jennifer keenan

My Big Audacious Dream

Anyone out there a fan of Rachel Hollis? If so, you’ve likely heard her say – “If it’s not a Hell Yes, then it’s a No.” Rachel’s  advice for identifying when you should say “No” if what you are being asked to do doesn’t align with your goals. That advice also works in the reverse, and I have firsthand experience of it.

When Compounding Courage asked me to be a guest post in one of their newsletters, it was an immediate ‘Hell Yes’! Butterflies in the stomach, heart racing-ly excited ‘Hell Yes’ which is how I knew it DID align with my goals in life and I HAD to do it. I mean, c’mon…writing and sharing my story of courage with this community in the hopes that even one person will relate to my story and be inspired into living a little more courageously? HELL. YES.

Then it sets in. Shit – what should I write about?

And I don’t mean that from the standpoint of not believing I have a courageous story to share. Just the opposite, actually. Now that I know what courage looks like (thanks to the Compounding Courage Team!) I can see courage everywhere.

  • Leaving the house without makeup on, but still feeling beautiful – courage.
  • Trying to live a healthier life, with others questioning why – courage.
  • Starting a garden for the first time, while being afraid it’ll fail – courage.
  • Simply trying out a new recipe, while being afraid it’s also going to fail – courage.
  • Sharing your story of vulnerability and in turn courage with others, knowing you could be judged for it – courage!

My point is, now that I’m looking for courage, I see it in everyday activities. But, since sharing a story about how I’ve learned to love baking, and have worked to perfect my cinnamon rolls wouldn’t make for the most compelling of stories, I’ll share how my personal development journey over the past year and a half has helped me to pursue my big, audacious dream (another Rachel Hollis-ism).

I used to love my job. I worked for a local retailer and had for 18 years when my story starts. I had quite literally grown up with the company—graduated high school and cosmetology school, bought a home, got married, had 2 babies, sold a home, and bought a different home. This company (and more so the people I worked with) saw me through a lot. And I loved it. That is…until I didn’t.

I can’t pinpoint the moment when I started to fall out of love with my job. Honestly, it was probably a slow progression. I had gone from working there full time to 4 days a week, then 3, and eventually 2 days a week as my life continued to evolve outside of work. Through this progression, my connection with my job and the company began to distance. Simultaneously, my connection and love for my life at home with my family began to grow stronger and stronger. Home is where I started to feel the most fulfillment.

August 13, 2018. This day was a game-changer for my story and where it truly begins. Two events happened on this day and changed me forever.

That morning my Grandma was scheduled for surgery to remove a mass that was found within her digestive system. This was a day when I normally would have gone into work and I remember debating whether or not I should take the day off to be with my family at the hospital. My Grandpa would have my dad and mom there with him for support – maybe I wouldn’t be needed. And I only work 2 days a week, so if I miss today, I’ve missed half of my work week. But I had a strong desire to be there, so I went with that desire. I sat in the room as the doctor explained to us that they couldn’t perform the procedure they originally planned because they had found, what were most likely, cancerous spots. And they had already spread to her liver. 

Cancer. 

As emotionally difficult as it was and as sad as we all were, I remember thinking in that moment – it was the exact place I needed to be. With my family.

After a day filled with a hell of a lot of crying, that night I proceeded to attend the Rachel Hollis Presents: Made for More documentary. I had only dabbled into the idea of personal development before this day. I had no idea who Rachel Hollis was. But the Compounding Courage team was going and raved about her, so it had to be good. Not to mention that after the emotionally draining day I had, I needed this. I needed some Women-Empowering-Women spirit and to be surrounded by this community of women. 

And it delivered!

I cried a lot during the documentary. A Lot! Probably some residual crying from earlier in the day. But also from the power in her message, the realization that I needed a change and the frustration and confusion in not knowing what that change needed to be. I was completely overwhelmed in that moment.

It wasn’t until weeks later, after thinking about the documentary daily and trying to figure out it’s meaning for me, that it hit. I remember the moment so vividly. I was mowing my lawn. I was continuing to repeat a line Dave Hollis (Rachel Hollis’s husband) said in the documentary (and this is my interpretation) ‘fulfillment does not exist without uncertainty’. This line had hit me hard during the documentary. All this time I had been feeling a lack of fulfillment in my work and now he gave me this idea that it’s because of ‘certainty’. Huh…but what does that mean for me? 

At the same time, I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to be home with my family 100%. Home with my daughters, yes, but also for all my family. I find great joy in being able to be there for them and feel an overwhelming sense of fulfillment when I can be there to support them. Even more so at that time with my Grandma’s cancer diagnosis. What I was struggling with was the idea of how these two thoughts crossed. I mean, Rachel is telling me I’m Made for More. Dave is telling me that I will be fulfilled if I reach for uncertainty. And both are preaching big, audacious dreams. And being home 100% isn’t more, feels pretty certain and isn’t a big, audacious deam…is it?

That day, as I was mowing the lawn, the switch went off and it all started to connect. All the puzzle pieces in my personal development journey started to fall into place and it literally stopped me in my lawn-mowing tracks.

Working in a corporate environment which I had for 18+ years was the most certain thing in the world to me. I knew the company, I knew the people, I knew the work and I was good at it. Leaving the security of that job would be the most uncertain thing I could do. I was certain in the level of fulfillment I already had from being with my family on my days off, I wanted more. And there it was…my More

This whole time I had been confusing being ‘Made for More’ with ‘Doing More’. Wrong! being Made for More is about reaching for the best version of you and that you are worth the effort to get you there. The best version of myself…My More was actually doing Less. Less time away from my family. Less stress. Less hustle.

