Don’t Live Regrets: Make It Happen (Part 9)

This post summarizes my job transitions from 2004 ’til now. A future post will summarize the rest of my life, marriage, and future outlook, then I’ll be done mesmerizing you with my boring lil’ ol’ life story.

When I left off in Part 7, I had resigned from a job I thought would be the last of my working career when a massive reorganization and appointment of an incompetent boss became more than I was willing to suck up and try again to “make it happen.”

Yep, here and now, I admit that there are times in one’s life when your experience and intuition tells you…

…that it’s time to make a break and move on. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I was unwilling to compromise my principles and embrace “corporate values” that were all about generating revenue and abandoning service.

I voluntarily became unemployed. I would not have had the courage to leave a job that was killing me (demands on time, negative impact on my psyche) had I not diligently saved money in my “rainy day” fund. This is a fund that I began long ago at my Mom’s encouragement, and bailed me out during tight financial times. I cannot stress how important it is to have this emergency fund. Experts recommend having a minimum of funds required to live for at least three to six months. I had 22 months savings in that fund, and knowing that it was there gave me the freedom to relax and not feel that I had to rush back and take the first job that became available.

However, leaving that long-held far-reaching position was much like a divorce. I was hurt and quite upset. People that I once thought were my friends were treating me like I had the plague (I found out later that the former incompetent boss fed negative rumors about me.) But it was by good grace and fortune of planning that my partner and I had planned a long vacation in Australia for Christmas holidays that year anyway. This distant break became essential to help me deal with “divorce-from-the-job-I-once-loved” pains I was feeling.

So there we are in Australia at the end of 2004, enjoying warm sunshine on the beach with some friends for Boxing Day. I was having a nice time when my friends got word that something bad happened, and my friends rushed back to work. I went with them. Without revealing too much, let me summarize by saying that since I was no longer employed, I could stay to help my friends through their agency as a volunteer to provide assistance for those impacted by that event. My partner had to return to work, so he flew back home alone, and I remained Down Under for three months. I worked and worked and worked, purely as a volunteer, but accepted reimbursement for housing.

When I returned to our home in the U.S. by late March 2005, I had a completely different perspective on life, living, and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life borne from what I had seen and done during those three exceptional months. During that experience, I had some time to look inward and consider what I wanted to do in my future. I did not have quite the same career goals or ideals that I had in my 30s.

On top of that, my elderly uncle who lived nearby and who my partner and I adored, had been diagnosed with a terminal illness that was untreatable. My uncle decided to write down 14 things he wanted to do before he died, and asked for my help to “execute his final bucket list.”

I discussed this with my partner and we looked at my finances. He knew that I had significant “rainy day” funds in the bank… meaning that I had sufficient savings to pay my bills and go completely without income and care for my uncle without having to jump back into the working world right away.

My partner understood that I was going through a major transition (which is similar to what Gail Sheehy wrote about men in their 50s in the book Understanding Men’s Passages.) I was going through a divorce — not from my man — but from the identity I had associated so closely with my previous employer and position. I wanted and needed a significant change of focus and a clean break from that old, strangling, employer and position with which I had bound my entire identity. That was quite unhealthy.

I spent March to September of 2005 caring for my uncle, having fun together, taking long walks, having long talks, learning, smiling, and a little crying, too. That year was the most significant in my life when it came to helping me figure out who I am. It was also the best job I ever had — and unpaid, at that. I decided what I was going to do that day, each and every day — without having to meet deadlines, supervisors’ demands, or chase the proverbial dollar. Not all days were great; some were not-so-good when my uncle’s condition had its down times. But other days were tremendously fulfilling to my soul and instilled my faith even deeper.

In early September of that year, my uncle died peacefully, painlessly, and graciously at home. I was there with him. His last day was especially prescient. We talked about everything and anything. I was able to say my goodbyes and my uncle thanked me for all I had done. He also asked me to look after his wife, which I agreed to do without hesitation.

Through the experience of taking on caregiving for my uncle, I was renewed. I learned to love life. I stopped taking myself so seriously. I grew up and grew out of a very confining shell of an existence that ultimately was destroying me.

