I was determined not to be like her. Working all day as a maid (THE HELP) and still attending to daddy’s every need. She’d cook his dinner and express deliver it to him as he sat expectantly in his recliner. Always running around the house picking up after the ten of us—never having time for herself. Mama was a gifted caretaker. I loved my mother, but I just couldn’t see myself waiting on anyone the way that she did. Not me!
I would take every opportunity to make my life look differently. Chasing one degree after another…one promotion after another; I simply refused to give in to her life. So I developed a laser-like focus on building a career. I established myself as a wife, mother, and a career woman with the highest degree in the land. Still, I couldn’t breathe—cloaked by sadness; paralyzed by the realization that I was in the wrong race. I kept thinking, “What in the hell is wrong with me?…Is this even what I’m supposed to be doing?” I found myself crying on the floor of my closet; pleading to God to give me my passion back.
God didn’t answer my plea. Not that night, anyway. I attended a leaders’ conference sponsored by my company. At the close of the session, I was chatting with friends when I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around, my supervisor and the head of human resources were standing there. Having worked as a supervisor with these people, I was familiar with what happened after the shoulder tap.
“Barbara…Can we find a place to talk?” We went into an empty room, where there just “happened” to be a table set with three chairs; clearly this was planned. “I’m glad you’re sitting down.” I thought, “That was stupid.” He’d just asked me to have a seat. He continued, “Well, we’ve interviewed quite a few candidates for the director’s position (a position below mine) and we just can’t find the right fit.” I chuckled inside. I had been a part of the interview team for every single interview and he was never in the room…but OK…proceed. He went on to say that they felt that I had a unique skill set and they needed me to go and turn the division around. My supervisor and I had been at odds since he’d taken over, so I was sure that this was his doing. In disbelief, I uttered, “So…are you telling me that I’m being demoted?” Neither offered a reasonable response. I’d seen this strategy before. I felt sick to my stomach! I’d never faced a challenge in my career. Everything I had worked for—unmatched results and an exemplary track record—tarnished.
The mosaic of my identity, meshed by my role as a wife, mother, and a leader in my field; suddenly unidentifiable. Darn it! There it was again; that sadness that I’d experienced earlier. This was my “why am I here” moment. I started to examine my life. Grappling with the questions: What is it all for? Why am I here on this earth? Just what was I sent here to do? These questions led me back to the trail of tears on my closet floor and pointed directly to my mother’s life; the one I didn’t want. In looking at my mother’s life more closely, I realized that Mama served in the way that she did because she understood that her purpose was outside of herself. She recognized that she was sent to this earth to use her gift of nurturing to be of service to others. Mama wasn’t THE help, she knew was sent here TO help.
I decided to go and introduce myself to the new staff. From the moment I started speaking, sharing my story and encouraging them to tell theirs, they hung on every word. I could tell that they were moved by what I was saying. I remember thinking, “These people are counting on me. Barbara, this is not about you! It’s so much bigger!”
Getting the tap on the shoulder that day, was God’s response to my “in the closet” plea for passion. It wasn’t that I had lost my passion, it was that I was disconnected from purpose. By most accounts, I had achieved a great deal of success, but no career or degree can fill the hole meant to be filled by purpose. My heart longed for significance. So, I switched races. No longer chasing after things with waning value; things that won’t matter after I leave this earth. These days, I am hawking down purpose! Being intentional in making somebody’s day better. Using my gift of words, writing, and commitment to shifted perspective to inspire others to be the best version of themselves; operating in their purpose from any position.
Did her story inspire you to operate in your purpose? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Latest posts by Dr. Barbara L. Swinney (see all)
- There is an “I” in Healing
Nothing that happened to me was my fault, but it was certainly my responsibility. - February 14, 2017
- Why Am I Here? - August 23, 2016
- Want Your Life to Go Higher?…Go D.E.E.P.E.R.! - June 30, 2016