It may seem strange to write about how my father influenced my career because I haven’t seen him since I was 4 years old.
En route to growing older, because he was absent, I wanted these circumstances to mean that he would therefore have no influence on how I would choose to live my life let alone what I would end up doing for work.
I saw how my friends’ fathers bore down on them with advice and values and ideas that weren’t a fit for them and how that strained their relationship. At times. I thought I’d be immune.
But I was wrong.
In my own fumbling towards career bliss, I came across this question in a book: “How did your father influence your career choice?”
Well, he didn’t. He wasn’t there. I didn’t have a real father.
Those where my first thoughts.
But the question nagged at my insides. And I noticed that I was bothered by my own response.
My answer sounded logical, but untruthful. It sounded rebellious, but disappointed. I sounded defensive to my own ears.
Until I explored this childhood event with my therapist, my journal, and a few well-chosen friends, I had no idea of the depth that my father’s personal choices had influenced my own.
In particular, my career.
Before you unravel, you struggle to understand your orientation to choice-making. And in the absence of understanding, life feels random, confusing and frustrating.
The way I had it figured, I had done all of the right things to create a secure life in order to feel happy and at peace.
Yet I could not have been more unsatisfied nor more filled with doubt about my life and my ability to take steps towards meaning and fulfillment.
You see, I wished with all my heart for a very long time that my father hadn’t left, but before he did, the chaos that he and my mother created together made me wish that they were apart.
Even so, it’s a shock when someone that wanted you to love, trust and depend on him leaves without a trace. Especially when you are his daughter and he your father.
So I made creating security my career.
It became my reason for doing well at school and being obedient through people pleasing for several decades. Because this is what it takes (I was raised to believe) to get a ‘good job’ defined by security, good pay, benefits and some vacation time.
And that ‘good job’ – just so you know, is nothing that you have to like, but it is something that you have to do if you’re going to make something of yourself at all and be respected by society.
And after all that, I would supposedly be eligible for happiness.
Fear was leading my career decision-making.
All I wanted was security. To know that home wasn’t going to disappear without an explanation. To not dread bringing home a request from school for a field trip or costume for the play that cost money. To not fear that I was growing out of my clothes and shoes too fast to warrant outbursts of financial fatigue from my mother.
Your career is the ideal projection for security when something else is going on.
I thought that my career would make my fears of insecurity go away. That it would make the feelings I had over the experience of losing my father go away.
Success abounded and helped me to see the pain of this way of being. I managed to find my way to very secure work, but the feeling that I was trying to escape never did go away.
You see, I had expended, spent, depleted, exhausted and run myself straight into a life ofconstant fatigue to get where I was. I held security high above all other human needs like freedom, harmony, peace, fun and connection.
Turns out that even when I was secure, I feared it would disappear without my understanding of why.
Not unlike … that’s right, my father.
And then the realization:
No father in the world and no job in the world could ever be a substitute for the security of being loved and wanted for who you are, doing what you are.
You don’t work for love in order to be worthy.
There is no security without freedom. Because without freedom, security is just a debilitating burden.
And with that insight, a new blueprint for work begins.
There is joy in existing. And you can work because it’s worth your while to do so.