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Corporate Kool-Aid and a Redo...
Every few months or so (in my corporate job) my bosses boss will set up a 30 minute touch base call with me. The call normally consists of a standard set of questions to allow her to gauge my job satisfaction, see if there is anything I would change, ask me what my “pain points” are etc. etc. I like her so I don’t dread the calls, but saying that I looked forward to them would be a real stretch.
I give pretty standard answers and try to keep the conversation 10 and 2. I stay genuine enough to give honest feedback, and surface level enough to not ruffle any feathers. I play the game. I’ve been in the corporate world of big business a long time. After a while you figure out that you have to be political and diplomatic, and (in my case) if you do good work you’re pretty much left alone to keep doing it. That’s just how it is.
These calls with my bosses boss are normally pretty predictable, and I like them that way. I know what to say and what not to touch with a 10 foot pole. So… you can imagine my surprise when (after we had gone through the standard set of questions) she started asking me about my personal life. Nothing too crazy, just trying to get to know me a bit better, you know... bond. After I warmed up I mentioned that I am teaching Pilates quite a bit, that I’m in school for nutrition and that my interest is an integrative/holistic/mind body approach to it all. I half expected her to brush it off and say something canned like… “Oh, that’s nice” and we would finish up. Instead, she lit up.
She got really excited and started saying how interested she is in all of that. We talked food, children, school lunch programs, Western medicine, big pharm(aceuticals), big business’s influence on government recommendations and regulations, the food pyramid, preventable diseases, etc. We both wanted to say so much that we talked over each other a few times. There was a lot of… “Oh my gosh… ME TOO. I AGREE. I couldn’t have said it better. I KNOW!” Our 30 minute touch base turned into a 60 minutes actual conversation that I truly enjoyed. We left our corporate world of canned Q & A and came alive for 35 minutes. Really alive.
I tell you all of this, because she said something on that call that struck me. I thought about it for hours after we hung up. She paused, lowered her voice and said.. “Melissa, I just told my husband last week that if I could just do it all over again… I would have gone to school for nutrition or integrative medicine. I think about it ALL of the time.”
"If I could just do it all over again..."
Man… what a strong statement. I could tell that she meant it; that she had put a lot of time thinking about it. In that moment Shit.Got.Real. It was as if she was acknowledging that this career we share isn’t the end all be all. I always thought of this woman as Mrs. Concrete Jungle. I thought she lived and breathed this place. She is always slinging the Corporate Kool-Aid. She is in her mid 40’s... married.. 2 kids... and is high enough on the corporate totem pole to make a pretty damn good living. She has full medical benefits, paid time off, a 401K, etc. I am sure it seems impossible for her to make a life altering change like switching careers at this point. But... it was as if she was nudging me to go for it. To pursue what I wanted to do. To not let what I feel I have to do block me from my true passion. It was as if this woman was whispering to me… “there’s still time for you… run, biiitch… RUN!” Hahahaha… Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, and of course she did not come out and directly say any of those things, but that's what I took from it. It was the way she said it all. There was inspiration in her energy... and in her regret.
I hung up the phone and looked around at my desk. My double monitors… laptop… ergonomic desk chair… speaker phone with all the bells and whistles… and my wireless headset. I scanned my desk and saw the framed pictures of my loved ones on my desk (of my sweet grandmother who passed too soon, and I wondered, what she would have done if she "had the chance to do it all over again”), the inspirational quotes I surrounded myself with all saying essentially the same thing ( “Your life is now” and “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”), and I was reminded, more like slapped in the face with it, really... the realization, that it's all up to me.
If I don’t want to be here forever, I have to work tirelessly to make a change. It won’t happen overnight. It will be scary as shht. It may take years, but I was not going to be at this desk forever. I couldn’t be. There was more. MORE THAN ANYTHING I do not want to be on the phone with someone who reports to me, 10 years from now and say… “if I had to do it all over again.”
