a wandering woman writes

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The road not taken

I left my VP job 4 years ago in February.

When I was struggling with that decision I kept reminding myself:

But I worked so hard to get here!

Funny thing is I knew I'd worked hard, and, yeh, I'd gotten there, but I also knew the truth: I'd never worked hard to get there.

Hired to sell in a tiny St. Louis office (after another spontaneous career change - I'm what I like to call a chapter book:)), I found myself behind a mahogany desk in Southern California 4 years later, with 40 people and 65 million dollars in business looking up at me. Without ever having wanted to get there. I just worked hard.

I can still hear my proud response to every wide-eyed newbee who took me aside and or scheduled an appointment just to ask me how she could get "where I was":

"Oh, I never tried to get here. I just grew my business and here I am."

Four years later that famous line prompts a belly laugh. That I never wanted to get there might explain why I felt like a mismatched shoe once I arrived.

The other day I opened an email from one of my former colleagues, let's call her Lori, the only friend who was still with the company at a senior management level, and I found myself flooded by memories. Lori worked for me, very briefly, then she and I led the same division. Lori handled the Eastern US while I tackled the West and Canada. Her unexpected reaction to my unexpected resignation - "How could you leave me?" - sent me running to the CEO with an offer to rescind my letter, an offer he very wisely declined.

Lori finally left the company a few months ago, after earning a Sr VP title and a company-paid MBA only to become uncomfortable as a new leadership team took the reins. Her e-mail confirmed what I had already heard: She's moved her family from Southern California to Pennsylvania to take on a new Senior VP Sales and Marketing post.

And for a moment - a brief moment - I put my old life in fast forward - as if I'd never handed in that fateful letter - and saw myself in 2005, a lot wealthier :), still in corporate mode, walking into a new company to lead eager young troops to new sales records. Executive MBA in hand.

And I cringed.

Because as much as Lori is one of the corporate good guys, a talented leader who truly does thrive in the big business world, I am not.

I miss my salary and the easy peace of mind it gave me, I miss being an icon - Erin, no last name required, I miss the adulation of eager little sales bucks, I miss speaking in public (in English!) about a company I believe in, I miss the absolute clarity of purpose a company-woman job gave me, and the seductive "Success" label my business card provided. In some ways it was an easy life.

It just wasn't mine! As I closed her e-mail it hit me: I can't for one moment imagine going back.

My job here in Spain is creative and fun, and it's been my way to get here and get started. I'm still wandering around, wondering what I might like to do, professionally, in my next chapter, now that the where has worked out so well, but my quick fast-forward nightmare made one thing clear: Arriving sure is a lot sweeter when you are the one behind the wheel.

Here's to getting to the places you really are working toward.

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3 Comments:

  • That's awesome- makes me have hope! :) i'm in the corporate world for now, but I know my future is not in it. i'm slowly building up to "get out" and glad to see someone out here succeeded!

    By Blogger Ale, at 2:09 AM  

  • Ditto to ale's comments! Congrats on your new life! :)

    By Blogger Angie, at 10:08 PM  

  • Oh, there´s lots of us out here, Ale.....And the water´s fine, if you ask me..

    :-)

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:27 PM  

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