I know my corporate career title does not define who I am, so why do I feel so vulnerable without one?
I have spent the last 15 years defining and diving into the ‘career me’. Heck, I have spent much longer if you include the countless years of education and degrees associated with trying to achieve ‘success’ in the corporate realm.
Ever since I was young, the corporate ladder was dangled in front of me. Sometime softly by society whispering the norms that we are expected to abide by and sometimes by my family with the end goal of finding a stable, well paying job with a respectable company. Either way, I was encouraged to get on and to keep climbing, propelled by fear that taking any time out would cause a catastrophic and irreversible fall from success.
So for 15 years, I diligently climbed that ladder. I graduated from high school, then university, got a “good job” out of college with a “top firm”.
Now in my 30’s, after various “successful” evolutions into my career journey, I started questioning what success actually meant to me and what I really wanted out of my life. Was this ladder I was climbing my own or was it just a construct that didn’t really suit me anymore?
As I started to challenge my preconceptions of what success looked like, I realized that what I was chasing no longer felt important to me.
I had achieved a snazzy corporate job title, a good salary, a masters degree, graduated from a cubicle to a coveted office and was always ‘super busy’. But amidst it all, I felt disconnected. Climbing to the top of ladder just didn’t feel as sweet as I thought it would.
As I sat asking myself what I really wanted for my life, regardless of others expectations, I realized that success for me would involve a few things:
- Living a life of purpose, surrounded by a community of great people doing great work
- Work that truly makes a difference in the world, does no harm and solves social and environmental problems
- A strong family – raising curious, kind, strong and resilient kids
- Adventure, minimal possessions and tons of experiences
- Time – free time to fill as I like
- Opportunities to continuously learn
I loved the work I did and I love the power of business to do great things, but I was being called by something deep within me to move in my own direction. When I looked in the mirror, my current reality didn’t match up to my desired one.
So I quit my job. I quit my job, gasp, without having another job lined up. I didn’t want to jump into just another job. I wanted to jump into my dream job or ‘my calling’ as the TEDster Jonathan Haidt describes it. So I hung up my suite and opened up space and time for that right opportunity to come in, or so that was the plan…
As we all know, life doesn’t always go to our timelines. Six weeks after I quit my job; my safe reliable, ladder-climbing job; my next role fell into my lap – the role of motherhood.
Justin and I had been trying to start a family for a while, for a year to be honest. And at the age of 35, I was told that my ‘window’ for having kids may be closed and a year felt like a really long time. So when we found out we were pregnant, we were both thrilled, but the fact that the news came at a time when I had just taken a big leap into the unknown, the news of being pregnant filled me with some unexpected anxiety. Had I made a mistake? Am I now off track? Was I being careless? Should I have just stayed on the safe path? The fear and doubt were immense.
But life is funny how it works out. Right before I got pregnant I was interviewing for and subsequently started working for what I thought was my dream job. But after I had our daughter Morgan, that door just seemed to close.
Maybe it was timing, maybe it was just life telling me that wasn’t the direction I was meant to go in but never the less the rejection hurt. Even with the amazing support of Justin, I felt isolated and for the first time in a long time, the ‘career me’ felt irrelevant. For the first time I had no career title, no mask to hide behind or business card to justify my existence and worth to the world. I had jumped off the ladder and it felt like quite a fall.
But when we are stripped down and humbled, as life and new parenthood tends to do to us, there lies an opportunity to go deeper. To find out WHO we are not just WHAT we are. Not titles necessary. And that hard self work is critical to do if we are to live a life of passion and purpose.
So this is why I have decided to walk the Australian Outback, with my family, on foot, over three months. To find out who I am and what I am capable of in the face of a very tough personal challenge, on the edge of my comfort zone.
I have decided to embrace this time of uncertainty and settle into the unknown. I have decided to find comfort in the grey.
Morgan is now a year old and what an amazing year it has been. My new role of mom still doesn’t roll easily off my tongue but it has been my greatest and best challenge to date. I am so thankful that life has given me this opportunity to raise a daughter and I can’t wait to see what kind of person she becomes.
One of the major reasons we decided to do this expedition as a family was to expose our daughter to adventure, teach her to be kind to the planet, to build curiosity, strength and resilience in her early years and help show her that with will and determination there are no boundaries to what she can achieve.
And maybe, if I am really honest, I am doing this expedition to learn these lessons for myself too.