“I Worked Really Hard My Whole Life to Get Here”: And Other Myths

The beginning of this is going to be a little snarky but then it should get more enjoyable towards the end.

Let me explain. My friend, Heather, fully intends to have a carpenter custom build me a soapbox. But until that happens (which it can’t now, there’s no room in the trailer for it, even for that. Cutthroat.) we built one in our hearts and minds and I bring it out when necessary. This is one of those times. I am metaphorically climbing up it. Its like a cartoon soapbox about 2 stories high and the wooden stairs spiral around the outside. There’s probably a gavel.

I feel I am on a mission to carry certain messages into this life. I won’t try and illustrate all of those here but I will speak on a couple. This idea that we have to work so hard in this life is one of my biggest. We were parked at Gilbert Ray Campground right outside the Saguaro National Forest. Oh my god, I love Saguaros. Just like I love trees. I feel such a love for them. I have such love for the desert. It feels good to my eyes to look at it and it feels good in my heart. The saguaro cactus only grows in Arizona. And I loved Gilbert Ray. It was mostly retirees, it was very clean, natural vegetation and oh so quiet. Everyone was so friendly and respectful. People were out in the morning and as the sun was setting to enjoy a nice walk and a little socializing. Here’s a conversation I overheard, two people sitting on their “patio” as two other walked by and commented:

“Nice life!” “Hey someone’s got to do it, right?” A few moments passed, then “I worked hard my whole life so I could finally relax”

NOPE! NOT GONNA HAPPEN! I fully reject this belief system. My whole body, mind, soul. Its been with me my whole life and not til I was an adult could I put words to it. I remember when I was pretty little (like 7 or 8)  having an existential crisis (I only recently fully understood what that word meant and can now use it. Its really helpful to know that word! Some words I can be exposed to for years and never fully understand, you know what I mean?). I realized that my dad had his work and that he didn’t get summers off like I did for school. I was devastated. Because I understood in that moment that one day I would have to do that. I also would hear from my dad as I got older, (teenager) “Emily, you can’t just work from 11am-2pm. It just doesn’t work like that!” Also, devastating. What grown-ups were expected to do damn near crushed the life out of me.

So guess what I did? I created a life that got me as close as possible to ideal. It took a little bit of time, in my professional life. I started to look in that direction towards the end of my undergraduate years: custodian, heavy machine operator, landscaper, hardscaper. I looked for the job that payed the most hourly and least amount of hours. That was usually some sort of manual labor. The custodial job was at my school in Gunnison, CO. Western State College, which is called something more special now. Like, university or something. It was the highest paying hourly job and didn’t have much human contact. Except when I would walk through the library with a Ghostbusters-style, vacuum pack on my back. Yep. Then I went to graduate school. Then I worked in what I know now is the WORST work environment for me. It was a fancy addiction treatment center.

Why the Worst for Me:

  • 40 hours a week
  • Bureaucracy/Hospital
  • Open 24/7
  • Multiple levels of managers above me
  • Nearly impossible to have self-care
  • Sick (mental/spiritual) work environment
  • Not in charge of pay/fee
  • Not in charge of my own schedule or time

Heather said, “that place was like a chemo drip every time I walked in there”. She worked there too. So within 4 years I had started my own private practice as a therapist. Yeeeeeeeeessssssssssssss. That was more like it. I was so clear that self-employment was the absolute best fit for me, and I have NEVER looked back. I had great mentors. One of which, Bill Corbett, told me from the beginning, “do your clients a favor and charge $120”. This was at the top of the fee range for someone in my experience and field.  But I really respected him and his experience and I did it. And I got it. If my clients want me, 100%, I have to charge the fee that allows for that to happen. I also have to be sure I provide that value. And I did. Very quickly, I had a full practice and I realized the amount of hours I was capable of working. That was very little compared to many of my peers. But finally could control it. There was no boss with whom I had to ask permission or get approved of. This was up to me. So I worked the amount of hours I could and charged the fee I deserved. And I was sure to broadcast this to anyone who might want to listen. Why? Because I am on a mission. In my self-employed professional life I have worked between 5 and 16 hours a week. I have been much closer to 8-12 hours a week the last two years. And what do I do with all the rest of my time? Whatever the fuck I want. Here are some examples:

  • nothing
  • watch tv
  • yoga
  •  meditation
  • shopping
  • strolling
  • ride my bike
  • watch tv
  • sleep
  • go to a daytime movie
  • spend time with Jeff
  • talk to friends
  • write

