After a 25-year corporate career, I left my title of vice-president and its amenities to pursue something else. I wasn't sure what "something else" was, but I hoped it would feel lighter than a career centered on earning and performance. As my office was neatly packed in two boxes and in less time than a traditional conference call, when the calendar and emails that had guided my purpose for decades were wiped, I realized I had poured the best of me into delivering results for someone else for my entire adult life.
I expected the pieces of my next chapter to manifest quickly. After all, my expertise in productivity could be applied to whatever I chose to pursue. Writing a book could be done in 30 days, there were classes and testimonies to prove it. I had freelance sales and consulting invitations from which to choose. Alongside those, I imagined volunteering my time and creating healthy home cooked meals for my family. I felt ready to step into my well-intended better self, overnight.
While briefly elated, it wasn’t long before I began to feel unmoored. People were confused about who I was without a title. My adult son asked how I spent my days and if I was watching TV. Creating an identity outside of the corporate career I blindly chose at the age of 22 and my role of primary provider for my family, was a lengthier task than I had first imagined. I had lost touch with so many things about myself.
The more slowly I paced, the more curious I became about who I was when no one else was looking. I judged myself for leaving my career too early - for not having what it took to “make it.” I began to ponder all my leavings. I had left marriages, relationships, religions, and places I knew as home along the way. A desire for something more endlessly circling the choices that seemed “right” on the surface but that never seemed to stick.
It has now been almost five years since I began my “corporate detox.” An exhausting scrubbing of identity driven by accolades. An unwinding from the adrenaline highs and disappointing lows of a long sales career. A time to reflect on some of the more important life decisions I made along the way, which included (not insignificantly) two divorces, moving my family from the Midwest to the West Coast, and a roller coaster of jobs, places and people that I left.
While I’m clearer on my intentions, I continue to unfold the mystery of what it means to be a 57-year-old woman exploring the next chapter. I’m learning what it means to choose me. I'm observing and interviewing other women on their leaving stories. I'm reading and writing about the topic.