Photo by Karha Sanon:
“She summoned the courage to choose herself.” ~Janine Rudder
Karha and I just hit the 20-year milestone in our friendship. Our journey began as college roommates. Since then we’ve helped each other navigate various phases of life, each of us guiding the way when needed. We’ve witnessed each other’s growth, celebrated successes, and told the hardest of truths.
At this moment, we are both at a critical juncture in our lives. We’ve done the work and are clear on our values and life purpose. We are fully aware that the path that looked so picturesque ten years ago now feels vacant, inauthentic, and in many ways self-destructive. For the past few years we’ve co-created each of our visions for the future, and supported each other’s detailed plans to make it happen.
This past summer, Karha, a single mom living in an expensive suburb on the east coast, with a teenage son in a private school, left her six-figure job. She walked away from incredibly lucrative annual bonuses and a salary firmly placing her in the top ten percent of U.S. households, but with deteriorating health and self-worth. She consciously stepped through the fear of the unknown toward her highest aspirations. Karha was essentially saying to herself, “I am worthy of the life in my vision. I deserve this.” She summoned the courage to choose herself.
So many of us are grappling with the incongruity of our actual lives and the life we envisioned for ourselves. If you are working to summon the courage to choose you, keep reading to hear her words in an interview below.
I’m moved and inspired by my friend’s story, and honored to share it with you now.
Photo by Karha Sanon: "The Storm Before the Calm"
Janine: Describe your role in your former position?
Karha: I was formerly a C suite Executive Assistant; essentially the chief of staff to the founder of the company. My duties also included office manager and staff supervisor. The environment was extremely stressful and high-pressured. Things needed to get executed minute to minute. It felt as if no moments could be spared. The culture of the office did not include positive feedback. The more competently I performed, the higher the bar was lifted. Acknowledgements of our work or effort were few. Monetary compensation was the only indication of a job well done. I didn’t find the work meaningfully connected to my greater aspirations, or healthy. In fact, I felt I had to grow a thick skin to separate emotion from work in order to get it all done.
At first my day started at 8:00am and went to 5:30pm. However, as time went on, the workday frequently extended to much later. Eventually expectations were that I be available late into the night. I found myself always on (call), checking information and expected to handle any issues that arose.
Janine: How did you experience that time in your life?
Karha: I was always tense in my body, constantly on alert, and eating excessively to emotionally balance the stress. I became short-tempered with those around me and had a general sense of not being present in my life. There was a constant feeling that my job was encroaching on my home. I planned my daily activities around the job, even on weekends. It felt like an intrusion. I couldn’t just think of my life without incorporating work. I could not just put work down and rest.
Towards the end my blood pressure was extremely high, I had lots of anxiety, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I had gained a significant amount of weight due to stress-induced eating. I don’t believe anyone should live like that, no matter how much money you make. I ended up sacrificing my health, mental sanity, time with family and my son. I was not present in my life for many years. I traded four valuable years of my life and balance within myself, to make decent money and prove myself at work.
Janine: What kept you there?
Karha: My strong sense of work ethic, and I didn’t want to disappoint others around me. The service-oriented part of me was giving it away to everyone. That was a big sacrifice, I gave away too much of myself in the end. It wasn’t worth it. In the long run I realized that I should put on my oxygen mask first before helping others. I also had great colleagues, which was huge and I miss them dearly. Surrounding yourself with the right people is key.
I also neglected my personal boundaries and they knew that. They understood what levers to pull to back you into a corner so that you’d feel obligated. I wasn’t always strong enough to stand up to that; oftentimes I was afraid to speak up. Looking back, I didn’t choose me enough. I was always giving myself away; giving more and more away, not taking care of myself. I should have asked for more compensation and support. It was like being in an abusive relationship that you’re not getting out of. I felt like I didn’t prioritize myself enough to reassess and say this isn’t healthy.
Photo by Karha Sanon
Janine: What led you to take action?
Karha: Toward the end, I finally started to realize my value in the company and what I’ve brought to the table. Additionally, I have a higher purpose and calling for my life that I wasn’t fulfilling by being there. I started to reflect and have conversations about my dreams and aspirations. I started writing a lot about what I wanted in life, my purpose, and how I could align myself to those things. I asked myself how am I going to change this because it’s not going to change by itself?
