Friday, June 8, 2007

The Question to an Answer

It's been a year and a half since I left my corporate job. I had been doing something for 20 years that I really didn't like much. It started with a need to make enough money to pay the bills and snowballed into making lots of money but hating my life. So I walked in one day and quit, shocking those I worked for and those who worked for me. There wasn't a plan, no career move, no next gig. I just had to take the harness off and give myself a rest and look for a new direction. Thankfully, my husband had built his business up to a point that allowed me to do that.

A year and a half later, no real regrets. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. The stress relief has been a God-send.

But the one thing I do lament is that in the last year and a half, I haven't been able to grab a handle on what I'd really like to do going forward. Now that I have the luxury of picking something I like to do rather than something that pays the bills, I can't figure out what that is. Never in my life have I been able to sit and think about what might be fun or satisfying. Like most people, I had to consider as a priority what would pay me the most money. While money is still a consideration, it isn't at the top of the list anymore, and I'm finding it difficult to sort opportunities based on a new set of criteria.

I have former colleagues who call me now and then and want to know what I'm doing now. They have opportunities for me to come on board and work with them again, and they are good opportunities if your top criteria is making money. I don't know how to answer these people. On the one hand, I don't want to discourage their interest because I might just need the opportunity one of these days. On the other hand, I don't want to suggest too much interest, as I don't think I'm ready to throw up my hands and put the harness back on.

It's a good problem to have, and I'm thankful for it. But it is a weird time in my life. I've always, always worked. Diligently, in fact. Top performer for twenty years. Next title was VP of an international firm. And then it all stopped, by my own hand. Was it self-sabotage? Some days I wonder.

Some people see it as just quitting and being a slacker and that seems easy enough, but it actually took a bit of courage to do it. I had to be able to finally relinquish some financial control and responsibility to my husband and put faith in his business that it could be stable enough to continue (so far, it has).

But the hardest part of it has been losing my identity. I always had a title. When people said 'what do you do', I always had an impressive answer. Now I don't. Now I have no value in the world -- I'm not a VP; I'm also not a mother. So as a woman, in the eyes of the world, I really have no value. I just exist. And all that done by my own hand. So it did take some courage to voluntarily move myself into that category after having had such a strong identity prior.

But the thing was, I didn't just relinquish that identity. I hurled it out the window of a fast-moving train. As hard as I could throw it. Because I didn't want to be known by that anymore. I didn't want my obituary to talk about what a hard worker I was. It just didn't feel like that's who I really was or wanted to be.

And now I look for a new identity, and it's not that easy to do. I feel lost, sometimes in a good way but sometimes in a frustrated way. I've always had the answer before, but that's because I knew the question. Now, I don't.


SandDancer said...

What about utilising the skills you have from your business days, but in a less corporate environment, in a sector that interests you?

On a course I did, there was a woman who'd had a very successful career in the City who left it to work in a gallery. She had to do some voluntary work first to get in but the management and financial skills she already had were very useful and she moved quickly to running some pretty big galleries and theatres. The pay was still way less than she would have been earning in the City but she was much happier.

M said...

Sounds like a concept to consider. When I get done with my townhouse move, I will have more time to focus on this.

I have to find balance. Some of it is my fault. I have a hard time not jumping into things with both feet, which often causes it to take over my life. I'm an all or nothing type of person, unfortunately. I need some retraining in this area.

Also, I'm a bit of a commitment phobe. I'm very responsible once I have taken something on and will drive it to success, but I find myself initially resisting it. I think it's because I know that it will eventually suck the life out of me, so I try not to get involved at all.

It's a struggle. I'm a commitment phobe and a control freak -- an exhausting combination. I need to find some balance personally and a job that won't take advantage of my tendencies. In the past, there way too many people willing to let me do all the work for them, which is why I may be resisting new opps with former colleagues. They have expectations.

I would like to get more involved in the arts. It's something I know nothing about, and it may round things out nicely. Definitely something to consider.