As I changed my clock for daylight savings a few weeks ago, it got me thinking about time moving forward and how we move forward in our lives. I remembered one of the hardest times I’ve ever had in my life. A time when I felt like I was absolutely, positively stuck and couldn’t move forward. A time when it felt like I had nothing going for me. But what I didn’t realize then was that this feeling was a blessing in disguise.
When I was 24, I moved 7,000 miles away from my home in China for a promising corporate job in the U.S. At first, I was filled with expectations and hope for my future. I knew if I worked hard, I would be successful. But the reality was that I felt isolated and lonely because of the language barrier, cultural barrier, and a total lack of a social network. So I worked even harder and started taking classes at night and weekends to earn my MBA.
And then things got worse. The stock market plummeted, sending the country into a recession and my company into rounds of layoffs. If work was hard before, it was terrible after. But I was tied to my job because my employer sponsored my working visa and green card. It was all I had, my only resource, and it was making me miserable. In six years, I survived six rounds of layoffs and seven different managers. Then, I got my green card and my MBA. I finally had my freedom.
Yet I was still utterly stuck.
I could work anywhere now, but I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there. I was supposed to enjoy climbing the corporate ladder, but I didn’t feel like corporate life let me be my best self. I wanted to have a meaningful and fulfilling career, but I was uncertain how. Fortunately, I had some savings which gave me the financial freedom to explore. It was only with an utter honesty with myself and the encouragement from my husband and mother that I could start to find my calling. They helped me see that my years working in finance and my interests in helping people have better lives could be used to help others in wealth management. I realized I wasn’t bound to my career, but rather it gave me a rich background from where I could make my own impact. Today it seems almost silly to me that I let fear and shame of “what I should be doing” get in the way of making the best career choice of my life.
This is one of my goals with my regular Women’s Circle gatherings, to help women find support and discover their resources as they go through life’s transitions. My next event is May 1st, and I am excited for what we’ll learn as a group and who see their life in a new way. I wish I had a group like this when I started my new career, because I was terrified and unsure if I was making a huge mistake. I needed the perspective of others to see my assets and strengths. At my events, women come together to safely explore, connect, and be inspired by each other. Every time we get together, I see a woman discover her resources and her support network. It’s amazing to see feelings of fear, hopeless, uncertainty, and lack of confidence turn into discovery and power.
At one of my events, a woman named Karen sat quietly for most of the evening, just listening to others’ stories. In the past year, she had lost her husband to a long illness. Karen began to realize her unhappiness was largely related to feeling stuck in her own life. She quietly spoke up and told the group she was unsure how to move forward after her husband’s death and how to manage her family’s finances. Karen told us about the guilt and pain she felt over receiving insurance proceeds from her husband’s death. She said she felt all wrong.
To Karen’s surprise, everyone told her she was feeling exactly right. Women across generations spoke about how they had been through similar life changes and how they eventually moved on with better outcomes than they expected. They knew that this feeling of being stuck was a normal thing. It meant Karen would have the opportunity to let go of what’s not working for her and create her own new identity. She would change her perspective and move forward as a stronger person.
Karen listened as other women shared their experiences with her. She was empowered to face her fears about being head of household and to be decisive about maximizing resources for her young daughters so they could attend college. With the group she realized she had everything she needed, a support network (she just needed to ask for help), financial resources (she just needed some planning), and a purpose (to be a role model for her daughters).
As she left, I could see Karen straighten her shoulders and start to get back her confidence. She would learn to manage it all with grace and power. She later told me how much that event helped her gain the perspective she needed to get unstuck.
|Join us on May 1st, for a chance to celebrate and honor
self-worth and power as women, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends.
It is educational way to engage in money conversations that we as women do not normally feel comfortable or confident talking about with our family and friends. We will be joined by Dr. Carolyn Friend of Inheriting Wisdom who will share best practices for passing your money wisdom down to your family. This is a fantastic opportunity for mothers and daughters to learn from each other about their money beliefs and experiences – a vitally important conversation that doesn’t happen nearly enough.
Women’s Events and Women’s Conversation Café in 2016 and more information, contact Linda Cao at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310.207.4800.