85: I Have Enough

85: I Have Enough

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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I Have Enough

We need much less than we think we need.

~Maya Angelou

Another Monday morning. It was only nine o’clock, yet I felt like I had already put in a full day’s work. The packed ferry and train meant I had to stand through the entire hour and a half commute into Manhattan’s financial district. There had to be an easier way to earn a living.

I pulled out my calendar. Three management meetings scheduled for the morning and a working lunch to discuss how to announce impending budget cuts to the staff. The afternoon didn’t promise to be any better — a three-hour training session to teach supervisors how to implement disciplinary action for poorly performing employees.

I liked my job most of the time. My undergraduate and graduate degrees were in business administration and I had been blessed to develop a career in my field of study. It paid well and I had worked my way up to vice president. However, as the years passed I found myself longing to do something more fulfilling with my life.

My heart was drawn to writing, teaching Bible studies, and mentoring. But it just didn’t seem sensible to leave a profitable career to focus on something so idealistic. Besides, living in New York City meant struggling with a high cost of living, including steep mortgage payments. I also did not want to give up the perks of my job. I enjoyed the executive benefits and international travel. So for twenty years, I climbed the corporate ladder and dreamed of a time when I could spend my days doing the things I really wanted to do.

How do you know when you have enough? I struggled with that question until I remembered the quote from John D. Rockefeller. He was once asked, “How much money is enough?” He answered, “Just a little bit more.” I decided I didn’t want to be someone who spent her life chasing “just a little bit more.”

When my husband retired, we decided to grab the opportunity to make a major change and simplify our life. We exchanged life in the big city to start over in a small town in Florida. Our goal was to trim our living expenses and try to live solely on my husband’s pension. If we could manage it, then I would be free to write and teach. Clipping coupons seemed a small price to pay to follow my dream.

Still, I had reservations. While I was eager to give up the stress and pressures associated with my career, I wasn’t eager to give up the status, travel, and benefits that accompanied it. And our move wasn’t just about changing careers. I had lived in the same area for my entire adult life and would be leaving my entire support network of family and friends. Was I making too many changes at once?

It didn’t help that I had received an abundance of conflicting advice from well-meaning people. One extended family member said I was making a big mistake in leaving the corporate world so soon. According to him, I had “at least another ten good years of work” left in me. From his perspective, I was foolishly throwing away a lucrative earning opportunity. Sadly, he could not comprehend that, although we weren’t rich, we had enough.

Others shared the opposite view. They said I wasted those first twenty years trapped in the nine-to-five rat race. According to them, life is much too short to put our dreams on hold. The sooner I left my job and followed those dreams, the better.

We completed our relocation and pursued our initial plans. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t require a major adjustment. But as I began teaching and writing, I came to the realization that both extremes of advice had been wrong for me.

I may have had at least “ten good years of work” left in me for the corporate workplace. That certainly would have been the more lucrative option. But it was indeed time to move on to follow the dream of my heart. It was time to stop chasing “just a little bit more.”

Besides, those twenty years weren’t a waste at all. The skills I acquired in the corporate workplace were just as useful in my new life. Writing position papers, memos, and corporate policies honed my writing abilities. Researching policy development prepared me to research the books I write. The exhausting daily commute provided the content for my first paid submission: “Not Just Another Rat” in Chicken Soup for the Working Woman’s Soul.

I may have spent one thousand Monday mornings postponing my dream, but nothing is ever wasted… in work and in life. I’ve learned to appreciate the worth of all my experiences. I’ve also learned to be content with what I have.

Others may have more, but I have enough… and enough is just right for me.

~Ava Pennington

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