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By mid-life, most of us have faced a significant loss such as the passing of a loved one, losing a job, or the dissolution of a formative relationship. These painful experiences can leave us feeling like we’ve taken a wrecking ball to the heart.
Facing the smoldering rubble of our greatest breakdowns and failures can feel overwhelming at best. I would like to offer a perspective that has helped me rebuild after my 30-something world came crashing down around me.
The Demolition Begins
It was 2016, I was 35 and married with two children under 10. I had been teaching for a decade and moved back to my hometown to plant roots and grow my family in an idyllic rural wonderland. Upon appearances, everything was on track, and I was successfully “adulting” along. But the foundation beneath my perfect little life was quickly crumbling.
As two overworked parents of small children, my marriage flatlined. My mom’s cancer had returned after a two-year remission and by January, she was diagnosed terminal. And I was battling severe anxiety that spun itself into crippling bouts of insomnia mixed with sudden panic attacks.
Facing imminent separation from my husband, I took a hard look at my life and thought, “how the hell am I going to survive this?” Deep beyond my spinning fear lay a buried treasure: follow your heart, Julia, and learn how to build.
Since I was young, I wanted to construct things with my hands. But I wasn’t good at it, and I didn’t have a mentor who exhibited the patience needed to guide me. I stuffed my inner builder and became a great student, an academic wizard, nonetheless. But in this moment of my life demolition, returning back to this deeply held desire made sense and honestly, I had nothing to lose.
The Building Process
By late winter, I started a carpentry apprenticeship that ultimately led to accomplishing my true life’s dream: to build a house for my family. The first step out of my mid-life demolition was saying YES. Yes, I can learn new things. Yes, I can rebuild out of the ashes. Yes, I can believe even when I don’t have the answers as to how.
Here’s the greatest secret I can offer you: what appears to be a devastating end can be an incredible opportunity to remodel your life. As a woman who has worked in construction for over six years, I know viscerally what a large building project looks like. It looks like a giant garbage heap, like chaos being held up by 2X4s. Those danger signs aren’t posted as a joke because construction is messy, imperfect, and requires tools that can cut your hands off. Being under construction requires holding the vision of the end product even when all you have is piles of boards, nails, and scaffolding.
Designing A New Blueprint
What changed my life and can dramatically change yours, is designing a new blueprint around living your most authentic life. Just like if you hired me to remodel your kitchen, I would tear out the old to install your new vision. That upheaval is essential in constructing, and once we are able to value this in our lives, it becomes much less terrifying to start over. We must dissolve what we once were to allow a new version of ourselves to emerge.
When we shift our mindset from a rigid and linear model of maturing ourselves, our professions, and our relationships to a fluid and responsive one that includes detours and demos, we discover our invincibility. The wolf no longer holds the power to blow our houses down because we know we can put a new roof on as needed. We know that we can weather any storm because we trust ourselves and approach the work from our authentic core.
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As you approach your own life’s remodel, I invite you to adopt my mantra: I am now and will forever be Under Construction. Be proud of your mess because that means you’re out there doing the work of growing. And never be afraid to ask for mentors and builder buddies along the way. The best projects aren’t done alone. You deserve a crew to help lift your dreams into reality.
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Book by this Author:
BOOK: Under Construction
Under Construction: Healing Trauma While Building My Dream
by Julia Harriet
Under construction refers to a building, structure, or project that is unfinished but actively being worked on. Meet Julia Harriet – a woman under construction.
This unlikely story reveals how one woman transformed loss, trauma, and darkness into the building blocks of a fulfilling life for herself and her family. It’s about life’s messiness and how we are all builders, even if we can’t assemble IKEA furniture.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
After earning her MIT, Julia Harriet spent a decade teaching everything from preschool to high school art. She then left the field of education to once again become a student and started a carpentry apprenticeship at age 35. Julia successfully built her own home for her family and enjoys supporting others in DIY home improvement projects.
Julia is now an international best-selling author, an inspirational speaker, and a builder who has been working in construction for over six years on Vashon Island, WA. She also volunteers for a non-profit in her community, The DOVE Project, that works to support victims of domestic and interpersonal violence.
Visit her website at JuliaHarriet.com