A couple of friends and I recently had an actual girls’ night out—a throwback to the old college days. We had dinner, drinks, shook it on the dance floor, and stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking and laughing—reminiscent of my childhood sleepovers. It was incredibly fun and totally worth the next day’s exhaustion, sore hips (I’m getting older and I haven’t shaken it like that for a long time!), and extra attention my kids needed to make up for mommy being gone.
Typically, I would have just placed the night’s memories up on a shelf in my subconscious and brought them back out once in a while to reminisce. But there was something that has stuck with me from that night that I can’t seem to stop thinking about. During a heartfelt conversation, my friend was outlining her plans to take three months off of work to dedicate time to reconnecting with her husband, puppy, nature, health and soul. Keep in mind this friend is a brilliant, talented and successful medical provider who has worked extremely hard to get to the point where she is finally making a good salary. However, despite her apparent success she is less happy than ever before. She has bills and obligations but she’s ready to try and live on less.
She introduced me to the term “Golden Handcuffs.” I hadn’t heard the term before so I had to look it up. The literal definition refers to the high salaries and benefits used by employers to encourage highly desired employees to remain with them instead of moving from company to company. My friend had taken the term one step further. To her Golden Handcuffs didn’t just apply to being handcuffed to a company, she also meant you become handcuffed to a lifestyle. With stars in your eye after accepting that first big job offer it’s so easy to believe you can afford a bigger home, a fancier car (or two), a better cell phone plan, the weekend cabin up north, and a couple of kids. And on paper you can. It all seems good and well—living the American Dream. That is until one day you realize you are miserable in your chosen path—stressed, unhealthy, working more and more, and your kids barely know you. You start to wonder why you wanted all this stuff to begin with and begin to dream of a life that is simpler yet more satisfying. But you feel forced to stay on because your lifestyle costs too much to leave your career—the Golden Handcuffs are firmly in place.
I don’t have the answers as to how to live your life in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling. I’m not trying to tell anyone that having lots of nice things can’t be satisfying. I just know for me personally that I wish I understood the power of the Golden Handcuffs when I was younger. Now that I’m aware I’m going to work as hard as I can to figure out how to free my family. Then I can get back to what is most important in my life—my husband, kids, friends, community, health and writing.
Oh and if anyone knows where the keys for these darn handcuffs are hidden please let me know!