“How are you doing?”
“Bishop, can I tell you? Being fired was the BEST thing to ever happen to me.”
“Vanessa….. of all the things I’ve ever heard confessed in this office, that has never been one of them!”
And until it came out of my mouth, I never thought I could feel that way about my former employer. Ever. The day I was asked to leave my job, I was devastated. So many conflicting thoughts and emotions swirled around what, to me, was a completely illogical and irrational business decision.
How could they just throw me away like that? They need me! They won’t survive without me! …. Maybe I was doing something wrong? Was my work not good enough? What if they replace me and that person is better…? Who cares! Good riddance! …. But what am I supposed to do now….?
For a few weeks, I was in a slump. Thank heaven it was Christmastime and I had all kinds of service projects and holiday parties to get wrapped up in. Then everyone went back to work… and I was still chillin’ at home, by myself. No direction. No purpose.
Somehow, even after all my pontificating about being a completely independent and emotionally self-sufficient person, I’d come to measure my value against my employer’s every whim. A little red flag should have popped up just then, reading: “Unhealthy Behavior.” Because it was…. but how did I get there?
When I first started at my former job, it was new and challenging. Something I’d never done before and a position that had never existed in their company before. I put in long, focused hours. I became a subject matter expert in the field. I saved the company on multiple occasions, just by the skin of my teeth. Nothing was ever for sure, everything was an experiment. And it worked! I was as in awe as anyone else, and I thanked God every night for guiding me to the right words, decisions, documents, etc.
But then I got comfortable.
I became a big fish in a little pond, the big man on campus, and worst of all…. a “manager.” Everything was easy, I had the regulations memorized and could provide new policy on command without any research. My work lost its challenge and I lost my humility, my ability to be awestruck by what I was making happen. The hours time-on-task got shorter, lunches got longer, and I started poking my nose into other people’s projects. Naturally, the office drama skyrocketed.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out it was time to go. But I couldn’t do it. More than a few times, my CEO sat me down and said, “I know you committed to X years here, but if you need to go I won’t be offended. You need to move on in your life — for you. While I appreciate everything you’ve done for us, I’ve always known I couldn’t keep you forever.” Most people would take that offer and run with it. In fact, I was offered several positions at larger companies, in different states, making more money, etc. etc. etc. But I just couldn’t do it.
Because I was comfortable.
I didn’t want to go back to long, focused hours. I didn’t want to NOT know the answers again. I didn’t want to…. work. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? You put in your time, your due diligence and you get rewarded by relaxing, coasting, gliding? Right? Right!?
A month after walking out the door of my former employer, I found myself sitting in a booth at Olive Garden waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. The phone rang. I saw a familiar name and answered it. It was the Compliance Director at a company I’d recently been talking to — they gave me an offer over a year ago that I refused and I let them know my situation had changed, asking if the offer was still available. This Director and I had a good professional rapport, and (even better) he reminded me of my Grandpa. We talked about his company, what would be expected, etc. All the usual pre-interview facts. Once we got through that, he said the most profound thing:
Vanessa. This is such a good time for you. Take advantage of it. Think about what you really want to do with your life. You young kids always bounce back so quickly from unemployment, and you really have the rest of your life to work. You won’t always have time to just sit and dream.
There it was. The question I was avoiding: what do you WANT to do with your life? As a point of clarification, it is not what SHOULD you do with your life, not what do OTHERS want you to do with your life, not what’s the most CONVENIENT path for your life, not what will make the MOST MONEY for your life… it’s what do you WANT to do?
This question of his rocked me for a few weeks, and then the answer hit me like a ton of bricks: I want to be challenged again. So I made a list of all the things I’d ever tried and failed at. It was a humbling, almost painful exercise. But when I put my pen down I felt relief and as my eyes scanned the list, I got excited. A little like that deep breath right before hiking a mountain — it’s going to be a steep climb, you’re going to get hurt, but the view is worth it. I echoed President Eyring’s sentiments: bring me that mountain!
In two days– TWO days — and several phone calls I got the ball rolling on ALL items on my list. Stuff fell into place like magic (Thanks, God!) as I finished my application to be readmitted at University, put a deposit on an apartment in that college town, accepted the offer to do a full day interview with the Director’s company, filed LLC paperwork on a start up, finished government paperwork necessary for that particular kind of start up, hired a logo designer and approved the budget, sorted out some unresolved issues with my current landlord, cut and dyed my hair, and called my grandma (:D).
Every day. Every single day since then has been the same: a challenge. That’s put a smile on my face, a spring in my step, a prayerful bend in my knee, and hope on the horizon. Talking to my best friend this morning, the only question left is: how do you replicate this?
That’s it. That’s the answer. Look around at your life. Is your mind being challenged? Pushed to its limits? Are you learning? Is your body being challenged? Exercised? Are you developing and toning? Is your spirit being nourished? Are you feeding it with interesting, eternal truths? What about your relationships? Do they encourage you? Fortify you? If that answer is NO to any of the above, it’s time for a change. A dramatic one. Time to kick yourself out of that comfort zone and go find a mountain to climb!