I realized that I need ALOT of time where my time and energy are not committed. I happen to believe that we all need this, but whatever. I’ll be the freak and try and prove a point. There is so much stimulation that we receive living in the modern world, and I don’t just mean technology. The amount of human being strangers we are expected to sit next and share air with goes against our biology. If you think about a big cat, out in the wild, it is understood that it has a large acreage territory. I’m like that. Or a horse. They are aware of you from a very far distance. Me too. Even if you are a neighbor that doesn’t know my name and wants nothing from me, I will feel you as a presence and likely feel what your wants and needs are. Then I will fight, consciously and unconsciously, to do your heavy lifting for you. That’s just me. The warrior and the healer.

I would see so many women in my profession (its mostly women in my profession, at least around me, and in Denver) apologize for who they were in so many ways. Like: not charging a full fee, seeing people on a sliding scale, constantly over-working, and feeling bad about free time. This INFURIATES ME! Part of it is me fighting for myself. That I have those parts of myself that sound like them. The other is that I am fully committed to alleviating suffering for myself and others in this life. I was committed to being something different for the benefit of myself and so women could see, with their eyes, at least one other example of how to be.

Back to the “worked hard my whole life thing”. Just, no! Who says?! And I disagree! The norm is to work your whole life then relax. The problem I’ve seen with that is that their bodies are too broken down by the time they get there to enjoy these golden years. Too many years of not listening to what was needed. Too many years of “getting by”, “putting-up with”, “being a team player”, and not heeding the warnings and desires of their body and soul. In a informal, qualitative study done by a hospice nurse she found several common regrets expressed on the deathbed: 1) worked too much, 2) didn’t spend enough time with my family, and 3) cared too much what other people thought of me. BOOM! That stuff lights a fire under my ass! It helps me to be courageous when I’m scared. ‘Emily, will you lie on your death bed and give a shit about this?! Will you have wished that you had been brave?!’

I’ve been blessed or cursed with a VERY sensitive disposition/heart/body/soul. This means that my best efforts at working in a conventional way lasted about 3 years. I tend to experience significant mental, physical, emotional pain if I don’t listen to what is needed for me, specifically. It took a little while to learn this. But there is no turning back for now. And why would I? It keeps getting better.

Now here’s the twist. Living like this is hard but not in the way one might think. I saved no money for our Adventure. I didn’t “work really hard” and “get in as much as I can before I took time off”. I didn’t earn this in the way its typically done. The way it is hard is: doing what I know to be my responsibility, trusting in the Divine/Universe/God, trusting the process, and working to master my mind. How I define my responsibility here is: working hard emotionally, mentally, spiritually to clear out my baggage that’s been attained in this life as well as doggedly working to find and heed the call of my intuition/gut/heart. Every time I follow my intuition (which I believe is how the Divine speaks directly through and to me) it works out for me. And every time I have tried to hustle or borrow someone else’s compass or intuition in place of my best judgment, it does not work. This is a scientific process, people. It takes courage to follow your intuition and your dreams. No one will hand it to you. But it is attainable for every, single person on earth. And don’t try and argue with me. You give me the problem and I will tell you a solution. Didn’t I tell you I was on the soapbox? Looks like I stayed up here the whole time.





5 thoughts on ““I Worked Really Hard My Whole Life to Get Here”: And Other Myths

  1. This is awesome, Emily! Thank you so much for sharing. We are definitely like-minded in that we both believe that we don’t have to work our whole lives and then relax. Life is HERE, RIGHT NOW, relax and enjoy it!!! Love you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen to you both! I, on the other hand, have worked hard, very hard, for nearly all of my adult life. I am working hard now, but by that I mean working hard at changing that mentality. I hope to help change the male paradigm of the need for hard work and suffering as a sense of pride to one of working with effortlessness and love, two of my favorite things! I’ve got a long way to go, but Emily’s got my back!


  3. hahah oh emily…that’s a nice soapbox you got there. Any room for me up there? Maybe a sidecar? I wholeheartedly feel you on so may levels! I’ve given too much of myself away in the past so am very careful/afraid of doing it in the present. Sometimes I feel ashamed of how much I am capable of due to the over worked mentality of our culture. Happy to hear like minded people validating how I feel. Love you guys so much for doing this…. xoxo

    I commented…so there!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bravo to you two for taking the leap! I love hearing about your adventures in your new world. Thanks so much for your raw, honest, real, awesome, courageous sharing of your journeys!


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