This I Believe

Judy - Dallas, Texas
Entered on March 6, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in self-reliance.

You can’t reach adulthood without learning that everything changes, for good or ill. Economies swing and governments are overthrown. Levees break. Walls come down and walls go up. Businesses fail and new ones open. Rivers change course. New life begins; worn out bodies die. Moreover, a change can be beneficial to one person while it hurts another.

But as life goes on, the reality of change and its aftermath has come home more sharply. I’m beginning to understand what all the clichés are about:

Accidents happen. People change. Paradigms shift.

At the age of 55, I experienced one of those life altering events that I thought only happened to others: I lost my job. Until then, I would have said to anyone in a similar situation: “don’t worry; you’ll find another!” Worse, I would have secretly suspected they somehow deserved what they got.

Only when it happened to me, did I fully recognize the devastation of losing a long-time job. If you’re like me, your personal and business circles are intertwined. When I walked out the door, I left behind my identity, my ego, my paycheck, my health insurance, my friends, and all my phone numbers. It took two years and a move to another state to replace the paycheck. Replacing friends and identity is an ongoing process. I never will get some of those phone numbers back, and some I no longer want.

What I did not understand before is that you must learn to rely on yourself. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in family or friendships. I don’t avoid loyalty or commitment. I haven’t become a loner or a hermit. Nor do I refuse help if it is offered. I’ll ask for a ride or that you bring a dish. I love my helpful and supportive friends and family. In fact, the job loss led me to Dallas to live near family for the time in my adult life.

Now, however, I accept that I am responsible for everything from my financial security to my happiness. Social Security might be there, or it might not. The pension fund may be empty. Friends may move, divorce, die, or simply change priorities. I understand that it is MY job to find satisfaction and contentment, to keep a roof over my head, and plan for the future.

There is freedom in self-reliance. Harboring expectations that something or someone outside yourself will provide your needs produces anxiety, especially when they’re proved undependable. But the satisfaction in a job well done, by oneself, leaves us free to accept the kindness and help of others as we would an extra dessert.

I have a friend and mentor who says: “Everyone gets to do what they want to do.” This simple sounding phrase is profound. If we live knowing everyone will do what they want to do, and we get to do what we want to do – no harm, no foul – then we are more likely to accept change, accept differences, and accept responsibility. You are free to come with me, or free to go. And I will get along just fine.