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  • Writer's pictureAndi

Winding Road

I have been pondering my career over the last several weeks as it’s leading me somewhere I never expected to be.

When I graduated from college, I always assumed that I would have a career and build my family simultaneously. I had worked for just a few years before having my daughter at 28. I tried to work part time in my advertising sales position at Family Circle magazine. I loved my job and was even promoted while on maternity leave into a managerial position. I was sure they would be amenable to having me work part time for a few months since all the content of the publication was geared to raising a family. At that time, maternity leave was a total of six weeks. They denied my request. I tried working full time but lived on Long Island and commuted an hour each way to work. I left my daughter with a babysitter in the mornings when she was often still asleep and arrived home just as she was going back down for the night. I was miserable. It was not why I had my baby. I begged my husband to let me take 6 months off as I knew I could get another job quickly at a similar publication. We knew things would be financially tight, but he agreed. This was my first step off my straight path onto my winding road.

Time flew over the next 12 years while raising my four children as a full-time mom. I knew I wanted to get back into the job market before I became an empty nester and before I aged out of securing a job. I had no problem starting at the bottom, but I had a huge gap in my professional resume. It wasn’t easy to find anything of substance as I was looking for a career and not just a job. A good friend helped me connect to a hospital in Manhattan and I started as a volunteer to gain experience. I felt I would transition into a full-time role within the year when they saw my effort and value. After six months it paid off, I was hired as a full-time employee with a salary and benefits. I was back on my straight road looking to grow professionally. Three years later, I went back to school for a Master’s in Public Administration because the higher-level jobs at the hospital stated, “master’s degree preferred”. I had never planned to get a master’s degree, but nothing was going to stop me from attaining my goal. I enrolled in a part time program and attended class twice a week after working all day. I was 20 years older than my classmates. I met another mom who was on a similar path, we bonded immediately, and I still value our friendship today.

For the next several years, I continued speeding along my straight road working long hours, climbing the ladder from Volunteer to Director with several titles in-between. One day without warning I was told that my department was merging with another department and my role was eliminated. Until this time, I thought I was irreplaceable. I quickly learned that no person is irreplaceable. I felt like I was a game-piece in the board game “Chutes and Ladders”. I was nearing the upper row on the board after years of hard work then found myself sliding down a long chute back to the beginning. I was devastated! Worse, I felt vulnerable and insecure. I realized my identity had become tied to the accomplishments from my job.

It’s amazing how fast we can go from having confidence in our strengths to feeling so inadequate. I started looking for my next place of employment, but it became apparent that getting a new role at my level and at my age was not going to be easy. At the same time, I suffered a health setback, and I felt the universe was really shouting at me to get off my straight path and take a different road. I was still determined to move forward with my career and shortly after recovering from surgery, I was in a meeting with a renowned surgeon who was aware of my full situation. He told me to wake up and reset my focus as I was so lucky to have my health. I found the words “wake up” interesting. This forced me to reassess why my identity was so wrapped up in my job? Wasn’t my job supposed to be the place where I went to earn my paycheck so that I could live my best life? I realized I had it backward. I was “living to work” instead of “working to live”.

I worked with a personal/career coach and realized that I feel the most empowered when I help others grow. From this I decided to carve more time for myself and my family. I also wanted to remain at the same hospital because of my connections and because my benefits which included 6 weeks’ vacation, allowed me to focus on the new goals I was setting for myself.

I was able to secure a position at the hospital working in a 9-5pm role. It does not have the snazzy title, but it gained me over 3 hours a day. This adds up to 22 days per year of added time! I was able to go to the gym 5x a week after work, everything was symbiotic and then COVID hit! Another chute (another curve in the road). As it turned out, I am one of the few people who loved lock down. I was able to work from home for the full year. I reconnected with my yoga instructor from years before and started taking virtual classes 5x a week right in my living room. I focused on a healthy diet losing 20 lbs and earned my certification as a conscious parenting and life coach. I still have the mindset that I like to grow, but now my focus is to grow emotionally, and my professional life will follow. I was recently added to the hospital’s Wellness & Resilience Task Force once they learned about my certification. I’m pleasantly surprised how much I love blogging. I even submitted my blogs to Mindfulness Journal, a magazine I found in the airport when I travelled to South Africa just last week. I may never hear from them, but maybe I will? I do not miss my old role and now see that while I felt happy, I was completely unconscious. I would not be as full today had I not traveled the winding road.

For parents: Don’t compare your child’s path with their friends’ paths. Children mature at different rates, and each have unique strengths. It's hard for parents to stop and assess what your child really needs. We are so conditioned to follow the straight path but going through life too fast might not give them the time they need to mature and realize their true passions. “Midlife crisis” is a realty for many who travel through life too fast. Winding roads can emerge at any time. It’s important to teach your children that life is full of twists, turns, ups and downs and each curve in the road might just be the beginning of the rest of their life.

If your child is struggling whether on the straight or winding road, or you need your own Do Over, I am here to help.


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