In June 2016, I packed up my notebooks and binders at work and said goodbye to the employer I had worked under for nine months. At home, I set up my office complete with my “new” used laptop, a printer I bought from a yard sale for $5 and parts of an old donated computer desk that Kevin spent hours assembling for me. 

My three years of experience in Dallas at an IRA custodian coupled with the months I spent learning the Florida Retirement System and in-school service amongst teachers helped me feel prepared. But because I removed myself from an employer, my entire salary was now up to me. 

I spent day after day meeting with clients, learning more about the FRS, calling cold leads, sitting in teachers’ lounges during lunchtime handing out brownies and flyers with retirement information and my picture in the corner as their local Retirement Counselor.

Unfortunately, after one year, due to financial strain, Kevin and I decided to sell the business I had painstakingly built. My head sunk low. So low.

Several months later after licking my wounds, I received the final check from the person who purchased it from me.

It was over.

Now, looking back and reading this journal entry that I wrote when I was in the thick of it, I am so encouraged by the way I fought through my circumstances without knowing the end. If I knew the end, I would have given up. But then I wouldn’t have spilled so much blood, sweat, and tears over all the clients I cared about and strove to help. I wouldn’t have received a check for my hard labor. I wouldn’t have learned lessons not taught in a business book.

Failure conjured up grit inside of me that success never would.

Do I wish my business achieved greater success than it did?

Yes.

Do I regret diving headfirst into a risky situation and landing one year later flat on my face?

Absolutely not.

                                                                  ~

Journal Entry 2/16/2017

Today my fingers are as cold as ice because I am stuck in a freezing back conference room out of the way from human civilization. When I come to visit the school as a Retirement Counselor, the administrative staff thinks I am a threat to their teachers; like a wolf creeping in on an unsuspecting flock.

I am no wolf.

But they are right, the flock does need protecting, leading and guiding. And if the sweet front desk secretary really knew me, she would know that I am exactly what her teachers need.

I wish the job was easier. I wish I didn’t feel like I have to justify myself to people and even friends and family who worry about my stress level. Sometimes I wish I didn’t take the plunge to give up a salary for self-employment. It’s easy to blame God that whispered to me through the people around me, but the decision itself was indeed mine. The decision that makes me look and feel so stupid sometimes.

Every day I help people plan for retirement but retirement feels like a hundred million miles away for me. A self-standing career kind of does too. Success looms in the future somewhere, floating around like a cloud that I can’t grab but dream about reaching.

Others see me and vow that I shall achieve. They encourage me blankly, like my future success is a law of nature with an expected outcome. My fellow agents in suits offer advice and wisdom that floods me from every angle, spurring me on. They swear I possess the right charming personality, the tenacity, the endless, smiling optimism. I’m awarded “Rookie of the Year.”

And so I keep at it. I fight through the struggle of learning new things every day. I drive miles and miles around the county, racking up tolls and miles on my little red car. I squirm and wiggle around in this skin uncomfortably, aware that people are staring at me.

Watching. Judging. Critiquing. Questioning my age and qualifications.

And here I am, daring greatly.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

Who am I to put myself in the same camp with Teddy Roosevelt? What a joke to put my life side by side with such a wise man?

But yet I cling to his words like I cling to this job, though it sometimes sucks the life out of me.

Have I ever done something this risky? Have I ever failed this many times in a row? Have I ever been so determined to fight against the odds, to rage back at the storm when it rages at me?

I don’t consider myself to be brave. But yet I see myself daring greatly every day. This life has so grabbed a hold of me, it hurts to breathe. But I refuse to give up. There is no way I can give up now. I’ve waded through such deep waters and chopped through such dense jungle forest. I’ve fought for truth and integrity and laid myself out as vulnerable as I’ve ever been.

It may be years before I triumph valiantly. It may be through mountains of paperwork that I will eventually receive a decent salary. There will be more failures. I expect nobody to understand. But I cling to the hope that someday, somehow, the dare will get me through.