Aside — during the time I was providing care for my uncle, a friend in a small organization who I had worked with for years hired me as a consultant. I worked part-time from home, and was able to show continuous employment on my resume. That was important as employers often question significant gaps in employment.

During that time, I was looking for work, but not with great energy. I was interviewed for an interesting position, but it was based 38 miles away in Virginia. The job had to be done at that office. I was not about to move to Virginia (its politics being so hateful) and a 76-mile round trip would mean four hours of commuting each day. My partner and I looked at one another and said, “no way…”. I would have enjoyed that job and it paid really really well, but I could not have tolerated that long commute.

Soon after squaring away my uncle’s affairs and getting his wife settled into a new routine, I got a new job in a “commutable” location — downtown Washington, DC. Who led me to it? Well, well, well… the very same woman who helped me find my first teaching position, my community service elected position, and so much more. She was a member of the Board of Directors for a small organization that was looking for someone with my skills.

I submitted my resume on a Monday, was interviewed on Tuesday, and began work on Wednesday. Man, that was fast!

I began dressing again in business (casual) clothes (instead of leather or denim), slugging to work on the Metro, and grinding away at another desk job. I liked the people, but the job was not challenging at all. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I knew deep down that the job was a placeholder for what — I didn’t quite know yet. It also paid just even with what I was making before, which thus was somewhat of a “lateral” but with fewer demanding duties and less wide-ranging impact. I rarely traveled, and was able to work a regular work-week instead of 20/30 hours of unpaid overtime each week.

By year three in that job, I was promoted and began supervising a handful of millennials. Sheesh… what a chore. This promotion paid a little better, but wasn’t worth the cost of my sanity trying to herd these kiddy-cats. I was becoming, let’s say “more interested,” in finding another job more in line with my skills and current career focus and that did not involve supervising kids doing things that required constant intervention (because these kids always knew what was “right” so they often told me.)

When I was in mid-year four of that job, I decided to rearrange things to support my staff and essentially work myself out of a job so I could concentrate and focus on getting a new job. Through a graceful and smooth exit, I accepted a layoff. That provided me some funds to carry me for a few months as I pursued the next job of my working career.

I began earnest and more vigorous communication with contacts, former colleagues, and expanded my network even more widely.

Through this active networking, I quickly received a message from a former colleague (from that old job — not everyone forgot me) suggesting that I look at a position he saw posted on a social media site. Intrigued, I started doing homework to find out more about the job. The more and more I learned about it, the more I was truly interested.

As I was updating my resume, I received a telephone call from a headhunter (a job recruiter) about that very same job! Perhaps this was destiny.

To make a long story a bit shorter, I sent my updated resume, had two job interviews, went through a prolonged and invasive security check, and was given an offer. I negotiated salary, and accepted. I began working again in November, 2010.

I have had my challenges and frustrations with this job, but I have also had a terrific experience. I have worked with three bosses; the first was good, but never delegated. The second was awful and it was rough biding my time ’til her transfer (which I knew would come sooner than later). And now, the best boss that I have ever had anywhere during my working career. I know he won’t stay forever, but I am making the best of it while I can.

I love what I do and think I do it rather well. So does the agency, being selected as Employee of the Year for 2014. I am busy, productive, but not overstressed. I work hard, but don’t overwork. I am paid a fair wage commensurate with my skills, abilities, and maturity as a seasoned professional.

I am saving money like crazy for our future and my retirement. I have rebuilt my reserve fund to be able to cover two years of expenses. I figure that I can work in this position as long as things are good for both the employer and me. But if something happens (like it did with my past employer), I can retire. Or let’s say that I will “transition” into a being part-time consultant. Or who knows what caregiving pursuit in which I may become engaged.

Whatever may be, by Job 5 (the one I currently hold), I’m done climbing corporate ladders. I am doing well for who I am and what I want to do. That’s more than enough.

I come home each day a bit tired but satisfied. I am happy at home. My spouse enjoys me being me — the man he fell in love with and the man whose work provides interesting intellectual activity, satisfactory income, and stability. It is also at a location that is close to home so the commute is short and does not require public transit. That’s more than most folks who live in urban/suburban environments could ask for!

The last post in this series will be about life outside of work in my mid-adult years, then I promise to stop boring you.

Life is short: transition to your passion.