Note: I have been asked a lot the past year about leaving my successful corporate job and I am finally ready to write about it. I have found so much encouragement, inspiration, and amazing stories from other women’s journeys of pursuing or creating another dream. As my journey unfolds if it has a positive impact on just one person that would be worth it.
I don’t remember exactly when or where, but a long time ago (probably 15+ years ago) I bought a card with this quote on it. At that moment it sparked something in me because I suspect that deep down I was already contemplating whether or not I was on the right path. I bought that card and put it in my office for inspiration and the sheer happiness I got reading it. That card came with me through several promotions and job changes. Sadly, I am not sure where that card is today; it was likely a victim of one of my many moves where I kept downsizing. But I can still picture it clearly and boy do wish I still had it on my desk because I believe that simple card purchase kept that “what if…” alive in the back of my mind.
Everyone has a fork in the road, a point where the decision about which road to take will forever impact their life. One of my most defining, perhaps the most defining, happened when I was 40. And since then I have embarked on a mission of positive transformation.
I spent 20+ years building a kickass career (at least I think it was). I worked my way through various levels of experience in an accounting firm, a small privately held company, and a major international corporation. And I was passionate, dedicated, focused and intense (oh so intense). As a result, I was climbing the ladder, leading, transforming successful businesses, and shaping the future of the profession. As with most jobs, in the corporate world, the pressure to deliver was intense. Coupling that with my type-A personality and desire to succeed, that meant I was working non-stop. And I never really stopped to ask myself if I was achieving what I wanted out of life. I think for so many of us, the every day kicks in and we just go, trying to keep up with the demands of being an adult (and seriously this is what we were so impatient for when we were kids???)
Along the way, I lost myself. I neglected to build and nurture other parts of my life. I let down my family and friends by always putting them second. I didn’t develop passionate hobbies that gave me an outlet. There are two things that I will spend the rest of my life regretting. The first is that I attended my youngest sister’s wedding via Skype because I chose to give priority to a work meeting in DC. My baby sister is one of the most unexpected and precious beings in my life. I am sure I didn’t make her feel that way on that special day. The second is that I missed telling my grandmother good-bye for the last time because I was pushing getting on that flight as long as possible because I had a huge deadline looming. My grandmother was courageous. She is one of my feminist, push the boundaries, don’t put up with bull$#@&, take the world by the horns role models.
I slept too little, stressed too much. Ate too little, drank too many of my calories (ahhh…the complicated love affair with wine). Exercised too little, stared at screens too much. Checked my phone too much, lost myself in the presence of my family and friends too little. It was not uncommon for my hubby to find me madly working away at 2 am because I could not shut my mind down from everything that needed to get done.
I don’t think my story is that different from so many other women (or men) out there and I am simply recounting the every day that so many people live. I don’t write any of this feeling sorry for myself. In fact, it is the opposite. I write this celebrating everything I did accomplish. I write this so incredibly thankful that I have the opportunity to try something else out. I write all of this with the understanding that everything that happened is a result of decisions that I made (or didn’t make). The flip side of the coin is that it helped make me the kickass strong, independent, self-supporting woman that I am today (a job my grandmother, mom, and dad started years ago).
And it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Far from it in fact…I had many amazing career accomplishments! I learned from some smart business people to become a smart businesswoman. I also learned how to run a successful business, make tough decisions, lead, inspire (I hope), collaborate, solve tough problems, and keeping moving even when the path forward is not clear. I loved my customers and loved my profession. But I made three big mistakes along the way (well, I have made A LOT of mistakes but for the sake of my dignity we will keep it at three for now):
Defining my success: I was measuring my success by someone else’s ruler. And quite frankly it is rare that we will ever achieve success using someone else’s definition. I was just going, doing what it took and never stopping to ask was I on my path?
Lack of balance: I was seeking too much fulfillment, acceptance, and approval from my career. Instead of also filling my cup with adventures, experiences, family, and friends.
Setting boundaries: I didn’t create any boundaries in my life. I did not use the word “no” often enough (to compensate it’s possible I use it a little too much now). Because of this I did not stop often enough and allow myself to rest and rejuvenate.
I am lucky because I know exactly when my fork in the road appeared. I know exactly when I had a glaring moment requiring a life choice. And I knew exactly what the answer was…the answer that I needed for me. I might share what that moment was in a later post when I am ready because it is still hard and the emotions raw for me (just keeping it real). But, as hard as that moment was, I am forever grateful because this moment gave me the clarity, certainty, and strength I needed to answer the long contemplated and deeply buried questions of:
Is this my best purpose and way for me to serve myself, my hubby, my family, my friends, the world?
Am I leaving my best and positive mark on the world?
Without trepidation, fear, or uncertainty I knew the answer was “no”. I knew in my end game if I didn’t take this opportunity I would always wonder what else I could have been capable of creating, of being.
So…today it’s been a year since I last swiped my access card. A year since I said some hard and emotional goodbyes to people who had been an unwavering support system for me (I am so lucky that most of them chose to stick with me as friends and not just colleagues). A year since for the first time I didn’t know exactly what came next in my career path (which was also kind of thrilling). But the type-A in me had a plan to discover and create that path. After taking some time to invest in myself, learn some new things and work through some of my needed improvements (which BTW will never end) I know I totally have this!
Taking this fork in my road is turning out to be a good choice…