My Big Audacious Dream: to lead a simpler life filled with gratitude, joy and happiness with my family. I was going to be a Stay at Home Mom.

Queue the hustle of limiting beliefs…

  • My kids are both in school. This isn’t when you are supposed to stay home with them.
  • My husband won’t agree.
  • What message am I sending to my daughters?
  • Am I just being lazy?
  • What if I don’t like it?
  • I won’t have any friends if I’m not at work.
  • We can’t afford it.

Some of these may sound ridiculous, but it’s the shit that would clog my brain and hold me back from actually moving forward. And I KNOW I’m not alone in these. These beliefs were blocking the path to my goal. 

Through lots of reflection, personal development work and discussing with those I respected, I was able to work through those limiting beliefs and can proudly rebuttal every single one now. And one of the proudest moments through my entire journey was the day I told my Grandma that I knew without a doubt that I wanted to leave my job and be home 100%. We talked about how work is not limited to tasks that are completed to get a paycheck. About not measuring how hard you work by the number of hours that are put in. I told her about the joy and fulfillment that I get by doing work around the house. I told her about the limiting beliefs I was working through and that I was certain, without a doubt, that I wanted to be home for my family.

The look of pure joy and happiness on her face for me – a look I will remember forever. This woman…the hardest, most dedicated worker I’ve ever known…was proud of me and my big audacious dream. 

Now, I’m only saddened that she couldn’t be here with us when I was able to make it happen.

Am I Lucky? I announced that my final day of work was going to be June 11, 2019. I did so in true 2019 fashion…via social media live video. I find live videos so extremely uncomfortable to do, yet this time it was also so very rewarding. To share so openly while I could see the ticker of how many people were watching and commenting – YIKES! But, the response and support I received was oh-so amazing! So many people happy for us and our decision and others that related to what I had to share. My heart was full!

And then the first of many similarly worded congratulations…”You are so lucky; I wish I could do that!” I know the people that responded to my announcement this way had all good intentions and this was their way of congratulating me. But man – did this make me uncomfortable!

First of all, as a self-proclaimed socially awkward individual, how is one supposed to respond to this comment? Does a “Thank You” work here? But, I was more uncomfortable with the word – LUCK. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t articulate my thoughts in the moment when I received these comments. However, I did muster enough strength to do a follow-up live video to share my thoughts and apparently Call Truth to Bullshit. (Another nod to our Compounding Courage ladies!)

Luck (in my opinion) implies zero effort. Zero. Effort. Now, did the decision my husband and I make really take zero effort? HEEELLLLL. NO.

  • Am I lucky my husband supports my decision? Yes, my husband is amazing – no doubt about that. And I am so grateful for his support. But that support takes work. It takes me supporting him with his goals equally AND takes me clearly communicating what this change would mean to me. Effort, not luck.
  • Am I lucky we can afford for me to be home 100%? Yes, it’s a huge privilege that I do not take for granted. But we have had to and continue to work on this. Years and years of saving and trying our best to be financially responsible. And now that we are living on one income…now the real hard work starts. Effort, not luck.

Not to forget all the mental work that it took to get us here. Effort, Gratitude and Privilege. Not luck. 

Now what? At the time that I’m finishing my draft of this newsletter I am wrapping up my first-ever summer spent entirely with my family. And I’m not going to hold back – it was simply AMAZING! We have spent our days living out my dream. Walks to summer school, the library and the pool. Lunches on the deck and afternoons spent relaxing and playing in the backyard. Throw in meal planning, grocery shopping and food prep to keep my family healthy. House cleaning and organizing and projects to keep things running smoothly. Visits with loved ones and getting two girls prepared to take on 5th and 3rd grade. Oh, and working on that garden and my baking skills!

You know the biggest observation I’ve had over the last 3 months? By slowing down, doing what I love and living in those moments rather than checking them off a list of ‘to-dos’ – time has slowed down. This summer has been the LONGEST summer I can remember, and in the very best of ways. 

Yes, time flies when you are having fun. But I think time slows when you take the time to enjoy it. 

Now that my girls will be heading back to school, I catch myself questioning – “Now What?” The hustle starts to creep back in and I find myself scanning for what’s next. But each time this happens, I stop and remind myself that I’m doing what I love and I am allowed to be happy and enjoy this time. I will likely have more goals and dreams that present themselves in the future and I will work toward them at that time – but there is no need to rush it. For now – I will enjoy the feeling of living in this big, audacious dream!

2 thoughts on “My Big Audacious Dream”

  1. Jennifer, you are an inspiration. I like how observed that time can slow down, I look forward to that time. Your writings bring out thoughts and feelings in me that I don’t know I had. Thank you and thank you, Compounding Courage for inviting Jennifer to write in your newsletter.

  2. Bravo!!! I totally see myself in you. First of all, kids grow up way too fast and no one should be in need to justify her or himself to be a stay home mom/dad. I think this is awesome! I did some of that when my girls where young and loved it!! Especially when they were sick, been able to take them to the doctor without feeling guilty of leaving them with a babysitter or a grandparent. Is this so weird anyway to like to clean, cook, doing laundry and being organized for the love of your family? It is a great and wonderful choice to do so and cherishing it.

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julie

Julie Stephenson

Julie is one of the founders of Compounding Courage, a company that provides personal growth and leadership development programs. CLICK HERE to learn more.