, I guess I’ll do what it is I wanna do most.

I’ll write.

Thankfully, I’ve got a lot going on. I’m working on a novel (fiction this time) and have even made a little leeway in trying to fool an agent into representing me. I’m also staying busy with the great opportunity that Babble was nice enough to give me. (Come visit me.) And soon, I’ll be regularly contributing to two other fantastic sites. Between the (modest) income from my writing and the little cash pop I received from selling my half of the company, I should be just fine for at least a year.

I’ll be the first to admit that my career path hasn’t exactly been a conventional one. I think it’s because I haven’t fit well in the spots I’ve landed. Strangely, in each of those spots, it looked to everyone around as if I fit just fine. But I’m less into the way things look and more into the way they feel. Not to mention the fact that I understand that not everything can be neatly tucked away inside tidy little boxes. And I’ve come to accept that I’m one of those things.

And that’s okay. Because there’s a spot for those things, too. It’s just harder to find. But if you try your best, the search rewards you with growth. Besides, I’d rather be looking wishing I had already found it, than stuck wishing I were brave enough to still be looking. And one of these days, I’m certain I’ll find my the perfect spot for me. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure I can see it from where I’m currently standing. It’s right over there.

I’m headed that way now.

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • http://www.pjmullen.com/ PJ Mullen

    You truly are on the road less traveled. We’ve had plenty of conversations about how similar our professional experiences have been and I admire you for making the bold, unconventional moves. Life is way to short to stand by and not do what inspires you. All the best in your endeavors. I’m sure if you bring the same spirit and tenacity to your writing career that you brought in building a company that you’ll be just fine. Just remember us little folk when your novel hits the NYT best seller list, alright?

    • Anonymous

      personally, PJ? i think you’re the shit. i always have.

  • http://lesleehorner.wordpress.com/ Leslee

    I haven’t been reading blogs lately, not unless someone specifically finds me and tells me there is something they want me to see. So, I must admit I haven’t been over here in a while. I’ve been in a funk that has come to a head this week. I think it’s because I’m not doing what I want to do and (perhaps) am meant to do. I don’t know why I’m resisting my writing or what exactly I’m afraid of, but I know I need to get through it or over it or whatever. Yesterday one of my best friend’s called me just to tell me to get back to my writing. She happened to call after I’d spent the morning wondering what the hell I ought to be doing. You’d think I would have sat down and pulled that novel back out, but I didn’t. Last night at writing group, the members reminded me I have a great concept going and I need to finish it. When I got home I spent an hour watching TV instead of writing. This morning I was supposed to have coffee with a friend but she canceled. I’ve been trying to figure out what I’ll do with that extra time and then I came here and read this.

    So…”I guess I’ll do what I wanna do most. I’ll write.”

    Thank you for inspiring me, John! Good luck with your novel. I am always cheering for you!!

    • Anonymous

      leslee — i’m glad i could inspire you. i’d be happier still if your inspiration had come from within. b/c IMHO that’s where you need to find it.

      • http://lesleehorner.wordpress.com/ Leslee

        It’s been coming from within for months now…I’ve just been fighting it. When you don’t listen to the small voice, it gets louder and finds other ways to communicate to you…right?

        • Anonymous

          you’ll get no argument from me there…

          email me. i miss you. (i’m on a new macBook and i don’t have your address)

  • http://jugglingeric.blogspot.com Eric D. Bolton

    With me, stability is needed. As unhappy I am with my job I’ve been with for over nine years, It’s all I have right now supporting my family. I’d much rather be home working on projects of my own or even dress up like a super hero and go to comic-con. But until I hit the lotto or my wife wants to start working making the big bucks, our reserve will last us until Grey’s Anatomy is over tonight…

    It’s very cool you’ve had the stability and discipline in the past to be able to make this big decision. Congrats bud.

    • Anonymous

      Eric — everyone is bound by their parameters and their obligations. frankly, i’m incredibly lucky to have had the ability to take such chances. so i obviously understand the sentiment behind your words and would leave you with this — when i think of complacent people who remain stagnant — you’re pretty much the last person who comes to mind. and, btw…i still intend on responding to your recent comment re: aaron.

      • http://jugglingeric.blogspot.com Eric D. Bolton

        Thanks John.. Your encouraging words did just that.. and no worries about
        the reply.. :)

        • Anonymous

          oh it’s coming…

  • Rachel

    I always like reading your blogs so much that I’ve decided I just need to focus on one part of each one of them that speaks to me the most and comment on that specifically!

