A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.
— Clarissa P. Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves

I turned down a substantial salary offer this week. 

In fact, it was 32% higher than the highest salary I’ve ever had. (I actually figured out the math just now. I’m catching my breath a little.)

I was approached for the position because of past experience and I wanted to give it the integrity of sincere and wholehearted consideration. As one who makes no secret about my journey through debt and the emotional journey surrounding it, I am open to however abundance may come … but this past week wrecked me. Think: sweaty palms. Sleepless nights. Churning stomach. Dry mouth. Head spinning. Earth reeling. Can’t think straight. Even now, my body is still recovering from the inner tension of weighing and waiting … scratching out pros and cons lists, praying with and without words, talking with trusted wise ones and consulting silently with my own being.

Do I say yes to a steady salary and stable career? 
Do I continue to say yes to the wildly unpredictable life of an artist?
Is there a way to have it all? To say yes to both? Why does it have to be either-or? 

I know what it’s like to count down 'til 5 o’ clock on Friday and dread 8 AM Monday. I know the soul-dissonance between gratitude (for having a job) and feral-eyed clawing for freedom and autonomy. If I do this, I declared to myself, if I say yes, I am all in. I want a pure yes … nothing half-hearted, no regret, no misery, no holding my breath until the next day off, no sobbing alone in the back office because I don’t belong there, no furtive dream lists scrawled out on lunch-break receipts. I want a pure yes, a true yes, a whole-body yes. 

I went in whole-hearted and full-bodied. I poured passion into my interviews. I was excited, genuinely so! And the feedback was great—they all loved me, I was told. I gave them the salary range I needed, that felt pure to me, and I wrote grateful follow-up emails. In the meantime I drew up a schedule and penned in my days to see what this new life might look like. I created a list of all I could now hypothetically “afford” that I’ve been wanting—that unlimited membership at the go-to holistic movement studio in my area. The eCourses I want to sign up for (but then, would I even have time or the energy to devote to them?). The training I’m craving (but then I wouldn’t be able to take the necessary time off to complete it …). And most importantly, the ability to take significant strides in debt-reduction.

I weighed all the things I’d need to let go of to make room for full-time employment outside the home—like my creative life; I have a waiting list for design projects right now. And for mentorship. I have the gift of sacred mornings which I approach in the holy-hush of ritual and reverence. 

This is my life. This is my love-life.

I closed my eyes to visualize myself with endless vitality, bouncing into corporate work with my secret life worn like a seductive bra under my uniform.

And I decided that I don’t want my love-life lived in secret only.

It’s vulnerable to talk about because I know that somewhere, someone is on their knees begging for a job. Somewhere, someone isn’t trying to pay the minimums on their Visa; they’re trying to feed their children. (If this is you, please get in touch with me!) It’s vulnerable because with all of the poetry and beauty and twinkle-lights and joy that I have in my life, I also have hefty self-employment taxes I’m saving for and the everyday cost of living on top of paying for the naive living I experienced years ago courtesy Discover, American Express, and Mastercard. 

My litmus test, my salary request, was unable to be met and this was my answer, the echoed return from the universe. And so I said no.

I said no because I believe in my bones that it’s possible to create a healthy and sustainable life doing what I am born to do. I said no because it was the only answer I could give that honored my truth and my purpose. I did not want to put myself in a new position of lack—energy lack, financial lack (because the offer was below what I need right now), creative lack, time lack, and all the ways depletion finds me when I’m not living from my heart. 

I said no because it was the only pure, whole-hearted answer I could give. 

I don’t know how things will work out, to be honest. But I make belief that everything I need I already have. I make belief that the debt is gone and right now I’m just dealing with particulars. I make belief that I’ve lost the extra weight and I’m currently releasing all the stored, stagnant energy of the years. I make belief that it is all, everything, for my highest good.

Hillary McFarland