It's been two years since I've worked in a corporate setting. I spent nearly 20 years in an industry where I climbed the ranks of product people, merchants, and brand builders for big brands and retailers. On paper, my resume is impressive. In my heart, I could only ask, "Is this it?"
In January 2015, my husband and I bought a two family home; I resigned from a 2-year consulting contract from a company where I was asked to stay on for a large sum of money and then spent nearly $30K of saved money on home renovations. In February 2015, my father-in-law died tragically and in the summer of 2015 my mother-in-law came to move in with us.
In April of 2015, my anxiety began.
A once career focused woman, who had climbed the proverbial ladder, and who was highly driven, I found myself at odds with none other than me. I was the one who ripped my career band-aid off and for some reason, I thought that figuring out next steps would be easier than they actually were. It wasn't a pretty time for me. It was, in fact, one of the darkest moments for me in nearly 15 years. I found myself anxious, doubtful, and resentful. I started questioning, comparing, and searching for answers externally. I found myself jealous of my husband's successes at work. I was hanging on tightly to a career that I had self-identified with but was no longer serving me.
I felt like I wasn't good enough, wasn't productive, wasn't contributing. My internal radio (ego) had landed on station KFKD, a station Ann Lamott calls K-Fucked, in her book Bird By Bird. She discusses how writers become paralyzed due to self-flagellation. As a human, I realized this problem was not for writers only. It can happen to anyone.
She writes, "If you are not careful, station KFKD (K-Fucked) will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on. You might as well have heavy-metal music piped in through headphones while you’re trying to get work done.
Let me get real vulnerable for anyone who knows me or thinks, "I have my shit together." In 2015 I suffered from bouts of anxiety that had me on the floor. I couldn't handle large crowds or loud noises, in fact, I became quite unsocial (which only perpetuated the problem).
As a 20 year student of yoga, I knew what was happening, but for whatever reason, I fought it, until I surrendered and began what was needed to move through it.
2015 was a year of detox and me beginning some very personal work. It required asking for a shit-ton of help and learning to be in the midst of the unknown. It allowed me to recognize that I'm a perfectionist and that, that needed to change ASAP or else nothing would get done. The year included this one gem from Byron Katie (which I still use regularly), restorative yoga, beginning an insight meditation practice, a therapist, a life coach, and long, long silent walks where my thoughts could unravel. It required me to take on some part-time work so I could be of service to others and allow my mind to focus on something other than "what do I really want to do next?". It required me to take action, to just do something that would get a ball in motion. It also meant removing things that created anxiety for me, including social media, getting off LinkedIn (I could blog on how LinkedIn sucks for anyone in career change), caffeine, and no more wine with dinner.
Note: I also became one of those Adult colorers. If you suffer from anxiety chances are your mind needs a "binky" — this is it.
In the process of all this work, I learned.
I learned how to live with a different rhythm. Learned that I was capable of doing more than just working in the same industry and taking on similar jobs within it. Learning how to be okay with not be validated by a boss, team, or industry. Learning how to come up with creative answers to others about "what I do" even when I didn't know what I did.
I love Ryan Holiday's Obstacle Is The Way, because avoidance is never the answer, and his historical references are awesome.
Near the end of 2015, I began to find the core tenants of inspiration that drove me into my career in the first place and dusting them off.
2016 was a year of trying new things and getting out of my own way. Of dipping my toes into new fields of work and new industries, where I realized that I underestimated how much experience I have and how so much of it crosses into various areas. Of taking classes. Of becoming clearer of first steps in my own business development and bringing on a partner, because I can't and don't want to do it alone. She, by the way, quit her job to launch this thing with me (no pressure). Of pitching and taking on a project I knew I could do but had never really done before, and finding success. Of learning that boundaries are going to become a theme of 2017. Of realizing that an idea (that still wasn't super clear to me) that I grasped so tightly ten years ago but was so afraid of, was still nagging at me. Of learning to hold onto that idea softly so I could at least begin to start asking the right questions and being okay with not knowing the answer, knowing that through action it would present itself.
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.—Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins said something that stuck with me and is still with me. He said "Most people over-estimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten years." As an impatient woman who is learning patience, this has been my go-to when I feel as if I'm not getting anywhere.
For all of you still feeling in the haze or are in the midst of radical change, let me remind you to be kind to yourself. Real lasting change takes fucking TIME. It requires you to unlearn what you've been conditioned to. To get to know yourself again. To remember the parts of you that have been waxed over by society, media, and buying into a personal belief hook line a sinker. It requires action because without action you get no clarity. It requires removing the distractions and the things that create noise for you.
In yoga, we say that when the sheaths of illusion are removed, and we get real honest with ourselves, it's then that we can see clearly and change can happen.
You don't need some gigantic purpose. Just find one thing every day that can be your purpose, that you can do to help move you in the right direction. Even if that's just going for a walk.
Just begin and know, you are not alone. We are all in this together.