LET’S GROW GUEST BLOG SERIES
BY MARCIA FORMICA
Let me be honest. Like, brutally honest. It may come as a shock to those who know me, but as my family’s sole breadwinner for more than 20 years, there have been many days where I quite literally hated my life and the pressures and the responsibilities that came with that role. I am sure this has been true for many men for decades (or longer!) as well. As society continues to slowly evolve to a place where the gender roles of our patriarchal culture will dissolve, does that mean that an unconscious, or grudgingly conscious acceptance of being miserable so we can support ourselves and our families just comes with the territory? What kind of evolution is that?? Women, and post-millennials are starting to step it up. I believe we can do this better and more thoughtfully than our (male) forebears who have, for the most part, unconsciously accepted their roles through the centuries, miserable or not.
As Michelle Obama recently pointed out, “leaning in” isn’t the answer. We can’t “have it all.” That is a very dangerous myth, to us as individuals, to our families, and to society. “Leaning in” doesn’t work in a vacuum, and “doing it all” means doing nothing truly well. We have to be the ones to push our culture to a higher level.
So how do we do that? We have to make choices, and we have to be OK with that. We can settle for being unconscious; for accepting the seemingly inevitable misery that so often accompanies “breadwinnerdom,” or not. I’m not going to pretend that I woke up one morning with the courage to make that one big choice. It sort of happened for me, but in hindsight, I wish I’d made that big choice sooner.
I had the great fortune of working for a company which, for many years, really did walk the talk on the value of life outside of work. Until it didn’t. Long story short, my dad was diagnosed with dementia earlier in 2018, and the competing demands on my time of helping my parents while trying to live up to the increasing stresses at work slammed hard into a wall of dissonance. There was a mutual agreement to walk away from my job almost before I had time to fully process what was happening.
I’m not gonna lie. At first I was terrified. But I’ve never been one to let a seeming setback own me. I don’t do panic well. So I dealt with it by deciding that this was the universe’s way of sending me a big old love letter. I decided to be OK with the idea that I might have to give up the material trappings of the world I’d built and to just “let it go” psychologically. Once I did that, magic started to happen.
There were 3 fantasies I’d had in my head for a while for what I’d be doing with my time if I had my choice. Now I had my choice. First was writing a book (and an accompanying blog and/or vlog) about the very long adventure/journey my husband and I (and our family, friends, and neighbors!) have undertaken with an enormous addition/renovation project on our house, including building to a European energy-efficiency standard called “Passivhaus,” surviving incessant rains, a hurricane, and an October snowstorm with no roof, and nearly burning the whole thing down. I started an outline for it with the help of a coach over a year ago, but that was as far as it got as the demands of work increased.
The second fantasy was to devote more focus to my investment activities. I had taken a class last year and into this spring to learn an investment strategy that mimics the style of Warren Buffett, but I hadn’t engaged very deeply with it beyond one simple strategy for the past 8 months. I knew if I could devote the proper focus, that would generate a key income stream.
Third, I’d also been thinking for several months about starting an enterprise focused on helping institutional kitchens (initially hospitals and other healthcare-related facilities) to shift their food procurement and preparation practices to ones that are more local, more sustainable, and back-to-scratch. To me, improved public and environmental health begins on our plates. I’ll leave my case for that for another place. But it’s a burning passion.
I began working again with my coach to put a plan, and, most importantly, a standard work schedule in place to be sure I didn’t let myself slip, with my time now unencumbered by “work,” into the all-too-sticky traps of social media, news-junkiedom, and/or online shopping. I also wanted to be sure that I made real space in my schedule for my parents.
Within a week of getting that schedule in place and committing to my goals, the universe truly conspired and delivered another, very tangible love letter in the form of an unexpected financial windfall that is giving me the extra footing to get these endeavors going while still being the “breadwinner.”
Meanwhile, as I did research to help structure my thoughts and approach for the healthcare/food enterprise, I came upon a small company which already had many of the tools developed (and had proven them, and continues to develop them) in a market in the Midwest. I connected with the founder and established a relationship with him to begin expanding their reach in the northeast.
As I write this, I’m working on chapter 8 of the book, and I’m taking an advanced investing strategies class. And I’m doing all of this in about 5 working hours a day, leaving my afternoons largely free for my parents. I am as happy and confident as I have ever been. I’m sure I’ll be making a lot of tweaks to my plans over time, but they’ll be MINE. And I’ll be sending my own love letter back to the universe.
Meet Marcia – Author and Food Sustainability Evangelist
Marcia is an evolving experiment in self-actualization. After a 31-year corporate career, she mothballed her suits and pumps and finally launched herself into her “why” in the fall of 2018.
She’s working on her first book, a humorous and sometimes harrowing account of surviving, and even thriving through, the home renovation. Her passion for the links between food and public and environmental health have led her to a for-profit endeavor, Sustainable|Kitchens, based in Wisconsin, which she is helping to expand in the Northeastern US. For more fun (and profit), she is a practitioner of value investing and disciplined trading strategies.
Find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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