Missing The Boat

I left my job of almost 20 years on May 2, 2014.

For someone who could dedicate an entire blog post to something trivial like convenience store bathrooms or safety pins, I imagine it has been unusual that I have been silent on this topic for more than half a year.

Although the below account is not “starting at the beginning,” it captures important emotions and touchpoints of the decision, with vivid imagery.

Here’s the backstory: a few years ago, each of our board members received an anonymous letter outlining the author’s grievances. Topics included lack of cost of living increases and perceived favoritism, among other concerns. After that letter was distributed to our board, our Executive Director scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of us to “really hear our concerns.”

He had led the organization for several years by this point, and my initial optimism that had been born partly from a trusted individual saying “Oh I have worked for him; you’ll love him” had deteriorated. I decided in this one on one to be completely trusting and say exactly what I thought, which included some of my thoughts on the issues posed in the letter (which I didn’t write). As the meeting wound down, his statement to me was, “I still think you put your family ahead of your job.” Talk about a disappointing close to what I felt like was a productive meeting.

That evening, I had this dream:

A line of kayaks stretched out as far as my eye could see, buoyantly poised on gentle waves.

I was supposed to be with this group but had not realized I was supposed to be in a kayak – I was still walking.

It was a beautiful, sunny, calm day.

I pleaded with a leader to help me get my own kayak to join the group.

He somewhat reluctantly agreed and got me set up with a kayak and a paddle.

As he and I paddled toward the group, the weather worsened rapidly; there were dark clouds gathering and the wind was whipping up. The waves were intense. It was like white water rafting – the dangerous conditions were just like a book I read where the father who wasn’t especially trusted and had been drinking took the young son out for what was supposed to be an easy trip which turned into a white water disaster. We ducked and dodged huge waves like the kind you see surfers in Hawaii dealing with. We eventually decided we would have to wait it out.

Abruptly, the water receded. My leader and I started off on foot, following the path of everyone who had gone before us.

It was a dirt road made of light clay. There were very clear marks where the others had tried to leave us messages regarding their status.

As the leader and I walked on, the marks faded and grew more difficult to interpret. Blood stains began to appear among the marks. The stains were pinkish brown – they weren’t red and fresh but it was clear there had been a struggle.

We never found our group.

I had missed the boat.

The next day, I went to work.

The next day, I pulled into my parking lot at work and saw my Executive Director’s car, loaded up with a kayak.*

Leaving Work


This dream happened in 2012; I didn’t leave the organization until mid-2014 (after that Executive Director had moved on). Although it took me a long time to decide about leaving work, and the navigational maps for the next steps still feel a little fuzzy, the dream precisely represented where my spirit was at that time.

When I sat at my desk in early April 2014, having cleaned out all of my email streams, professional and personal, and feeling “I don’t have anything to do,” I called my husband and said “I have to go.”

And go, I did.

*Looking at it now, several years later, I realize maybe the “kayak” was actually a small boat (is that a motor I see?). But all I saw when I pulled up that day was “kayak kayak kayak.”


18 thoughts on “Missing The Boat

  1. This is awesome. I had two simultaneous thoughts as I was reading it — Johnny Paycheck’s Take This Job and Shove It and Jeremiah 29:11. Is that a strange combination or what?

    • It may be “strange” but it’s perfect. I do believe that “everything happens for a reason” and God is in control of all that. If I had waited out the 20th anniversary, for example, I could not have been home all summer to help with my father in law after he moved in. And if I hadn’t had that “take this job and shove it” feeling, I may not have had the impetus to do something.

  2. Glad to finally read the story behind the event.

    Boats do sink if you don’t have the right equipment. Mental and physical health are needed to navigate. I think now, after being so very brave and “going,” you can have your boat and lead it too! Congrats my friend.

  3. After the “I still think you put your family ahead of your job” remark, I’m pretty sure that would have been my cue to tender my resignation—if my family wasn’t absolutely dependent on my income—because I wouldn’t want to be working for anyone who thought that was a problem.

    • Suzanne, that was definitely a bit of the “straw the broke the camel’s back” (even though I did not immediately act on it). It was not the first time he said something of that nature. I guess I kept hoping to prove my worth somehow (?). There is a lesson somewhere in all of this about asserting myself … each time something like that was said, I essentially replied “show me how that is affecting my performance” and that never happened. I will ALWAYS take the hit professionally when forced to choose between family and work. I do think there are places in this world where the two things can co-exist. Clearly this was not one of them (at least for me)! Thank you for your comment.

  4. I love this, and am focusing my work on this kind of spiritual change (along with some humor). I would love to share this on my site! Dreams tell you what the rational mind refuses to allow into the conscious mind. Listening to them is critical, but sometimes, it’s all about the timing. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow, what a great story, Paula! And, yes, that remark about putting the family first? Total dealbreaker. Congratulations on your journey!

    And, yes, that appears to be a small boat. I believe that thing up front may be an electric motor, used for quietly moving the boat while fishing. But yeah, kayak!

    • Thanks for your comment, Rob. It’s so funny – I *always* saw that particular item on his car as a kayak – and I know he liked kayaking. But I guess it was close enough! I think one of the challenges was the fact that one of the very first things the original Executive Director told me in 1994 was “this is a great place to work and have a family.” And although as with every supervisory relationship she and I had our issues, I knew from a values standpoint she believed wholeheartedly in working/parenting being do-able. When he started in 2007, I (clearly, as in five years) failed to change course to accommodate an entirely different set of supervisory expectations.

  6. Funny that you should write about this now. I steered clear of the topic when we were together on Saturday simply because I felt like if you had wanted to address it, you would have at some point along the way. As it turns out, I’m glad I didn’t ask and, instead, you were able to hopefully just enjoy the time together without feeling like you had to go down that path with us (in a Readers Digest condensed version).

    Good for you for just “going”, moving on, letting go, and doing so without some great plan. You’re right — you were and are able to do things now that you never could have done if you were still working where you were.

    Never apologize for putting your family first. You are a master at balancing things in life. All will be well.

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