    So for this one…

    “But I’m less into the way things look and more into the way they feel. Not to mention the fact that I understand that not everything can be neatly tucked away inside tidy little boxes. And I’ve come to accept that I’m one of those things.”

    Thankful today that just in the past few years instead of worrying about what others think of me, I’ve learned to follow my instincts and to OWN that I don’t fit into one of those boxes…and that often the things I’m afraid of are more built up in my mind as fear until I force myself to confront them…then I walk away chastising myself for worrying as unnecessarily as I did about the “unknown” thing…’cuz it ain’t nothing. ;p

    • Anonymous

      rachel — whether you realize it or not, your comment made my day. i’m so thankful you left it.

      you know what i think? i think that most of us fool ourselves into believing we fit into whatever box it is we believe others desire us to occupy. and that poor fit, i believe, is at the center of many a midlife crisis. i’m so glad i figured it — twice now — instead of burning valuable time.

      life is such a precious gift. the biggest way to give thanks for receiving it is to live it in a manner that is most true to ourselves. i love what you wrote about following your instincts. you’re dead on in my opinion.

      thanks, again, for your comment!

  • Jtmeyers90

    So jealous. So, so, so jealous. I, too, appear to fit in well in my current corporate situation. However, I haven’t got the ‘nads to be able to do anything about it except constantly try to deal with my state of discontent. Life has to be about more than what I’m doing…shouldn’t I be enjoying it? I’ve always had a desire to write, but am clueless about where to start, and what to write about. Nobody seems to enjoy my padantic ramblings as much as I do.

    Best of luck to you. However, I don’t think you’ll need luck at all. You are gifted and a joy to read! Looking forward to hearing more from you!

    • Anonymous

      @Jtmeyers90 — um, *I* enjoyed your pedantic ramblings, and, for one, was impressed by your use of the word pedantic.

      for years, i never knew where to begin writing, either. but i reached a point in time when i decided that i was going to get serious about it. (3 years ago now.) i started by writing my book. then, still not quite a year ago, i started to blog.

      throughout it all, two things kept me focused. #1 is a cliche — write what you know. and # 2 would be a cliche if more people knew it. it’s something my mom used to tell me. “stories happen to people who can tell them.”

      by writing what i knew, and then remembering that if i really were a story teller, then i was likely to experience a story at any given point in time, i always found that i had things to write. both nonfiction and fiction.not that you were asking for advice — and not that you need any, for that matter. especially from me!

      w/ regard to your situation — you’re aware of it. and it seems to me that most people haven’t even the first clue. recognition in and of itself is a gift.

      thank you for your last paragraph — that was a really nice thing to say. i appreciate you reading, not to mention taking time to comment.

      • Jtmeyers90

        Thanks! Even though I spelled it wrong? Oh, the irony. (There’s another one for you!)

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ The JackB

    I fell down the rabbit hole a few years back. It wasn’t by choice or desire but fell I did and in some ways I am happy it happened. Happy because it has forced me to take an unconventional path that I think will lead me to a place where I am much happier and fulfilled.

    There have been some rough moments and I expect more to come,but the peace of mind that it will eventually provide is worth it. You are a people person and can always go back to chasing the next sale. If you do I am sure that you’ll find yourself back at the top again.

    But this is special and provides a different sort of reward. Something tells me that you are just a few steps away from being where you want to be.

    • Anonymous

      while i know that i could always go back to corporate america, i can assure you that you’ll never see me do it.

      something tells me that we’re BOTH just a few steps away from being where we wanna be…

      ps — watched your lake show last night.

  • http://www.mochadad.com mochadad

    Congratulations for having the courage to follow your heart. I know things will work out well for you.

    • Anonymous

      it’s always a good day when mochadad stops by for a visit. you’re an extremely positive person. in fact — true story here — that positivity was the topic of a conversation i had w/ Lovie about you over the weekend. i was telling her about your thankfulness jar. (i’m virtually certain that was your fantastic post. pls tell me i’m not wrong here…) AND…we’ve put one up! as of monday. i’ll never forget that post — or the way you helped your son (i think it was?) put one of his own notes in the jar.

      thanks for your well wishes. here’s to hoping you’re right about things working out.

  • http://LifeofaNewDad otter321

    John, I admire your courage for going out and finding what it is you truly love. I admire the way you are fearless because I am just the opposite. I will probably always be bound by my conservative nature, but I am happy where I’m at for now.

