My wife graduated with her Associate of Arts degree about a week ago. To say I am proud of her accomplishment would be an understatement. She worked very hard and was 1 of only 11 people in a graduating class of well over 500 to graduate Summa Cum Laude. Countless nights, I would go to bed at 10 pm because of work the next day, while Alison would stay up way, WAY later doing homework or studying for exams. She also worked part time as an English tutor at her school, as well as her regular job (which is about 20 hours/week). For the past three years, she has maintained a furiously busy schedule. I frankly don’t know how she did it.
During that time, I’d like to think that I was nothing but supportive, though I can admit that there were some times that I cracked under the weight of my own busy schedule. I’ve been working 6 days a week at my job since February (with maybe three scheduled days off thrown in there), and my Sunday’s have been full with band rehearsal and podcasting for the band. (Shameless plug, please check out my band Authmentis when you get a chance. Thanks.) On top of that, I did the majority of taking care of our son, Logan, and our 8 furry and feathered family members. That means making dinners, picking the kid up, going to his meetings/events, taking care of the house issues, etc....you know, being a responsible parent.
I don’t say that so that y’all will give me the proverbial pat on the back, but rather to show that for the past three years as I supported my wife, I was so slammed with life myself that I started to get overwhelmed. Sometimes tensions in our household got rather high.
Back to my wife’s graduation. The keynote speaker for that day was our state’s Lt. Governor. He talked...a lot. He told several stories, some I can still remember, and others that droned on long enough that I zoned out a little bit. In the middle of this man’s speech to the graduates, one of his points stood out to me, so much so that I not only KNEW I had to write about it, but that I also owed my wife a heartfelt apology.
The point he made that struck me so deeply was that often times we seem to get confused between what our job is and what our purpose is. People let what they do define who they are. In the process, they think that what they do is why they exist in the first place. They seem to find a sense of purpose in the work that they do to earn their paycheck. The Lt. Governor implored the graduates to understand that what they do for a career is not their purpose, but rather a means to help their families and to help others. I can’t say for sure, but I suspect there may have been some in attendance who scoffed at this concept and I get it. For example, it’s easy for me to see how a doctor who helps save lives can think that his job is his purpose. After hearing the Lt. Governor’s speech, I agree with him that what someone does isn’t what defines them. It’s just part of the equation that helps us realize and accomplish our true purpose...helping others.
For the longest time, I have felt as though my job was to take care of my family. Put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, make sure their lives are relatively happy and what not. I’m pretty decent at that job. The awakening I had on May 22nd at 10:30 am while this man spoke was that those things AREN’T my job, they are in fact my purpose. My employment for the past 16 years has been with the United States Postal Service and at this point, they pay me very well to deliver bills, catalogs and packages (amongst other things) to my customers. Because of my employment, I’ve been able to take care of my family. The epiphany that struck me over the head like a 2x4 is that taking care of my family has NEVER been a job, even though it often times feels like work, haha! This may seem like common sense to most of you, but I’m not the brightest bulb, apparently. I finally realize that my employment is my only job, and as such, is the means that allows me to fulfill my purpose in this life: to take care of my family and to help others in whatever way I can. With this realization came a release of much of the overwhelming stress that I have felt over the past three years as my wife kicked ass at school, but left me with a majority of the responsibilities around our home. I realized that loving my family is my purpose. Taking care of them as best as I can, providing for them, being there for them, supporting them...these are the things that I long to do because it brings fulfillment to my life (and hopefully helps in doing the same for my wife and son, to some extent). My job is simply the means of helping me fulfill my purpose. Consequently, I also realized that my wife has been going to school in order to gain better employment, thus helping her to fulfill HER purpose as well. She’s mentioned in the past that she feels as though she doesn’t contribute enough. Like I said, sometimes I’m not too bright. After hearing the speech, the light bulb went on, I even mentioned this to Alison later, and she confirmed my newly found clarity.
I apologized to Alison after a fantastic graduation dinner with her and her parents and vowed to never let my job and my purpose become confused again. I implore anyone reading this to take a little time and define your job and your purpose, and to not only truly know the difference, but to also fully know and enjoy the freedom and the happiness that exists with that knowledge.