Making My Own Path

Guest Blogger – Colleen Cooke

Have you ever said no to making $100K four times? When opportunity knocks, typically I open the door. However, in the last six months, I’ve turned down at least four terrific opportunities.Like many women focused on their careers, I had my first child in my late thirties. My daughter is amazing and almost four now. People told me that life would change, and it did. Yet, I tried to keep doing what I had done; work 50-60 hour weeks while juggling the rest of my life, family, friends, and household. After three years of living in denial and becoming depressed (all while rapidly approaching my fortieth birthday) it finally sank in life had unequivocally changed. I needed to catch up with my life and make some changes. What I was doing wasn’t working.

The real epiphany came after I was offered a terrific role on a great team at a major software company just outside of Seattle. I was flattered and yet, I found myself hemming and hawing. When I finally said, “thanks, but no” I felt guilty and relieved at the same time. Later I realized why I had a hard time saying no. Though it wasn’t the right job for me, I was attached to following the only path I had known.

Work had defined me for so long that I hadn’t actually tuned in to the changes that motherhood had wrought. I wanted to spend more time with my daughter (me, the one who said she would never be a stay-at-home Mom!). I also unearthed a list of goals written in my early thirties, one of which was to own my own company by the time I was forty. Forty had seemed so far away back then. Forty embodied the age of wisdom, experience, and laugh lines.

I took a leave from work. I spent more time with my daughter, pondered my laugh lines and took a good look at what makes me happy. With Daisy’s help, I began envisioning what my ideal life would look like. I saw myself running my own business working only three days a week, enabling me to spend more time with my daughter. Once I had set my sights on this goal, really good things began to happen. Two friends, who had encouraged me to jump on the self-employment bandwagon, hired me to revitalize their companies’ marketing. I also began writing and submitting work to be published.

Of course, there has been a cost. Initially my income was drastically reduced and inconsistent. We were squeezed pretty tight after purchasing a home, moving and taking care of life’s basic expenses. Each time I was approached with a job opportunity and said no, I felt a little crazy for turning it down while I was stretching every penny to pay my bills. And yet, some part of me believed that living my ideal life was possible. I just had to stick with it.

Halfway through my first year of business and working only part-time, I am on track to make almost as much as I did last year. There are still times when my revenue isn’t in sync with my needs, and yet, I am happy to be working for myself. I feel fortunate to be growing professionally while creating the life I want for my family and me.

I recently read an article about someone else that reconfigured his life and seems much happier for it Al Gore. My life is much simpler than the former vice president’s, however, I do identify with his journey. He cited a line from a poem written by Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, which touched me: “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.” I breathed a little easier after reading that line. I am making my path.