In the remaining sludge of excess cortisol and shame coursing through my veins, I somehow found the last spark of hope to sift through online job banks and found a random position with a women's rights organization in New York City. I passed the first two rounds of interviews and they flew me to their NYC office for a final interview.
Could this be it? A clean white slate far, far away from the critics? A chance to start over? I must admit, by now, I was beside myself, out of my mind, and had no idea what I was doing anymore.
I sat in their office for no more than 30 minutes, unable to hear myself think, over the deafening screams of all the babies brought to work and jack hammering barks of all the pets running through my legs during the interview. It was a real life human, animal zoo!
I went home and cried myself to sleep for two months straight. Nope, this wasn't it. I wasn't about to trade one hell for another hell.
Unsure of where I found the drive, perseverance, or will to live (or maybe I was propelled forward by the "I just want out" feeling I mentioned back in career no. 1), I decisively chose two international hubs: San Francisco and New York City. I didn't know how I'd sort out the work visa since I'm not American, but I figured it'd be easier than applying to European hubs.
I systematically applied to every position remotely related to the digital, creative, humanitarian, educational, and managerial worlds, with zero likelihood of screaming babies and barking pets being brought to work. I got a response from Google out in San Francisco and 5 responses from various companies in NYC.
After passing 3 of Google's 11 interviews (god, their questions were so lame, I don't know how HR can even ask those), with the fact that I knew no one in SF, but had 2 amazing friends in NYC, I turned all my focus toward NYC.
I lined up 5 interviews in 5 days in Manhattan, got on a plane from West to East coast, and by Day 6, I had secured two offers, accepted one, obtained a signed offer letter, setup a NYC (212) phone number, secured a cute little apt in Brooklyn (by having the foresight to show up with $2,700 in cash for the first month rent, last month rent and deposit), got the keys to the apartment, initiated my application for a Social Security Number, and had two lunches with my two amazing friends.
I flew home on Day 7, packed up my life and moved to NYC on Day 8. This is what "all in" looked like.
I love that my address was 288 New York St, in New York, New York. I had a legitimate visa to live and work in the United States of America. Any immigrant or expat knows what a holy grail that is to hold in your hands.
The organization I worked with was so amazing. They were even willing to tweak my professional title so that I'd fall into the right immigration category and my visa was issued 3 hours before my flight, easy peasy. (Thank you mom and dad for my Canadian citizenship!)
People talk about living in London, Paris or New York once in their life. I actually did that!! I knew where the tastiest but least expensive restaurants were. I saw a musical every month. I could still do good in the field of humanitarian aid and have high work autonomy (since I'd be the only one in this role). The organization was still growing, so there was plenty of growth potential. I was even building an international reputation, with colleagues from our 3 foreign offices reaching out to me for e-strategy consultations.
One day, I was tracking Google Analytics and noticed a lot of traffic from a website. I clicked on that site and out of the corner of my eye saw a job ad for the same position I was in, but with a much larger and more reputable international aid organization (with I assumed higher salary). I didn't think anything of it because I was so focused on my work.
But around midnight, I couldn't help but pull up that site again. The ad was gone. <insert eerie music> What where the chances that I happened upon that ad, which was at the TOP of that page, at the EXACT moment I saw it?!? I applied of course, passed both interviews with flying colors.
Phew, it only took 9 career identity re-inventions, 9 rounds of emotional rumble and critics corner to arrive here. I adored my colleagues who were all passionate, fun, super talented and good-hearted people.
With the salary increase, I was able to move from Brooklyn to Manhattan. My landlord even chose me out of 32 applicants that day because my business card had the international aid organization's logo on it.
I had my "Sex and the City" foursome gal pals, was learning Antigravity Yoga and fashion design, and could walk to work in 21 minutes. At work, I had near total creative freedom and would complete e-projects in 3 weeks, when it took other offices 3 weeks just to finalize the specs.
I spearheaded a global $1.2 million dollar online initiative, because I felt like it and because making systems efficient and lean is fun! Several of our international offices flew me overseas to their respective offices to borrow my talents. It was a dream life come true!
It was a dream I wasn't even capable of dreaming up. It was a dream I didn't even know I deserved. I was a dream I didn't even realize could exist.
Letting Go / Walking Away
But I let it all go. 😭😭😭 If you've been following this series, you might feel like me and want to quit reading or listening to this series. Every re-invention is so full of awe and juicy lessons, and ends with walking away from it all. 😭😭😭
To keep it real, the compounded federal tax, and state tax, and New York City tax weighed heavily on me. I knew from my travels that there were other places with lower cost of living and higher quality of life. I missed being able to see the sky, which I couldn't see from my tiny 250 sq ft studio. If some lived in a shoebox, I lived in a shoe!
My life was very minimalist, but doing good doesn't necessarily pay the bills. What if I had a large medical expense or wanted to buy a home? It'd be impossible on my current salary.
