About ten years ago, I stepped off into an abyss, the likes of which I could never have imagined—and still wouldn’t believe if I didn’t have hard evidence to remind me of it.
Like many people, when my 25-year marriage fell apart, so did I. I went from living in 3300 square feet to less than 300, from having four cars in the driveway to having none and from being a high-paid consultant to cleaning toilets. It was a rude awakening to say the least.
I was in denial and delusion for a couple of years after my husband left, not to mention the move and the unfortunate Rebound Guy thing. I kept doing what consulting I could remotely for longtime clients, but eventually, reality began to set in. The town I’d moved to didn’t offer many options and I was beginning to panic. One thing led to another and I found myself taking a job at a huge botanic garden. The money was a joke compared to what I’d made consulting, but it was better than anything else in the area—and did I mention I had no income?—so I signed on as the “night security guard.”
Yes, it was just as ridiculous as it sounds. All alone in the big dark scary woods in the middle of the night—oh, please—I was the one in need of guarding. No matter how many glowing eyes I saw in the bushes, never once was I compelled to get off my four-wheeled mule and find out what they were attached to. Those “rounds” were sheer terror, but, technically speaking, most of my time was spent emptying trash cans, mopping floors and cleaning toilets.
Yes, it was quite an experience—one I never want to repeat—and I hated it. I deeply resented being forced into such conditions, and having others tell me what to do only added insult to injury to my business owner mindset. This was so wrong! It wasn’t supposed to be like this!
But it was. So, I did what I had to do—I cleaned. And at some point, instead of being ashamed of how low I had sunk, I became proud of what I was doing. I made sure those toilets, sinks, counters and floors had never been cleaner. And somehow, as I cleaned and cleared the day’s waste, dirt and trash at the facility, I started clearing it away in my head too.
The work was hard, and the sleep deprivation made it even harder, but the more physically worn down I became, the stronger my mental resolve grew. There had to be something better than this! If I could do my best at cleaning toilets, I could certainly do my best at something else that served me better—and I would find it. If I could do this and be okay, I could do anything!
Two months later, I did. And as a result, I built a professional career and a new life, including buying my first home totally and completely for myself and by myself.
So, if you aren’t doing what you love, you have two choices: accept the fact that you can’t do any better, hunker down and make do for the rest of your life or start seeing it as a fabulous opportunity—a temporary step that in one way or another is taking you toward what you really want.
Yep, sometimes you just have to clean toilets.
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Paula Renaye is a life and relationship coach, speaker and eight-time award-winning author. Her acclaimed personal development book, Living the Life You Love: The No-Nonsense Guide to Total Transformation, is available worldwide in English, Spanish and Chinese. Get a copy here.