Forty of us were sitting around the conference room table when our CEO announced she had been offered an opportunity at a different company that she couldn’t pass up.
My face got warm and my eyes filled with tears. She had hired me only 4 months ago and in that short time, she’d taken me under her wing and assigned me an exciting project. We’d been meeting daily to think and talk through our strategy and approach. For the first time in nearly two decades, it felt like there were no obstacles in my way and that I’d reach my full potential in my career. Over those months, I mentioned several times to my husband Randy that I couldn’t believe I got paid to have so much fun and I asked him to please pinch me, because I must be dreaming.
After she left, the number of good assignments I received dwindled. As a company, we struggled to retain clients. We lost business. The whispers of layoffs commenced and the fear of the unknown brought out ugly office behavior.
I tried to see the silver lining. I had a great work/life balance. I didn’t bring work home with me in the evenings or on weekends. I arrived at the office after 9 and at home before 5. This would have been fine if I didn’t have a strong desire for growth and contribution. But no matter how hard I tried to drum up meaning during the work day, there wasn’t much to do. And it wasn’t just me pretending to be busy. Most of us were walking around feigning purpose, only to return to cubicles and inboxes full of nothing.
My identity was wrapped up in my job, which felt like a sham, and I hadn’t figured out how to anchor into a bigger purpose.
With my self-esteem sinking, I started at the computer and distracted myself with social media and online shopping. With each purpose, I told myself that I had accomplished something meaningful that would move my family forward. Buying things helped me feel like my days weren’t a total loss.
I’d interrupt computer time to leave the office for coffee breaks, lunch breaks, chocolate breaks, and more chocolate breaks. I know now that I wasn’t hungry for food—I was hungry for an escape from a job with little meaning. These distractions manifested as extra weight on my body that didn’t feel good to me.
Outside of my office, it looked like everyone was productive. My boys were having rich experiences with their nanny. My husband was doing beautiful home renovations for his clients. My friends working in other industries were achieving major successes and I felt like I was falling further behind. Although I earned a very comfortable income, I knew I couldn’t stay. I was so afraid of wasting more precious moments of my life and my potential.
I was done with feeling incomplete, so I walked away.
A few months before I resigned, we bought a camper. At first I thought it was too small. I thought we’d outgrow it. But Randy kept referring to it as the perfect family unit vehicle. Yes, it would be tight for the four of us, he said, but we’d learn what we really needed in life and we wouldn’t pack the rest.
A 9-week camping trip in British Columbia was part of our new family chapter and it started the day after my last day on the clock. I had so much hope going into that trip. It was the bridge between my 20 years in the corporate realm and setting off on my own. It was going to be our family’s Amazing Adventure.
What ended up happening? We immersed ourselves in beautiful places and became more familiar with our boys and who they were. But I also packed too much and Randy felt a lot of stress. Being our sole income earner for an unknown amount of time felt heavy to him and I spent a lot of time in my head, between two worlds and two identities.
We’ve both grown a lot since this trip. We’ve learned how to communicate much better with one another and we’re much more focused on what really matters.
The journey hasn’t been easy but it got us to today.
And today, I’m refusing to live up to only a fraction of my potential. I no longer need to buy things to feel like I’m being productive, and I don’t feel a need to escape through food and other distractions.
I went back to school to learn about the power of functional medicine, the psychology behind why we do what we do, and how to change our behavior to reach our goals. I started my own health coaching practice focused on helping women release the extra clutter and weight in their lives and minds. I no longer have to maneuver office politics.
What am I maneuvering now? I used to have work-life balance, but no meaning. I’ve traded that for tremendous meaning, but little work-life balance. This is something I’m actively working on.
Our boys are in the 2nd and 4th grade and I’m in awe of who they are and who they are becoming. I don’t want to miss this.
I’m grateful I said yes to our family unit vehicle. It’s one of my most powerful connections to my greatest gift in life—my family. Now that I feel whole, I can fully appreciate this gift.
Our camper was a reset button. It doesn’t take much time to remind ourselves of our potential as a family. We’ll find 24 hours in nature and slow down together by mountain biking, eating healthy meals, playing cards, sitting by the fire, and being fully present for one another.
Over the years, our camper has taught us to only bring the essentials and not over-pack. We already have everything we need. We are complete just as we are and we won’t ever be left behind as long as we continue driving toward our truth.