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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Work = Play

Aug 01, 2020 09:00AM ● By Trish Ahjel Roberts
I worked as a financial advisor for 12 years. I enjoyed the work, but I was consistently underpaid and over stressed, dodging both sexist and racist landmines. After years of pursuing hobbies, creating community and developing my spiritual life, I realized I needed to break out of my shell.

Why was I working so hard toward someone else’s dream without being appropriately compensated for my efforts? Why was I so scared all the time?

I was scared of being homeless, feeling embarrassed or losing my moderate social standing and the right to call myself “middle-class.” I was scared to lose footing on this wobbly economic and social structure that had become the remains of my American Dream. Something shifted in me. I had to make a decision.

Did I want to live just a little or a lot? Was I doing my best work, or was I just playing it safe?

I realized my work was keeping me from living with the purpose I imagined for my life. I tried to bring my passion for helping others to my role as a financial advisor by focusing on socially responsible investing; but, ultimately, I had to accept the fact I had chosen the wrong work. I’d just had a big birthday, and this couldn’t be the apex of my life—doing work and not being appreciated, dreading Mondays, and having phony relationships with co-workers.

I gave myself permission to dream. It was terrifying. I was shocked to realize how long it had been since I had allowed myself to dream. I was so busy staying on the track that was laid out for me, my dream muscle was completely atrophied. Thoughts flooded my mind. I couldn’t sleep.

Suppose I quit my job? How would I survive? What was I willing to give up?

I finally decided that I was willing to give everything up. My daughter was going off to college, so the timing was good. If I had to sell my house and couch-surf to pursue my dream, I could do it without dragging her along with me. If I had to move back into my parents’ house, I could. I would do what I needed to do, and if I failed, I would die trying. I had been laying the foundation for years. Now was the time to make a move.

Letting go of my house wasn’t easy. However, there’s not a single possession I have ever owned that is more valuable than my dream of “work equals play.” Now, I wake up in the morning with gratitude and purpose. I’m playing, doing work that I would do for free.

Recently, I was working on a major holiday and didn’t even realize it. I know part of my disconnect was due to the mental muddiness of quarantine life, but part of it was just from being in “the zone.” Most of my adult life has been planned around national holidays and vacation days. Even when I worked autonomously at jobs I enjoyed, I had to follow a schedule and promote a dream that wasn't my own. When I worked for companies that had me sick with the Sunday flu, Mondays were like re-entry from the frying pan back into the fire. Tuesdays were even worse after a long weekend, as if having a glimpse of freedom only intensified the pain.

Now, I am living in the zone, completely immersed in my dream of global self-actualization beginning with Black women. From this place of dreaming, of doing good and wanting better, more often than not, I find myself working in the zone. I’m doing work that I don’t want to take a vacation from. I can’t imagine anything sweeter.


Author, Trish Ahjel Roberts is the founder of HoneyButterflyz Wellness & Transformation. This is an excerpt from her recently released self-help memoir, Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings. Learn more at
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