This post may seem more like a journal entry than previous posts, so reader be warned!
I am a 58-year old underemployed black woman. I have three degrees and over 30 years of professional work experiences. I have held a “side gig” for close to fifteen years that has never turned in to anything other than a “side gig.”
Oh, believe me, I have invested plenty of time, money and effort into growing my business and establishing my brand. But, My Oasis of Hope Consulting (once Olayinka, once My Oasis of Hope, LLC…) seems to be little more than a name on a business card. An expensive business card at that!
I’ve promoted myself as a counselor, a mental health minister, family facilitator, and now as a consultant. But… I remain a 58-year old underemployed black woman with more education and experiences than the average employer wants to contend with. See, on paper it may look like I will come in and take over; I won’t. I promise I won’t.
So, what does a 58-year old educated woman do as she waits for the “break” she desires? Well, she chases meaning. What does that look like you may ask? It could look like volunteering to do work just to feel useful and alive. Chasing meaning may look like rearranging one’s schedule because someone says they need you to help them process an issue.
Chasing meaning can even look like saying yes to things that “might” lead to recognition; recognition that will hopefully lead to income and financial stability. But in the meantime, we settle for meaning. Because engaging in what is meaningful appears to be a healthier option than pulling the covers over our head and sleeping our lives away.
What is meaning anyway? It means to have a function or purpose… having something that drives us or calls us forward. Sometimes it requires an action, sometimes it is nothing more than a buffer against inaction. Meaning is what gets us up in the morning. It helps us to smile even when things are not going well.
Living a life of meaning is what keeps many of us alive. Not just alive and living but thriving. The pursuit of meaning is very personal and not easily explained to those who question your motives. Discussing what you hope for, really isn’t something someone who is financing your reality wants to hear. Really, how do you explain that you’d rather travel across town to meet with someone who didn’t confirm they’d be there, than sit at home… again?
Yet, there comes a time most of us will come to admit; chasing meaning is exhausting. It is time consuming. See, that’s the two-sided deal of pursing meaning. It takes time to engage in the chase and fills up the time that might otherwise be used to question the value of your meaning.
Those of us who have yet to experience any lasting financial benefit related to meaning, are forever choosing between time spent sulking and time spent seeking a relief to the sulking. Running after something we hope is productive and purposeful requires time… and often money; money we don’t have because of the disconnect between our purpose and the value assigned to that purpose.
Like being on a hamster wheel, chasing meaning can be discouraging. Sure, we’ll get exercise; exercise that keeps our skills sharpened or keeps our name “out there.” But that exercise can feel quite futile, because let’s face it… meaning alone don’t pay the bills. Until someone values what we deem meaningful, the pursuit not only feels daunting, it can begin to feel… meaningless.
See, I told you it would be like a journal entry. Journal entries don’t always end on a happy note. Journal entries speak to the suckiness this life sometimes presents. Journal entries help us record the yuckiness of life without trying to tie it up in a neat bow. There’s no neat bow here.
Let the chase continue…