Am I lucky...or brave?
It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, and I just put my two-year-old daughter to nap. For the millionth time since leaving the corporate world, I thought about how lucky I am. I work from home, so I get to be a relatively present mom. At work, I get to do all the things I'd loved the most about my job, and I’ve phased out so much of what I'd hated.
It took a while to arrive at this; I won’t lie. It’s a situation a few years in the making, and I didn’t start out feeling lucky. In fact, at first, I thought I was extremely unlucky. I worked at an Ad agency that was becoming incredibly cut throat, for a fractious EVP who regularly pitted people on the team against each other, on a client business with an internal agency that took every opportunity to hurt us. It was a tough position to be in, and I went on maternity leave at a time when the shit was hitting the fan.
I was an easy target.
With a 3-week old at home, and deeply ensconced in the baby blues, I worried about my job security. HR did nothing to allay my concerns. Instead, they made it worse. “If we have a job at your level and in your salary range…” Already on the precipice of Post Partum Depression, that conversation put me over the edge.
I wasn’t surprised that I was among the casualties when layoffs came. In truth, I also wasn’t upset. After worrying the entire length of my maternity leave, when it finally happened, all I felt was relief. And joy. Actually, unbridled joy.
We had a bit of a nest egg and I received a severance, so I didn’t worry. I spent the first couple of months enjoying my freedom: organizing my apartment, lunching with friends, walking the streets of my neighborhood that I once hated because I’d only experienced it on the weekends, now fully enjoying the space and vibe with my new baby and husband.
I spent the next few months lightly exploring my options. I have a network and a solid resume, so I didn’t worry. At the same time, I was burnt out, and I really didn’t want to go back to what I’d been doing. I took a freelance assignment to work in a group that had previously been my “home,” and while I appreciated the time I had with those wonderful and brilliant people again, those 3 months only cemented for me that it was time for something new.
Shifting focus at the senior levels is difficult. Companies want to fill a round hole with a round peg. No matter how smart or qualified you might actually be, if you don’t have the right title, you need someone willing to take a chance on you.
Or, you need to take a risk and go out on your own.
A few years ago, I interviewed a Millennial for a position on my team. At the time she was unemployed because she'd left a job she didn’t like. I was impressed at her courage and her dogged pursuit of happiness. That stuck with me—her utter lack of fear, her belief that she deserved to be happy at work, and her complete faith she’d find something better if she unshackled herself.
It’s ironic. Before I had a husband, a mortgage and a child, I couldn’t imagine taking such a risk. A job with benefits and a steady paycheck was the prize. I’m a Gen-Xer with Boomer parents who drilled that into me.
But there I was, with all that responsibility, and a big choice to make that would impact not just myself, but my whole family. I looked down the path where I take the job with benefits and a hefty salary, and felt the claustrophobia mount.
I took the leap, trusting a net would appear.
The net did appear, in the person of Denise Vitola, a former colleague and partner from the PR world who’d taken her own leap not too long before. After a few months of partnering on a few projects freelance-style, we decided to make it official and build our own thing. We are Vitola Strategies, a female-run company, building brands and making content that transcends discipline and platform. Most importantly, we are focused on engaging in work that is interesting and challenging, and doing the stuff that makes us happy.
So am I lucky? Nah. I think it’s more that I’m brave, creating my own opportunity with the optimism of a Millennial, shaping my life and world in order to be happy. I’m looking ahead and I can’t see what the next 5 years will look like. For the first time in a very long time—maybe ever—that’s thrilling rather than terrifying.
As it so happiness, I've discovered with happiness and excitement comes inspiration. I’ve decided to take another leap and join the blogosphere, writing about my journey. So stick around, check back often, and I hope you enjoy the ride.