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May 23rd is my Birthday, the day I came into this world on my own volition with exuberance and fight. I don’t mean the day my mother gave birth to me. My Birthday – capital B – is the day I walked away from my full-time career with my empty leather tote in hand and let the door swing shut behind me. I looked over my shoulder at the brick and glass building I had known for 12 years as I steadfastly walked toward the parking lot. I snapped a final picture with my phone, and then determinedly turned to face the direction I had chosen. I have not looked back since.

The burden of the “shoulds” we live with – whether inflicted on us by well-meaning people in our lives or by our fearful selves – had become crushing. Physically, I looked gray and spent. Emotionally, I propped myself up alternatively with exercise and alcohol. Spiritually, I was bone dry. I felt as if I was watching myself die a slow death.

What I have learned from talking to dozens of women like myself – corporate refugees, each one of us – is that at some point the pain of the present becomes greater than the fear of the unknown. Each of us had reached that fateful point when the scales tipped and the decision to jump was all but made for us. That doesn’t mean it was an easy decision, but as I have learned, the jump need not be a free-fall from the edge of a cliff. With preparation for the inevitable tipping point, it is possible to create what I call a “soft land.”

For me, the tipping point loomed closer when I tuned in to my inner voice. It was no longer a whisper. Instead it had become a full-out roar telling me my soul was being crushed by the tedium of my professional life, the life that came with a title, appealing salary, 401K and health insurance; in short, the life I felt I “should” be living. I stuffed all those shoulds into a plastic bag and dumped them in the garbage heap of life’s baggage. Suddenly I felt the unpinning of magnificent butterfly wings that had been there all along. My wings spread wide, flapping gracefully and ready to propel me forward in the direction I had chosen for myself. 

One year later May 23rd is here. I rejoice at how my life has unfolded these past 12 months. Happy Birthday to me.

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