This couldn’t possibly be all there is. It was a sentiment I used to describe the work world I inhabited prior to my transition. I grappled with the sentiment as I faced what I now describe as my unraveling. This inelegant moment occurred when I hit the pause button on a more than twenty-year six-day-a-week commitment to my career. I recall this moment every time someone asks me what inspired me to write Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life. How can I describe that moment? I’d spent years rising – achieving – Harvard MBA, start-up ceo, Fortune 500 c-suite insider. But the overwhelming sentiment I had at the time was – this is it?
My pause wasn’t a retreat. It was a conscious act and a belief that something MORE was possible. I found that the top of the corporate hierarchy world wasn’t enough to engage ME. For me it had to have bigger meaning – a deeper connection to who I was. But what – exactly?
I often struggle with how to describe that moment. The goal or work image that had captivated so much of my attention for decades was ringing hollow. This realization occurred in parallel to the exploding demands of my personal life. I’d had two children right around my 40th birthday. By 45 I was at this intersection…wondering.
Thankfully I had the presence of mind to do two things: I reached out to women and I really listened to what they were saying. What I heard captivated my soul.
One thing I heard was a commonality of experiences among these women despite the differences they voiced. They talked about welcoming another child, or remarriage, or divorce, or job loss or career change or going back to school or an empty nest or a geographic move. And on and on. What fascinated me was how readily these women truncated their experiences into buckets. Creating walls.
As I listened I heard something else entirely. I heard common patterns across all of these events. Few of us – including myself at that moment – knew that each of these events had the potential to initiate a transition. I had a growing suspicion that we were all missing something important…..
Last Thursday I spent an hour with a dozen women. I talked about my upcoming book but more importantly I shared with them some basics about transition. A framework. Some vocabulary. A process. Stories from other women. This primer offered them a lens into a new way of thinking about the events that shape their adult lives. Instead of feelings of failure or self-doubt or inadequacy that too often accompany these events these women immediately saw how this knowledge made room for inspiration and empowerment and clarity. What is the old adage? With knowledge, power.
One woman came up to me and hugged me after the presentation. She was thoroughly engaged with my message and its promise for her and for all women. I was so thankful for her kindness.
An understanding of transition – at its best – can give us the sight lines into the unknown and the confidence to pursue the lives we only dare imagine.
Can transition be the key to exploring what MORE there is for you?
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