    I am not surprised at all that you have been so successful in the past which allows you to make these changes. You are a truly gifted person. What stands out about you the most to me is your kindness. You reply to each of us in a very personal and caring way. No wonder you were such a good salesman.

    Good luck with your future endeavors, but I know you don’t really need it.

    • Anonymous

      wow. talk about kindness.

      “successful” is a strange word. and while i do think i’ve been just that, i’ve also been more lucky than anything else.

      each time i visit your blog, your happiness is evident. you have a beautiful wife and a beautiful family. AND, you’re from the SE — which you and i both know means you’re pretty much a badass. though AK doesn’t consider themselves SE, do they — more SW? you’re kinda in no-man’s land there — i know Memphis goes w/ mid south alot. regardless — you’re in our conference and you like the outdoors. that makes you an SE guy to me for sure.

      i really hope our paths cross IRL one day. and i really appreciate the nice comment you left.

      • http://LifeofaNewDad otter321

        I consider us from the south. No east or west just south, and that is the most important thing as far as I’m concerned.

  • http://www.alwaysjacked.com Alan Kercinik

    Congratulations on taking the plunge and pursuing something that you really want to for yourself. I know you’ve been doing it — you’re really prolific for anyone, much less an anyone with a full-time job and a family — but to be able to pour all your work energy into your passion is really great.

    Best of luck. Keep us posted on the journey.

    • Anonymous

      alan — thanks for the comment, my friend. the funny thing is that i truly thought all this would all be official by the time our paths crossed at M3 in atl. but things always take longer than you think, i suppose.

      anyway, appreciate your well wishes.

  • http://www.sexandthesingledad.com Sexandthesingledad

    Good for you John. You are like a mentor to me and I respect the hell out of what you’re doing right now. I’m not sure what the dude version of, “You go girl,” is, but whatever it is, that’s what I’m saying to you right now.

    • Anonymous

      JR — you’re the shiz, brother. i appreciate your nice words not to mention your friendship. and talk about respect? that’s a two way street. anyone reading this should go check out one of JR’s last posts b/c the guy offers up a straight up look at a tough situation. and that’s the kind of tenacity, JR, that will get you through.

      holla.

  • Angella

    john, can i be honest? i found your previous design easier to navigate. will be back in a bit to catch up here.

    • Anonymous

      angella! you can ALWAYS be honest with me. you are the second person who has said that. i’ve had many more, however, tell me how much they like it, primarily b/c there are so many different options for them as soon as they “land,” and b/c of the drop-down menu under the banner.

      HOWEVER, you and the other person who commented about not liking the new look are two of my very faves, and what’s more part of me AGREES with you.

      though i like the functionality of my new blog much better (WAY more google hits thanks to superior SEO, better access to widgets, etc…) i am wondering about this particular template. (i can get many of the same features that i like by going back to a more “blog” template, and less of a “news” template.)

      the last thing i’d ever want to do is inadvertently put a barrier between me and the people who read my posts. b/c i kinda think one of my appeals is that i’m engaging. and the last thing i want is less engagement.

      honestly? my #s have been better with the new blog. but the comments have not come as often as they used to. it’s b/c of one of two reasons. it may be simply b/c i’m not posting nearly as often as i used to thanks to other writing commitments. but it also may be b/c i’ve inadvertently distanced myself from the people who read.

      SO, long story short — thank you so much for your candor. i genuinely appreciate it and believe that i will tweak it. pls know that i am alway open to criticism and really value your input. you’re a good egg, Angella. thanks, again!

      • Angella

        John, you can’t argue with the numbers! And it’s always a good thing to try something new, to evolve. I’m touched that you responded to my comment with the generosity that you did. Whatever you decide to do here, know that I will always be back, I will always read, and that has nothing to do with your design, it has to do with your heart.

        The design is growing on me by the way. I think I just needed to think of it in a different way, be more flexible. I send love to you and your wonderful family.

  • http://www.almightydad.com Keith Wilcox

    No, I guess it doesn’t seem conventional. You’ve left two perfectly decent jobs on a whim. But, you know what — that’s what life is all about if one intends to take the most out of it. I lot of people say they want to follow their heart, they just don’t do it. You seem to be one of those rare personalities that actually follows through on the desire to be free. Free from what? Well, sometimes we just don’t know, and that’s fine. :-)

    • Anonymous

      well put keith. you’ve always struck me as one who marches to the beat of his own drum. and you’re right. sometimes we don’t have to know exactly what we’re trying to free ourselves from.

