My career trajectory was everything I had hoped for. For nearly two decades, I had my eyes on the horizon and moved from one dream job to the next. I sought opportunity, and opportunities presented themselves. I worked hard, and others recognized this hard work. I had adventures overseas. I had meaning and purpose. I was comfortable financially. I had the family I wanted. I was the kind of person that sought to have my cake and eat it too, and for a long time, I did.
Then things started to shift. It got harder and harder to get up in the morning. There was no joy in what I was being asked to do day-to-day. Growing antagonism in the workplace started to erode my soul. I was withering away. The path that appeared so full of promise in the first leg was actually fraught with forces beyond my control. And so what was I to do?
Every fibre of my being screamed, “don’t give up; you can make a difference.” And yet, that difference-making was making me different. And the different me was not alive, not living out my values, not being the kind of Mom or wife I wanted to be, not even making the difference I feel called to make in the world. And so, I had a choice. Do I stick it out, or do I look for a new path?
Flexibility and compassion were key to my exit strategy. While part of me wanted to just get out of there, I’m not one for rash decisions. Practically, I opened a separate savings account and started to deposit half my paycheque into that. This would offer me a financial safety net for a period of transition. I had dreamed of doing a PhD since I completed my master’s degree but put that on the back burner to get married and start a family. I began to explore the possibilities of doctoral studies. Re-membering who I was and what was important to me gave me clarity about the future I wanted to create. Not everything went as planned; however, being flexible allowed me to adjust and refine along the way. Being a friend to myself, offering the same compassion I was quick to offer others, helped sustain me when things were hard or winding along the way.
My exit was 9 months in the making. For 3 of those, 2 nights a week, I spent a second shift into the night working up my PhD application. Those were some long days, but with the flexibility afforded to me from my inner circle and especially my spouse, we were able to make it happen. These things are rarely solo journeys. I learned to ask for help and accept it from those who offered it. These actions were nothing short of compassion. I remain deeply grateful for the people who noticed or anticipated the challenges I faced and responded in ways that helped me move through them.
Leaving was scary. Even with all the planning and preparation, it was a leap into the unknown. And yet, that unknown was and is full of possibility. Flexibility and compassion would not have sustained me if I had stuck it out, but they have catalyzed life since. They allow me to be nimble and live fully.