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.*
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.”