Also, day in, day out, my inbox was bombarded with photos and videos of disease, famine, death, and disaster. Though I was doing meaningful work, my sensitive constitution could only handle so many years of "secondary PTSD," which is a term I'd only learn about 6 years down the road. That! That's what I was suffering from. I just had no words for it at the time. Though the death and disaster didn't happen to me, I was like a sponge soaking up second-hand trauma.
I was also facing the very real glass ceiling: I didn't want my boss's job, but there was no other ladder to climb in that organization. No matter my talent, quality delivery and speed, I'd never be able to have a promotion or raise. I wanted to be reward for the caliber of my skills and person, not for the number of hours I sat at a desk.
And alongside this professional identity crisis, the Universe placed me at a crossroads: stay at a no-growth career that I loved or move overseas with a partner in a blind leap of faith that I could have both career and personal fulfillment. I took the blind leap of faith. I crashed on the pavement of: nope, you can't have both!
Fears / Emotional Rumble
Heartache of saying goodbye to passionately talented colleagues, fun loving friends, and the abundance New York City
Guilt over the fact that I shouldn't feel such grief/loss because it was my choice to leave
Pure, unadulterated freedom and joy at having "made it", coupled with fear of never finding anything nearly as satisfying
Agony and injustice at having to chose between career and love
Mental tug of war between contentment with meaningful work and an unquenchable thirst for more (a "more" that I couldn't even put words to)
Hazy, foggy knowing that the "more" that I was seeking wouldn't be found in NYC (this was 4 years before I even heard of the term "intuition" and discovered I too had one! who knew?!?)
Uneasy self-questioning of "Is this all there is?" [I'd be very soon shown that the answer is "Nope. This is not all there is. There is soooooo much more that you would go catatonic if the Universe revealed it all to me.]
Constant self-doubt, "Am I crazy for walking away from The Dream?" Ellany, do you have any idea how many millions only dream of this Dream?
Interestingly, there was zero fear. (I think it's because I had hit the glass ceiling, so I was confident that any change would be better than being stuck below that glass.)
Where the f*ck are you off to again?!?
Why can't you just pick one thing and stick to it?
How dare you abandon us to move to the United States, to the land of opportunity? [I did what they didn't have the grit to do.]
So now that you've made it in the Big Apple, you think you're better than us?
You never visit. You're a disloyal son. Don't come back.
You are a miserable excuse for a daughter. [Even though I had put a $20,000 down-payment on my parents' retirement home and retired them in comfort when I was only 24 years old]
You're such a failure. Why couldn't you become the perfect eldest son, Silicon Valley white boy you were supposed to be?!?
When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?
Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?
Why can't you settle down like the rest of us?
Unfolding Destiny / Lessons
Grit: 4/10 | Grace: 14/10
It is a strange feeling to bathe in the awe of retrospectively seeing how all my previous career re-inventions served as seeds for this one. That women's rights organization that didn't work out planted the seed of NYC. The Rwanda placement that didn't work out planted the seed of working in headquarters. The systems design job that didn't work out planted the seed for Rwanda. The fellowships that didn't work out planted the seeds for the systems design job.
And along the way, seeds of courage, stamina, resilience, intuition, discernment were growing into mighty oaks. All a slew of Sacred Brand Archetypes were being expressed to my soul's content.
If I had to be represent myself at this stage of re-invention, I'd be the Energizer Bunny, but holding an accordion instead of cymbals, making 6 steps forward, 4 steps back, while clanking dissonant notes on that accordion.
And so here, my greatest lesson and takeaway is three-fold:
- If you are to be true to your soul, you must design / create your own way of doing things, even if to the rest of the world it may seem like you're going at a snail’s pace or super sonic speed. It doesn't matter if their heads spin, it only matters if your soul comes alive.
- The hardest part about becoming great is letting go of those who are not.
- Overcoming repeat cycles of death and rebirth was hard AF, but has gifted me with a powerful calm, a graceful surrender, and a liberating invincibility. Bring it, Universe, I can handle anything. 👊
Sacred Brand Archetypes
Without knowing I was doing so, I was leading my colleagues into an "e-Wonderland" where everything was possible. I could turn any practical need, such as community building, event engagement or talent recruitment into simple and elegant e-solutions.
It'd be another 13 years before I fully comprehended the nature of our soul, which is to express itself organically, regardless of egoic control. Here, my soul expressed itself through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Artist (primary) and Alchemist (secondary). Both are new, they hadn't shown up before. I'm starting to have the feeling that my soul is like a child playing dress up. It just wants to try on all the archetypes, just for fun. Heh. Who knew?!?
In this series...
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Computer Teacher (Part 1/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Web Developer (Part 2/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Industrial Machinist (Part 3/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Banking Officer (Part 4/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Aerospace Engineer (Part 5/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Energy Researcher (Part 6/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Systems Designer (Part 7/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an International Aid Worker (Part 8/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Global E-Strategist (Part 9/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a United Nations Consultant (Part 10/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Web Design Agency (Part 11/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Success Coach (Part 12/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Wealth Mentor (Part 13/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as an Aerial Yoga Studio (Part 14/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Psychotherapist (Part 15/16)
My 16 Careers • Reinventing Identities as a Spiritual Guide (Part 16/16)