I'm not saying that Corporate America is a bad goal, or that working in a similar environment the majority of your life, equals a life un-lived. That's not the case at all. It is exactly what a lot of people want to do. What they go to school for. How they feed their families, give their children opportunities. It's an environment that many people thrive in, but it's also an environment that many of us hide out in. We squat there telling ourselves that this is just the "real world". That it's what we are "supposed" to do. It's the way society works, and although it's not easy, it's more comfortable than big change.
Big changes are f*ing terrifying and we dont' make them because we tell ourselves we can't. That we don’t have the luxury of just taking time off to “figure it all out”. We have bills. Student loans, Car payments, Debt, Kids, Partners, Day Care, Mortgages, etc. We need our benefits, Retirement accounts, stability, safety. We have to put food on the table. I get it. All of that is true. But... there are others out there that know... feel it in their bones, that their "reasons" are nothing more than excuses. I am one of those people. For starters... if I really wanted to get out of Corporate America I would stop spending money on dumb shit and focus on using that money to build myself a cushion (or at least to eliminate debt). I'd do that so I could follow my passions.
Words like “passion” and “dreams” used to scare me. I honestly didn’t think I had any. I mean, I knew I did… but I could not articulate them. I could tell you that I didn’t want to be behind a desk my whole life on conference calls, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what I wanted to do instead either. So…I just started trying shit out. A bunch of shit.
It was the summer of 2011 and I got sick. Out of nowhere, and it was bad. As in life or death bad. No joke. My manfriend had to call my family and let them know that doctors told him I could be gone in hours. I had a 50/50 chance of making it. Truth. It took me months to physically recover. After that, I was like YO… I almost died. FO REAL. That shht was terrifying. I spent a long time doing nothing. Laying there, all day and all night recovering. One can only read so many books and watch so many movies. You have to think. You are forced into facing the big questions. Like…. "If I would have died at 31 would I have been please with the way I lived it? Did I exist or live? Was I was proud of my life? Did I say “I’m sorry”? Ask for forgiveness from people I hurt? Did I forgive people who hurt me? Try new things? Fall on my face? Explore faith? Put myself out there? Fail enough? Try enough? Love deeply?" The answer would have been no. I had a good life, but it was a pretty safe one. Scared to be bad at things. Scared to fail. Scared of what people would think maybe? Almost dying makes you think. Long and hard. I got better and decided that I would start to live with a little more gusto.
I started this blog. I started taking pictures, trying my hand at photography. I started to get really interested in food and health. I wrote. Read. Took new classes. Started a yoga practice. Started a Pilates practice. Put my heart and soul into a relationship with a man. Focused on my health. Pulled away from "friendships" that didn't really serve me any longer. I quit bad habits, and picked up good ones. I’ve gone WAY out of my comfort zone. WAYthefuckout out. And now, after 3 + years of trying new things out, I have realized….
I much prefer doing Pilates to hip hop music over practicing Yoga to the sounds of running streams and ancient chanting.
I eat a heavily plant-based diet, but after dancing with it for 5 months or so, I realized that I am NOT hard core vegan material. Did someone say mozzarella?
I love taking pictures, but I do not want to study to be a professional photographer. The technical aspects don't interest me enough.
I love blogging about personal style, but a closet full of new clothes and accessories does nothing to add to the true quality of my life.
I don't give a shit about high end fashion.
Every end is just the beginning of something else.
I've become someone who really enjoys health and wellness, but I loathe the unsustainable extremes that are associated with the fitness culture.
I am so grateful for grace and mercy.
I've become more selective about who I spend time with. I have no time for needy, negative, whiny people.
I am not a runner.
I adore women who are supportive of one another.
I will wake up in the 4am hour every day to do something I love.
I won't give up coffee.
I hate Twitter.
I love to cook but not enough to mess up my kitchen every day.
I believe in second chances.
You may not be the best, but you're probably not the worst.
I believe that the more you are grateful for, the more you receive.
I've never been more in love.
Anything worth doing is scary as hell.
And… above all, I have realized that no one is paying that much attention. If you fall, if you "fail"... if you try something that does not suit you and you put it down, so what? Fuk it.
It’s fun figuring it all out. Going along for the ride. Fill your life so full of new things that if you were to die while you were still young, at least you didn't wait to really live. So you don't look back and think... "if I could just do it all over again".