I was just about to leave my office for the day, when the phone rang. It was a good friend, my first boss at the company that I had joined six years prior. I had not worked for her in several years, but we were still close. I don't remember what she said to me. I could only hear that something was amiss in her voice. Photo by MarkandMarina
Without thinking, I blurted out, "You know something, don't you?" I knew then that I was on a list of employees to be laid off. There had been rumors of another layoff. The company had been shedding workers for three straight quarters. Her reply confirmed my knowng: "Yes. Can I come over to your house this evening?" I decided not say anything to anyone about my conversation until I heard more.
Later that evening, after my children were in bed, and my husband was at my parents' house playing mah-jong, my friend arrived, with a mutual friend. These were two of the strongest women in my life, women who had lived through a lot. They entered my house with a look of concern, as if to say, "We take care of our own." We talked for over two hours, about my impending layoff and what I would do next. The only thing I was sure of was that I would strike out on my own. I had no desire to work for another company.
A lot has happened since that late night.
The world around me has changed. Ten years ago, social media did not exist. YouTube, FB, LinkedIn, Twitter--nada. Blogs were in their infancy. The mobility and miniaturization of computers still meant laptops, not iPhones or tablets. Connecting with someone meant having a conversation, not exchanging bytes on a hand-held screen. As a nation, we were just figuring out what a post 9/11 world looked like. Al-Qaeda was not a household word. The war in Iraq had not started. The country was united behind a sitting president and bi-partisanship in Congress was not the rarity it is today. Our society valued civility over entertainment; Donald Trump had not yet uttered the words, "You're fired!" on national television. Photo by Yutaka Tsutano
My world has changed. After working in large companies for nearly two decades, I had no inkling what it meant to be an entrepreneur, to run your own show and make up the rules along the way. I had no idea how much fun it would be, nor did I know that it would test me at every turn--causing me to reflect on who I am, what I stand for, and what I wanted in life. I was suddenly free of the structure of work that I had known since my first real job at 16--showing up in a non-descript building, settling into a cubicle, and "doing the work" for the better part of the day, driving home on autopilot, listening to NPR, briefcase next to me. Now, work is a few steps away in a basement office and I "arrive" sometimes in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep, or in the middle of the day, after a Zumba class at the gym or a run on a nearby trail. Instead of "doing the work", I'm focused on adding value, pacing myself, and savoring the moment.
My family has changed. Grade school boys have become young adults, with driver's licenses and dorm rooms and large appetites. They tower over me, like gentle giants. My husband has gray hair around his temples, and his boyish face is now marked with a few wrinkles. He's stopped playing baseball in the 48-and-over league and finds biking less injury prone (knock on wood.) My siblings have become grandparents and empty nesters. Nieces and nephews have real jobs with real responsibilities. Parents have become more frail.
For all that has changed on the outside, I still feel much the same as I did that November evening ten years ago. Uncertain about the future, but optimistic about shaping my destiny. Grateful for friends and family. Loved and supported. Still in awe of the mysteries of life. Eager to make meaning of it all.
I have changed too. I am more aware of my patterns of thinking and behaving, both good and bad. I cherish my family more and no longer take my gifts for granted. (Okay, maybe I'm stll working on that last one.) Time is my ally, instead of my master. I am clear about the work that makes me happiest and who my tribe is. Energy and attention are not infinite but a valuable asset to manage well. I have calmed down, made peace, and let go. I watch calories and appreciate good health. I no longer dream about overflowing toilets in public restrooms. (My interpretation: dealing with crap.) Frenetic lunges toward the finish line no longer interest me, even if it does allow me to check another item off my list. Failure is something to learn from, not avoid. (I'm still working on that last one, too.) Photo by japa_justin
It's only in hindsight that we can see a moment in time as an inflection point in an ongoing narrative. A door opens, and our habit is to focus on the one behind, slamming shut. Unbeknownst to us, there is a new world awaiting to be discovered, for us to play in and explore and make our mark. Opportunities aren't so much found, as they are made in this new world. Photo by imsuri.
What have been the turning points in your life and what new worlds did they open you up to?