I am terrified of heights. More precisely, I am deathly afraid of falling from a high place. Getting up on the roof is pretty easy and I like the view. Getting on the ladder to come down, on the other hand, has been known to freeze me in place for many minutes of terror, indecision, and cold sweat.
Oddly, the flip side of this terror is that I’ve never been able to stand at a high place without an impulse to jump. It’s a small impulse, but one felt in the gut and requiring an act of will to keep from flowing into muscles. At every high open place an internal war rages, between on the one hand a frozen terror in the gut and mental images of lying sprawled on the ground in oddly contorted ways, and on the other hand a muscular push in the legs and the breathtaking exhilaration of imagined soaring through the air.
I’m odd like that. And today it feels as though I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’ve given in to the impulse to jump.
Today, April 18, 2014, was my last day employed in the corporate world. The decision was a long time in the making, with several false starts and botched attempts. I made the decision for all the right reasons. It’s time, one of the best reasons for doing anything. I’m moving toward something, rather than running away. I’m doing it because I want to pursue things I love, rather than escaping things I hate.
Why, then, do I find myself with the sensation of being in mid-fall, trying to notice the rush of joy but finding it overwhelmed instead by the horror of rushing headlong toward the inevitable collision with the ground?
It’s not so hard to understand, really. I’m leaving corporate life because it no longer fit me. It was a good run; I got to do a lot of really cool things that many people never get to do. I got to do a lot of things I really enjoy and that, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at: leading teams of professionals, teaching and doing professional presentations, taking part in strategic discussions, thinking through complicated problems and looking for innovative solutions. I got to do all that while getting a steady paycheck at well above the median for my profession, annual bonuses, paid vacation, and good benefits. I also got to do all that while having the opportunity to work with smart, competent professionals who – despite what many would say about those in corporate roles – generally get up in the morning trying to do the right thing, and in any event put their pants and skirts on just like everyone else.
All that is what I’m giving up, only without the golden parachute.
Why? Because of this:
“…when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth. … And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” (from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho)
The story is longer than can be told in a single blog post, and I’ve been dancing around it a long time. It includes many twists and turns. There were the times I became convinced I was invincible and my success inexorable. There were the times when corporate reorganizations laid low my plans of flourishing under one boss because I had to adapt to another. There were the times I had influence at high levels, and the times when I found myself on the outside looking in. There were moments of great optimism, that finally things might make sense (read: would be done the way I thought they should be done). Then there was the time I thought, for the first time as more than a fleeting blip, of suicide.
Ultimately, it came down to the fact that I wasn’t any good at it any more, and that the reason I sucked as a corporate soldier wasn’t that I was bad or that the corporation was bad. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that my soul yearned for something new, something bold, something that demanded of me the thing I said I’d always wanted: to show up, to be all-in.
Because I didn’t want to get a single day older running the risk of never realizing
“that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of” (The Alchemist)
Kurt Vonnegut is said to have written, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” There is indeed always the risk of hitting bottom before learning to fly. Then again, there is the risk of never trying. Which to choose?
Tell me: do you believe in what’s possible, or do you spend your time talking yourself out of it?
Do you remember what you spent your youth dreaming about? If you lived your dream, how did you manage it? If you didn’t, when did you decide to give up?
What if you believed again? What if, just for a moment, you thought again that it is possible to be and do and have what you seek?
What cliff would you jump off?
Dr Les Kertay, Awakened Moments
Thank you, Maddie Kertay, for believing even when I don’t
Thank you, Erika Napoletano, for suggesting I read The Alchemist and for knowing what it would teach me
Thank you, Melissa Kopplin, for reminding me that the universe conspires with a clear intention