Transition: a financial lens

“The other big shift for me was just recognizing that security is all illusion,” shared a Focus Group participant.  We were discussing our lessons learned from transition.  The surprises?  “I started letting go or recognizing that what I thought was security really wasn’t gaining me the traction for joy or however you want to label it,” she went on.  “That was a big let go….(letting go of) going after  the paycheck because I thought I needed that security.”   Have you bumped into similar lessons?

875413_47541979_balance_scaleI’m not sure we reached agreement on the ‘great’ lessons of transition that evening.  Finance, however, reared its head many times.   For some finances served as an impenetrable gate.   For others a source of identity.   For still others a veil.   Is it the elephant in the room?

I’m not sure how to characterize finance’s role in my transition.  I think it’s best summed up by an out-of-the-blue comment I made to a former work colleague.

‘If I worked for the next decade and accumulated great wealth I would feel as if I hadn’t accomplished much – something would be undone.’   I offered this frank remark as we had lunch in the posh University Club on 5th Ave in New York.  I remember thinking — how honest.

What role finances?

About 2 weeks ago I had dinner with one of my key supporters, a family member who’s toggled between cheerleader and confidant for me for years.    Our conversation really got under my skin.  It leads me to believe that even I don’t clearly understand, ‘what role finances?’

“Where’s the paycheck?  It only matters if there is economic value tied to it,” quipped my dinner companion.   Really?  I was momentarily shocked.   How had I calculated this guy so wrong?

Right now my transition is characterized by a series of experiments meant to validate a new identity, one that is aligned with my passions.   The passion?  Women’s development.  The experiments?  Three part-time jobs along with a small cadre of community commitments.

Let’s face it there are some who will never see beyond my modest earnings derived from part-time employment.  Their loss.   After my momentary shock over dinner…my passion’s ballast insulated me.

When I started my transition I thought it was all about finding a new job, one that would allow me to pursue both my professional and my personal lives.  Up until that point the professional side had won the day – everyday.

After a lot of scraped knees I now understand transition to be a decision we make when faced with the need to change.  To change or transition? Your choice.

For those who choose transition it requires a re-imagining of critical assumptions about our identity, our values and our capacity.   It isn’t for the faint of heart.  It involves uncertainty, isolation and failure.  But it gives back countless times over in joy and energy and possibility.

I don’t know the absolutes about finance and transition.  I know that it is highly personal.

Gail Sheehy, author of Passages: Predictable Crisis of Adult Life, said it about the best that I’ve seen.   I’m paraphrasing..she said ‘Who are we to judge?  One woman works to pay the rent so that her family can keep their 1st apartment after exiting public assistance while another woman works to support a  second apartment in Washington, DC for her senator husband and family.’  Is the finance rubric the same for these two women?   Highly personal. 

So what role finance?  I think finance gates the time frame over which we can validate our passions.   But regardless of your financial situation…the only time we lose is if we let finance eliminate our passion pursuits entirely.

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3 responses to “Transition: a financial lens

  1. My reaction to that guy’s comment – “It only matters if there is economic value tied to it” – is that is a very “male” perspective on life, which many “professional” women have been forced to adopt to “succeed” in a male-dominated corporate world. I, like you, bristled at the comment. I would be interested in other (male and female) reactions to this.

  2. Here’s an interesting story from today’s “PRI The World” about the European reaction to a recent Cadillac ad that boasts about the US work ethic and challenges other countries who don’t share those values:

  3. Marla, You’ll laugh…the guy whom I reference above loves that commercial! No surprise. I’d prefer the cheese and pate and a vehicle that gets me close to the beach for a walk….thanks for sharing.

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