Many of us are at a crossroads in life. 

After two (plus) years of the pandemic, we are starting to comprehend how life has changed in foundational ways. How we and the world and our mental health have all changed in fundamental ways. In this context, we’re making decisions about relationships, jobs and careers, where and how we live, and how we want to move through the world.

It was the stress of the pandemic that jolted me onto a new career path. About a year into our collective global trauma, I found myself in a mental dark place. Not knowing what else to do, I went to the ER for help and was enrolled in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

I was happy to be there, learning new skills and spending time every day with people who had struggles like mine. When the program was over, I was inspired to change my life. I catapulted forward, going to school to get certified as a trauma recovery coach to help people with their mental health. 

I went through the intensive program while working my full-time day job. While I was achieving certification, I started my trauma and grief recovery business. I worked a lot of hours between that and the day job, not knowing if I could maintain this business of my heart. A trusted therapist told me to give it three years. 

Three years. I knew I couldn’t run this growing business and work a day job for three years. I wasn’t sure how long I had, but I knew instinctively that it wasn’t going to be long before I would need to let go of the security and take a chance on myself. 

That day came ​​sooner than I expected, and I found myself at a crossroads. Would I really give up the security of a regular paycheck, week after week, month after month, year after year? Was I ready to head out into the unknown, not knowing if I was going to be successful even after three years of working on my dream? Was I willing to spend the money I had saved up over the last few years to fund this dream?

Here are the questions I asked myself while I waited at this crossroads of my life.

Questions of Trauma & Grief

I am a childhood trauma survivor, and I am well-versed in trauma responses. These are the intense beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that bubble up in the course of everyday life. Often, these trauma responses may not logically make sense, because they are based in our past traumas and grief, and not in the present. 

A good example of one of mine is the stress of change and transition. Before I invested time and energy into working through many of my trauma experiences, the slightest change could set off my fight, flight, or freeze response. I would quickly get overwhelmed and shut down, unable to make decisions or move forward. 

Now, though, my response to transition is grounded more in the present. I still have the inner critic in my head, taunting me about failing and being an imposter, but it’s better than it used to be. My brain, in its own way, is trying to protect me, which leads to self-compassion, which helps me to keep moving forward. 

So as I contemplated giving up the perceived security of my day job, I asked myself

What trauma responses are coming up? What are the sources of these responses?

These questions helped me to move beyond thoughts and feelings that were rooted in the past, and to reconnect with the present.

Questions of Trust

As a woman in my late forties, this is far from the first change or transition I’ve gone through. I’ve been through changes in relationships, jobs, careers, and parenting, off the top of my head. 

I reminded myself of this as I waited at this crossroads. Part of my hesitation with giving up my day job is that I would be jumping into the unknown, and my current full-time job was secure. It was easy and relatively peaceful. I mean, couldn’t I just “handle it?” It didn’t “make sense” to give up such an easy job, right?

Many of my crossroads decisions have not made logical sense, and I asked myself the following questions:

Do you trust your gut? Have you trusted yourself before? What happened?

I dug through my memories and realized how many times I’ve made a move based on a gut instinct, and how I have never regretted those decisions. Each of those choices to trust my gut has pulled me forward and led to even greater things in my life.

Questions of Movement

Speaking of forward motion, it’s much better to be moving than to be stuck. We are energy, and we are meant to move. I’ve been stuck before at crossroads in my life. I’ve spent many years stuck in relationships, jobs, and situations that did not benefit me and helped keep me frozen in place. 

So I asked myself the following questions:

Which direction is a move forward? Are you open to the consequences of your decision?

Followed closely by:

Are you anchored enough to let go?

Because security is important, don’t get me wrong. When we feel secure, there’s room for taking responsible risks and being open to the consequences. We need to feel anchored to something, or else we feel adrift, triggering more trauma responses.

The thing about security is that it doesn’t come from a job or money or another person. Not from achievements or status or our culture. 

Ultimately, when sitting at a crossroads and asking these questions, the most important realization is that:

Security comes from you. 

Take the leap. 

It’s time to fly.

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