  • Anonymous

    COFFEE NEXT FRIDAY at “our place”? I bet you’re free! :)

  • SeattleDad

    Good for you John. I too admire your courage. You know, I have found that as I have seasoned that I am not nearly afraid of the unknown as I used to be. We went through some pretty big transitions here as well recently and what would have kept me up at night before didn’t phase me as much. I guess life’s experiences have taught me a thing or two. One of them is what really matters. And that it doesn’t cost a lot for that.

    Good luck brother. Let me know when that novel comes out.

    • Anonymous

      @SD — you and i have “spoken” about being older parents and that such age kinda suits us well. being “seasoned” has a lot of advantages. loved this:

      “I guess life’s experiences have taught me a thing or two. One of them is what really matters. And that it doesn’t cost a lot for that.”

      thanks for the well wishes. glad we’re in touch. (aside from being such a great blogger and a good dude, to boot, you’re also my portal to the city i love o much…)

  • http://twitter.com/betadad beta dad

    Congrats, buddy! You’re an inspiration. If I had a job, I would totally consider quitting.

    Seriously, you are a crazy dynamo of optimism and positive energy. It’s good to know that people like you are succeeding in all kinds of different ways!

    • Anonymous

      YO, BD — recognize, bitches. brother’s got talent.

      thanks for the nice words. i’m so glad that our worlds have come into contact. you’re one of the best ones out there.

  • http://ifmomsaysok.wordpress.com Tara R.

    Congratulations and Good Luck! (and I am more than a little jealous of the writing gigs.)

    • Anonymous

      i was telling melissa this just yesterday — melissa, WM and you are part of my inner “tweeps.” thanks for commenting.

      and also — and i mean this — a woman of your significant and versatile talents has no room to be jealous of anyone. you’re a rockstar in my book.

  • Angella

    Congrats on deciding to do what you so obviously love. You are a writer, a creative soul, and perhaps you will never truly “fit” anywhere because one part of you is always standing aside, observing, feeling, gathering. Except within your family, of course. You will always fit there.

    I can’t wait to read your novel! It is such a secret guilty pleasure to spend your days in the company of your (fictional) characters, to have them ramble about in your head long after you close the computer for the night, and then to wake up eager to get back to them and see what they’ve done overnight. I don’t know if it is that way for you, but it was for me. Intoxicating.

    Congrats on the agent, too!

  • http://www.worldofweasels.com/ Weasel Momma

    Sometimes you just have to jump! Good luck have a great ride down and landing softly.

  • http://www.worldofweasels.com/ Weasel Momma

    Sometimes you just have to jump! Good luck have a great ride down and landing softly.

  • http://www.dcurbandad.com DCUrbanDad

    Dude you have major stones. But you know what’s the best part. You are setting an amazing example for those kids of yours to follow their dreams, have faith, but also work hard. Good luck, but like Otter says you really don’t need it.

  • Laura

    I’m a little behind on my blog reading. I blame the Junior League. Way to go, pal! I’ll be able to say, “I knew him when….”
    XO,
    Laura

  • http://fathermuskrat.com/ muskrat

    Dude, are you crazy or something?
    I’m glad you’re going public with this and that you’re pursuing other, more exciting opportunities.
    Incidentally, if my dumb ass can make pursuing self-employment work, you certainly can (again)! Maybe this will further inspire you:
    http://fathermuskrat.com/2009/11/16/pay-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain/

    • Anonymous

      of all the comments this post got, yours was the only one that wasn’t exactly supporting. i thought that was weird especially after i read your post. incidentally, this is the other comment i was thinking of that had a theme of $ to it.

      you don’t get it. i am pursuing self employment. via writing. call me if you need further explanation. i know you went to bama and all.

      anyway, i think it’s awesome you quit your job. now you’re in charge of everything. greater risk, but also greater reward. but you didn’t exactly leave the rat race. you just rid of the members of your relay team. but it works for you and i think that’s awesome. plus, you make a lot of money. (which you’re not afraid to tell people! HA).

      but i’m gonna tell you a secret, muskrat. we’re super-good on cash. like, forever. shhhh. do to answer the question: “Dude, are you crazy or something?”

      nope. i know exactly what i’m doing.

      • http://fathermuskrat.com/ muskrat

        I was being snarky. If I see everyone else’s comments are of one tenor, I’m going to toss in something different.
        Deep down, I do think it’s pretty cool to see someone else pursuing what he wants to pursue. Few people do this in life.

        • Anonymous

          you’re like a riddle wrapped in a snarky little conundrum, aren’t you?