Soon, a light within me said no more; it’s time. I’ve always had this fire inside of me that said there is more to life than this. I also was surrounded by people who were looking for purpose. They were no longer just looking for a good paycheck. There was more to life than money. That sense of confidence lead me to look at myself and ask ok, what do you want to do? I decided to seek out what that was.
Janine: What’s your life experience now?
Karha: It’s now been six months since I‘ve left, and I feel like I’ve finally reached daylight after a long night. My theme after I quit was choosing me. In choosing me, I really truly started to align with God’s will for my life. There was a strong sense to find myself; the whole thing was focused on choosing me. I became so vulnerable and open. I just began putting one foot in front of the other without knowing where it would lead. It all fell into place. I began journaling and therapy focused on what gift I had to give to the world. I began asking myself, why am I here? As soon as I started zoning in on that I had cheerleaders, people giving me information, and networking partners. Everyday there was another gift given to me as result of me choosing me.
Each time I took a leap of faith toward what I needed to get done I felt more connected to my purpose. Gifts came as a result of me speaking my truth about who I was and who I wanted to become. Before I left, I never had faith that I could do this. It was like walking in the dark. Only when I took the first step did I see the light guiding me. The Universe, God showed me. I felt this was the direction and I knew it. Every week there has been another revelation; an indication that I’m in my purpose.
Photo by Karha Sanon
Janine: I know there will be people reading this and thinking there is absolutely no way I can just quit my job. I have a mortgage; I have a family. Can you talk about how you prepared for this?
Karha: For years while I was still with my former employer I knew that job was not the end for me. I started saving enough money to cover my expenses for a year. I focused on that goal and became determined. This wasn’t easy because I had been spending excessively due to stress. But I started to save as much as I could because I knew there would be a point when I would move on from that position and I am a single parent with a 13-year-old son.
It’s not impossible, when you start to walk in line with your purpose. The goal is to put something towards it. When I started to admit to myself that I couldn’t do this for the rest of my life, I had to cut out the things that weren’t necessary to hone in on the things I really wanted. Look at your finances and determine what you can put away. You have to discipline yourself in order to get in a position where you can take a leap of faith.
Janine: What thoughts, beliefs and habits did you have to overcome to get here?
Karha: Self doubt. Those internal gremlins in your head that say you can’t do it. Lack of discipline was another one. I had to get better at breaking goals down; trying to figure out how to break them into bite-sized pieces to make it feasible. Lastly, I had to look at the impossible in my mind and say that it is possible.
Janine: What thoughts, beliefs and habits have you embraced since then?
Karha: That anything is possible; I know it sounds cliché, but it is. I’ve embraced having faith when you are walking blind. Trusting the Universe, God, my internal gut. I highly promote Therapy. When digging deep into your self-work, it is critical to have a strong team – a therapist, life coaches, and career specialists. You truly need a team! I bartered with some for their services and paid a small fortune for others. My life is worth it.
I’ve been building my community and surrounding myself with positivity. My inner circle needs to be safe and made up of people who will help me get back up when I’m down. I’ve also sought out people who specialize in the direction I want my life to take. It takes a lot of people to help you through. Most importantly, I had to be open, and vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to let people see your truth and how deeply connected you are to your purpose. Each time I did that tokens and gifts showed up to validate my direction.
Photo by Karha Sanon
Janine: This is all so beautiful and uplifting! Is there anything else you want to share with others who are contemplating taking a step toward their greatness?
Karha: You have to assess where you are, identify where you want to go and what you want to do, and get connected to that. Seek guidance on healing internally to keep yourself aligned with that – coaching, therapy, and strong community are all invaluable. It’s important to be in that spirit.
Figure out your purpose! Set yourself free from any of the thoughts that tell you that you can’t do it. Lastly, educate yourself. Get knowledge. Reach out to people who are doing what you want to be doing with your life. It’s essential to go through this process to ignite the flame to move in that direction.
In the last six months Karha launched her photography business, Ksmiles Photography (Photos are featured throughout this post), and is pursuing a coaching certificate to help others reach their highest potential. She has grown her personal and professional community to include artists, coaches, public speakers and other professionals thriving in her areas of interest. Karha has also received multiple job offers in an array of fields that align with her interests and skill set. She remains open to all opportunities, and fiercely committed to living in alignment with her values and life purpose.
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/