Friday was my last day in my corporate job. At 5:02pm, I logged off my standard-issued IBM Thinkpad, walked out of my home office and shut the door on my nearly 19 year career with one company.
And then I proceeded to bawl my eyes out for the next hour until my husband finally coaxed me out of bed with the promise of chips, queso and a very strong drink.
Is this what success feels like?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a very productive, rewarding career and I don’t regret it one bit. I’ve been very fortunate to have opportunities for advancement and leaders that supported me both professionally and personally. But I also worked my butt off. I put in the long hours and gave 110% for every penny I received. I sacrificed my mental health and personal life to earn every ounce of expertise and respect I acquired — and somewhere along the way I lost sight of why and for whom I was working so hard. Surely this lifestyle was not the end goal and measure of success? Instead I found myself simply burned out, exhausted and unfulfilled. There is not a paycheck or professional accreditation worth that price.
I am 40 now, a completely different person than the naive young 22-year-old that nervously walked into my first office building back in 2004. I now have two beautiful biological daughters and two amazing bonus daughters that I hope to encourage as strong, independent young women. I’ve been in a platonic marriage, struggled as a new mom of a sick newborn, cared for a seriously ill parent, persevered through a trying divorce, navigated dating as a single mom, and finally found the love of my life at the ripe age of 37. The many years of my adult life have been filled with the most trying yet enlightening experiences that have altered my beliefs and changed my path over and over again, leading up to this most recent decision to take a much needed break.
Taking a break to hit the “reset” button
Yes I said “break.” I do not have another job lined up. Outside of the occasional joke with my husband that I can always sell feet pics on the internet, I do not have some grand plan for the rest of my career; nor do I want one. Yet. This both terrifies me to my core and fills me with an abundance of hope at the same time.
I do plan to start picking my girls up from school every day instead of sending them to after-school care and using our few precious hours each night wrestling through homework and dinner and bedtime. I do plan to spend the summer taking them on adventures and to the pool and movies in the middle of the day — activities that I could never juggle while working a demanding full-time job. I do plan to start dating my husband again, to enjoy long conversations and lots of laughter that have quietly dwindled away due to stress and exhaustion. I do plan to spend more one-on-one time with my parents, to converse with them as adults without the chaos of my previous quick drop-ins or distractions of loud children. I do plan to do more things just for myself that bring me joy: to take more walks, read more books, and watch more movies.
Part of this journey will be spent pursuing a life-long goal of mine. Creating. Sharing. Initiating some difficult yet essential conversations with other women, so many of whom I know have the same internal conflicts and frustrations and general exhaustion that I feel. I see it and feel it every day with my friends, colleagues, in line at the grocery store, on the news and social media.
Looking for our breakthroughs
I founded this community to both share my own experiences in this new way of life while also exploring the many hurdles we encounter as women today. Because let’s be honest — we don’t often allow ourselves a chance to address that nagging little voice in the back of our mind until life forces us to. So let’s take a good hard look at this life we have mapped out before us. Let’s explore and reevaluate our paths together until we can start to find our own way to better balance and happier lives. It starts with one step, and from there I know we can figure out the rest.
Life is short. We only get one chance. Let’s challenge the status quo and make it count.
Have you ever wanted to hit your own “reset” button? Did you make a drastic life change, such as taking a break from your career, to accomplish this? Tell us about it in the comments!