I remember being a new mom taking my toddler to the park.
All of the mommies would gather for a chat while watching the little ones navigate the waters of early socialization and compromise. Whenever I would tell the other mothers that I was working as a medical transcriptionist, their eyes would light up and they would immediately ask questions about working from home, how long it took to train for the position and whether or not I liked it.
I would tell them stories of how I could create my own schedule and be there for my child, how I worked for a large, worldwide transcription company, and basically how I was balancing it all.
What I didn’t share was the story of almost impossible quotas, or endless research, or how sitting for extended periods of time wreaks havoc on one’s body. I didn’t tell them how I worked long hours alone in my office listening to barely audible foreign doctors who thought it was acceptable to dictate on a cell phone while driving a convertible in a tunnel, eating a hoagie, or how I had to type disease-filled reports, one after the other.
No, I didn’t share the truth that it was incredibly frustrating, almost to the point of tears.
I would try to convince myself of the value of this work. I was capable of doing it. I was an integral part of the huge healthcare machine. I cared.
But I couldn’t deny that I felt drained, both physically and mentally.
The worst part was that it began to radiate outward and affect my family life.
Here I was, with a wonderful husband and an amazing little girl, living a comfortable life. But I wasn’t happy. I would think of my daughter and how fast she was growing. I didn’t want her to know her mother as miserable and angry. How was I going to be able to tell her to follow her dreams when I obviously wasn’t?
During one particularly stressful day, my daughter came into the office to ask me a question. Without thinking, I snapped at her. I immediately felt regret as tears welled up in her eyes.
That was it…enough.
This job wasn’t worth being short-tempered with my child. It wasn’t worth feeling miserable. It wasn’t worth losing my health over (ironic?). I realized I couldn’t go on like this. Something had to change, if not for myself, then for my daughter.
My mind became occupied with trying to figure out a different way. One day, the word “cor” jumped off the screen before my eyes. It is Latin for heart. It is also the root of the word COURAGE.
According to Merriam-Webster, courage is defined as the ability to do something that you know is difficult: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, or withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
It takes courage to change your life. [click to tweet]
I began to listen to my heart and create a space for hope to take hold. I rekindled my creative self. I searched out local art groups that provided support and opportunities for me to grow. I got big canvases and started to paint like I did when I was younger.
Creating art seemed to give me the courage I needed to transition away from transcription.
I began to do local art shows and realized that I could create income from selling my art (especially dog-related art, interestingly enough). It wasn’t easy. It was very important to my husband and I that one of us remained home with our daughter. We were working on different schedules, trying to fit it all in. I would sacrifice sleep in order to prepare for weekend shows, with no guarantee that they’d pay off. But my heart kept telling me to keep going, to fight through the difficulties, to bravely face the challenges of building a new life.
One day, as I was setting up for an art show in a neighboring town, I was approached by a woman who loved my work. She was an animal lover and was looking for someone to illustrate a book idea that she was working on. For the next year, I worked on the illustrations for the book Pawprints in Heaven.
Eventually, I was able to quit transcription completely.
Today, I still receive royalties for my illustration work, I teach workshops, and work part-time in an office setting. I have goals of doing more books and eventually opening my own studio for workshops. But most of all, I’m happy, proud and excited for the future.
They say luck favors the prepared.
I’m a testament to this.
Had I quit on my dreams, left my art for “retirement,” or been even the slightest bit reasonable and stuck to my certain and safe career, I would have lacked the preparedness to capitalize on a lucky day.
Don’t get me wrong, lucky days are important.
But so is the courage to create the life you want, each and every day, before the luck ever happens.
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Shari Sherman is a Hawaii-born artist who uses bright colors and simple lines to bring her whimsical paintings to life. Her themes include the ocean, positive messages, dogs and mermaids! Shari’s art is described as “Happy Art for Happy People”. You can find her work at sharisherman.com.