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March 31, 2006 | Category: In My Life

I used to sit at this desk. For 5 years, I sat at this desk. Except on vacation or business trips. I sat at this desk.

I responded to instant messages in 3 different languages (and all with my infamous bad grammar). I spent hours on the phone. I planned projects that spent millions of dollars on equipment maybe a handful of people would understand. I smoothed the feathers and organized the efforts of hundreds of people.

I compiled succinct PowerPoint slides to present to executives, with words like: deliverable, return on investment, risk factor, earned value, escalation, customer facing, business driver, gain, break-even, up, down, strength, challenge. My friend M used to say I spoke the "corporate language" - as though you could take a Berlitz class in it.

And this was, 50 hours a week, this was reality. When people asked "what do you do?" this is what I did, therfore - this is who I was.

7 weeks ago, I walked away. The piles of paper in this room remain where they were that day.

When I was a little girl, my dad travelled all the time. On the rare days he wasn't on the road, he worked from home in a tiny office over the stairs. I remember watching him punch the numbers into a calculator as he analyzed his quarterly reports. His forehead crinkled, his pencil sharp.

I am a second-generation Corporate Brat. I was learning to take phone messages at 6. I was helping choose my father's ties at 8. By 10, I knew most of his employers and employees by name.

There isn't the panache, the tradition, the identity in being a corporate kid like there is in having a military or political or religious family. We aren't a tight-knit clan like those in a union. We don't do 21-gun salutes. Or honor codes.

In fact, there are many who think, in fact, the the "suits" eat their young.

We don't. Well, not often.

You want to find a pack of free-ranging corporate types? Walk into any airline club in any airport in the world. We're hanging at the bar drinking imported beer while we tap out responses to our overstuffed Blackberry email inboxes.

And I miss it already. So badly, in fact, that I have spent a lot of time over the last 7 weeks wishing I could go back.

Wishing I could sit down again at this desk, click a button, and see my own overstuffed email inbox.

Which is maybe why it has been so hard for me to sit down at this desk for any other reason. Knowing I can't. Knowing that I would see a little gray box that said "access denied".

This isn't self-pity.

This is change.

It is slow, like a cruise ship pulling a u-turn. It is painful, like running in the cold. It is necessary.

So yeah, I had alot of my self-worth tied up in my corporate status. And I've been afraid to look at who I am without it.

Dancing around the issue, and crying for it all.

My friend Laura says it took her 6 weeks to stop crying.

Took me 7.

Today the sadness didn't reach my eyes. And this chair, this desk, didn't pang me quite so much.

Time, finally, has salved the worst of the wound. Time, now, has arrived to let go of the tears.

Time to find out, what's next.

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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life


so what are the "lessons learned" from this experience? :) ugh! i'm in corporate-land right now and consider polly powerpoint one of my best friends. that, and edie excel.

this is my take on your situation - you've studied so hard in high school to get into a good college. worked hard in college & maybe worked P/T to fund your education to get the $20K-$30K entry level job. and ever since, spent years working your way up the corporate ladder. for what? to give it up and spend time at home? for me, i keep reminding myself that's why i worked my a*& off all of these years, so that when i have a family we have a nice house & time to spend together. not to continue on the craziness road of corporate world.

sorry if i've got this wrong, i just started following your blog and maybe i'm just giving you more info about myself than what is really relevant to your situation.

Posted by: Tricia on April 1, 2006 06:45 PM

Hang in there! When I went freelance 2 years ago, the hardest things I had to learn were: to take care of myself (body and mind), to turn the quiet of my home office into a place of creativity, not fear, and to say No to people. Harriet Rubin´s book "Soloing" really helped on some of these issues...

Posted by: Ursula on April 1, 2006 11:34 AM

When I made the same GIANT LEAP I gave my office a new identity. It took a couple of friends and two bottles of wine but it made a HUGE difference for me. The office was no longer the forbidden room.

You are doing great things!

Posted by: osteff on March 31, 2006 09:28 PM