I'm scared. These were the words that poured out of my heart a few days ago, as I stood listening to the water gurgle to a boil in the teal electric kettle for my morning cup of coffee. After stirring the dairy-free creamer around in the burnt orange cup, I turned and leaned against the stainless steel counter and said it again, this time out loud. "I'm scared." Then I walked towards the light of my laptop and added, "Now breathe."
Last fall, when I returned to Stockholm, Sweden, I was afraid to admit to myself that despite what someone had suggested, I had no regrets for leaving a company I'd worked at for 26 years. I also didn't want to sit still long enough to admit that "leaving that place was one of the best decisions I'd made in a while." Like all connections, work is a relationship too. And I'd spent one too many days denying to myself that I'd been in an unhealthy work environment for many years.
Although my decision felt like the right one, last winter's fog of doubt still moved in, laterally dampening my gift of faith. Thus, leading me through the months of November and December searching for employment that could bring me the promise of that which would be similar, expected and familiar. Finding what I needed to protect my body from the cold was easy. Asking for help to repair my brittle resolve was not.
January and February brought clarity, helping me to see that asking for guidance was not someone's confirmation of my weakness or regret. It was a way for me to see the light of positivity within friends who offered to help guide me out of my darkness. Although my desire to please and to be validated had returned, it was during these months when I realized that I have the choice to open the door and say to negativity, "I'm okay with you gathering your things and leaving."
With the return of Sweden's spring cherry blossoms and green leaves came my awareness that a puddle of shame had thawed around me. And this shame looked for ways to whisper to me, How could you allow yourself to be dishonored in your work, and other areas of your life? Returning to those lights of positivity, I found out I was in the anger phase of grieving a life that no longer served me. And for the first time I began to share with those close to me grievances I had long tolerated, in the hopes of gaining approval from those who never promised to give this to me. Which goes back to my core hurts and traumas that I continue to work through.
Now I'm in the middle of summer here in Stockholm. Nine months is the longest I've been outside of the United States. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, my heart has planted roots. I have friends here that I feel a strong connection to. And they've been folded into my network that still exists in the U.S. I also have a more clear vision of where I want my professional life to go, and I'm allowing myself to speak and execute my goals and ambitions.
Most importantly, I'm giving myself permission to remain on my own path. And to worry less about those who may not support or agree with it. To paraphrase what my podcast cohost Jenny said in our most recent Wallflowers in Bloom episode, I'm the one who has to ultimately live with my decisions. So it's okay for me to sit still before any decision and say to myself, Erick, make sure this feels right, for you.