“IF THE NEXT 30 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE LOOKS LIKE THIS, IS THIS ENOUGH?”
One woman’s journey to find purpose, meaning and – yes that elusive happiness.
I always wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore. I was raised by Italian parents; my dad was literally “off the boat.” As the oldest of four, I was expected to go to college; (“must get an education in America” dad said), and then get married and have children. When I decided the, “get married and have children” part didn’t fit into my plan, I saw the corporate ladder as the perfect opportunity to have what I wanted most from my traditional upbringing – freedom. That’s where Mary comes in. I wanted a job in TV like her, my own apartment in a big city, an exciting dating life and a killer wardrobe. I climbed and climbed that ladder for nearly 15 years, single, dating and living in New York, working in the television syndication business, and furnishing my pretty co-op just for me. My wardrobe was coming along nicely too. Along the way each of my siblings got married and my parents became proud grandparents of five. As each sibling got engaged, my father took me aside and asked me if I “minded’ that they were getting married before me. I tried not to laugh, knowing he was really worried about me being alone in my old age – while I was worried that I wouldn’t make president of a company by the age of 40.
One day, at age 38, as I straightened up my already straightened up apartment, I heard a voice inside myself ask, “if this is the next 30 years of your life, is this enough?” It stopped me cold. We all hear voices in our head, but this one didn’t come from my head, it literally came from inside my chest, from my heart.
In a split second, I answered myself, “No, I missed something.” Instantly I knew it was a family of my own, children. Or at least having children around me. It was hard to breathe. I was shocked and confused. For days I mulled over my options and decided to find out how I could volunteer at shelters in the evenings where children who were abused and abandoned were taken for safety. I was welcomed in and with a plastic bag of children’s books, I sat on the floor and read bedtime stories to frightened, lonely children ages 5-10.
For 15 years I had been obsessed with giving my career everything I had. Now I had become obsessed with giving these children a bedtime ritual most of them had never had.
That was 20 years ago. I jumped off that corporate ladder and transformed my life. Two decades of mounting debt, courage and commitment, conquering fears and holding fast to faith followed. Success did not come easy, but it did come. And so did peace. Thanks to support from national media including Parenting magazine and an interview on Oprah, Pajama Program has now delivered more than 7 million Good Nights filled with the magical gifts of pajamas and books to children nationwide.
Take it from me. Your path is only your true path if your heart says it is.
So, ask yourself,
“If this is the next 30 years of my life, is this enough?
Since I found my purpose in pajamas, here are 7 things – in the name of PAJAMAS – to think about if your answer is “No”:
P … PRETENDING everything is OK when you know it’s not, IS NOT OK:
If you wake up telling yourself everything is fine, you’ll just get through the day in survival mode, that’s not OK … If you tell everyone life’s good when really you are unhappy in your current life or career, that’s not OK … If you have dreams and you say to yourself “I’ll start those when the time is right,” you’re looking at a long road ahead.
A … ASK yourself lots of questions:
Sit down, be silent and ask your heart what it is you love to do. You may have to repeat this for a few days, but your heart will speak to you if you invite it to. Separate what your head is telling you from what your heart is saying. They will battle, it’s normal.
Write down a couple of the things your heart tells you to move toward or change in your life or work. Choose the two that make your heart sing the loudest.
J … JUMP in and start splashing around:
Identify individuals in your two chosen areas and connect with them. Chances are you personally know enough people in each area. If you don’t, ask around, someone in your circle does. Ask them the pros and cons, what their day-to- day routine is like, and what they suggest your first steps would be to make your change.
A … ACTION – take the first step:
Begin a four-week experiment. Spend one hour a week doing something in each of the two areas. It may be researching more about the idea, volunteering in some capacity or shadowing someone in the field.
At the end of the four weeks, take 15 minutes of quiet time and write about how you feel when you’re doing those two things. Does one win your heart?
M … MAKE a commitment:
If you feel like your life is better, brighter and fuller by adding these new areas to your life, make a commitment that includes one or both moving forward.
Commitment is a very powerful tool to bring you closer to achieving your goals and finding your true purpose. When you are committed, the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter and closer.
A … ALWAYS believe in yourself, and the universe:
Not every day is going to be great but fabulous ones will pop up and move you forward. Do not give up. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Stay true to yourself and stay focused. Accept that change takes time and if something did not pan out this day, week or month, it will the next time. When you believe in yourself, the universe believes in you as well and will deliver just when you need it most.
S … SPEAK to everyone who will listen!
The Human Connection works miracles. Share your new passion with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, even in line at the grocery store. Enthusiasm and excitement are infectious. Others will want a piece of that joy and excitement, and they will become your cheerleaders. Changing your path is not easy and the more support you feel, the more confident you’ll be. Share your fears and concerns too. We all rally for each other, we just need to know who needs a boost. No more pretending. Give wings to your dream and lead with meaning.
“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it,
I am not going to be silent.” Madeleine Albright
By Genevieve Piturro
Genevieve is the author of the new book Purpose Passion and Pajamas. She is a frequent speaker, consultant and Founder of Pajama Program.
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