Saying Yes: Another major (life) decision
September 12, 2012
Things have been brewing.
My feet were set on a path toward climbing career mountains, while time and experience began carving out a niche in our lives, for our lives. And in nearly direct dichotomy to my quest to conquer the career dragons, my health demanded its rightful share of my attention and I made the decisions, over and over, bit by bit, that it had to be tended to.
And there’s a saying I’ve been living by a lot lately: plan for the worst, hope for the best. After all, theories are all well and good but life will happen.
And it surely did.
The Big Work Satisfaction Plan (ease my work burdens so that I could finally take care of my health while carrying on a successful work life) was knocked off the table due to a variety of complications, some sudden, some progressive.
My immediate reaction was to double down, and make the best of an initially bad situation while assessing the landscape. Of course, I also put the word out to my Career Board of Directors for their thoughts and guidance. While I could certainly change my mind and adjust my actions accordingly later, my first instincts matched their recommendations to a T.
After a waiting period, my assessment was: Failure to improve, no true signs of improvement to come in the foreseeable future, and a quickly developing toxic environment. While not blindly optimistic about the future, I still believed in the organization’s overarching goals and hoped for the best. My next move was to map out potential options that stretched out into next year.
While I created this action plan, the developments continued in a downward spiral on a number of critical fronts. I did my best only to allow minimal venting once in a while publicly and about less important things, but though I didn’t realize it, even that wasn’t very minimal.
Tough cookie though I am, it took a toll. Curled up on the sofa after work at least 20 minutes a day – utterly drained, listless, short of breath, misery incorporated. Weekends were worse, my body just needed every minute to try to recover.
My doctor, the one I’ve seen exactly once since last year, discussed my stress-induced, exponentially increased pain for about 12 minutes before asking me to quit.
My friends, at least the ones who are willing to be totally blunt, told me she was right: take her advice and leave.
Those weren’t just signs, they were people willing to be upfront with me and give me a push. That, I truly appreciate.
At first, I was worried about how I could walk away without financial preparations and from what I saw as my responsibility, my reputation, and without appearing weak. I had to work through those mental barriers, even before doing the math, which is a first for me.
In identifying those precise barriers, I was able to address them.
Responsibility: Who are we kidding? I own this word by now in my personal life. It’s no surprise, then, that my professional accomplishments have certainly far exceeded what I’ve been paid to do by any objective measure, with data to back this up;
Reputation: See above – my value has been firmly established with reliable people internally and externally. If someone chooses to denigrate me or my choice to leave, that’s their problem and not mine;
Appearing weak: My leaving is a valid choice, for any reason. As long as I did so in a graceful and professional manner, nothing else matters, not even the money. No accusations of cracking under pressure or “losing” can actually make it true – I made a smart choice for me, my family, my health and anyone who chooses to sneer or smear is doing so from a dark place. I have nothing to prove, I’ve already had an untouchable stint there. (And if my ego wanted a bit of something? As sometimes it does. It may take four people to replace me, if not more.)
And wouldn’t you know, as I was coming to terms with that, I was surprised with an offer.
I’d been gearing up to create my own path, such was my determination to leave on my terms, but this was an unexpected opportunity to:
A) leave on a much shorter timeline,
B) increase my income,
C) significantly improve my commute.
I hadn’t felt as light as I had just during the negotiations in years. I don’t celebrate until any deed is done and done but even solely the act of building an immediate road out instead of waiting out to the longer term as originally planned so that I could save more – the difference that made to my mood, to my breathing, to my physical health -well, it was just amazing.
Knowing this is the break I needed, in more than one sense of the word, and will be a positive change for at least a year or two, I accepted.
With that timeline in mind, I will continue to work on my own side projects but with a more focused eye on directing that energy to making those projects something more worthwhile and perhaps income-producing than just hobbies.
Donna Freedman’s recent GRS post on personal responsibility touched on the idea of taking stock of your surroundings, the results of your choices, and realizing that you have to take responsibility for the role you played in getting to where you ended up when you find that you’re in a seemingly untenable situation.
This is all very true – so much of our lives, we become inured to the power, and responsibility, we have to actively make choices.
How often do people choose to stay and complain at jobs where they are increasingly unhappy just because something about it is “good” except for the job itself?
Staying at a job where I could build a “stable” career under increasingly stressful conditions reminded me of being a lab rat: how long will one stay when the heat is only increased in tiny increments but the conditions are inexorably intolerable?
How often do people stay on when they’re unhappy because they have too much debt or financial obligations? Or because they have perceived obligations, burned too many bridges, or failed to build bridges in the first place? Or because they’re too busy for a job search?
I didn’t just get lucky – I put in about a decade of hard work to build a stable financial foundation so I could walk away from anything. And while things would have had to be pretty dire before I did that, I was also building social capital with my professional reputation.
Most critically: we have to make and take those opportunities.
We also forget that the smallest decisions can hold the greatest influence. Being flexible, understanding how you work best and learning how to make the best of any situation but refusing to tolerate abusive conditions – these aren’t monumental decisions. But those are all decisions I made long ago and when I remembered them in the context of the greater whole, not just as part of my work ethic but as part of my life philosophy, they paved the way to a big decision that feels right for me, and right for our family.
And reading J “Poppa” Money’s updates? I can foresee a bigger challenge ahead already. If we do have a family, how shall we manage this without me having to be the pregnant one? Hmmm…… 😉
(Mostly kidding but ….. We shall see.)