One year ago, almost to the day, I had an offer for a new job rescinded — and it felt like a body blow.
I had been feeling stuck in my ‘great’ job for far too long — with all the ‘positives’ weighing far too heavily on my shoulders making me feel that, at my age and with my responsibilities, I really ought just to be grateful that I had a job I was good at and that allowed me the chance to work flexibly.
So when I was approached by a different company, with a new opportunity, I was interested. Really interested. I had never been ‘headhunted’ before. This external validation was exciting. A real ego boost.
I had a series of positive and challenging conversations with a great bunch of people. I liked them. The prospect of change was enticing — a promotion and new title (on paper), a new set of demands, a step up. Yes, this was what I wanted. This was what I deserved.
And an offer.
That was less than expected.
But I am part of the ‘Lean In’ generation. I knew what I was worth.
And this time a year ago my worth was wrapped up in my annual salary level and my company car allowance. Pension contributions and holiday allowances.
So I replied to negotiate. The start of a conversation, I hoped… About my worth.
But there was no conversation. Just days worth of silence that started gnawing at me and my ‘worth’ and ended with rejection.
There was no room for negotiation. They were rethinking their hiring plan. They would ‘keep me in mind for future opportunities’.
I was crushed.
I was not worth it.
Suddenly, the old job that I had plugged away at, successfully, for years, felt like a mill around my neck.
Maybe I could just ‘go back’ to how things were. But I suddenly realised that I had been so unhappy, for so long, that I had stopped believing that I even had a right to be happy. Happiness had seemed so frivolous.
But surely, my own happiness was at least worth a thought?
I voted to take control. Of my own self worth. For my own sanity. And for my own happiness. Because what, really, did I have to lose?
Did I want more of the same work? More hours in the office? A fresh start somewhere new to ‘prove’ my worth again? Was it about more money (but less time)? More fixes and solutions to find for ‘family problems’ (aka kids get sick but lets not talk about it.) Did I want another desk — just in a different building? Would that have been enough?
Or did I want something much bigger?
I realised I wanted something very different…
Giving myself an afternoon, on my own, in my favourite coffee shop, I sat and wrote myself the letter of my dreams.
I wrote to myself from a year in the future.
I wrote the uncensored dream — a heartfelt, compelling vision of the life I wanted to be living.
The one where I was bold and brave and adventurous.
The one that had me in control of my career, putting the skills I had honed over the years to their very best use — doing good for others.
The one that had me learning new skills so I could reach further, so I could grow.
The one that allowed time for my children, my husband — and me.
I gave it details, of places and spaces that would be important to me. Of people I would welcome in. Of people I would hold on to. Of things I would let go of.
And writing it made my soul soar. I left that coffee shop flying on the wings of my dream.
I had created the vision of the world that I was worth. And it was beautiful.
The dream was great — but at the time, it felt just like that — a dream.
I needed something more concrete. Something to lead to some discernable action to take. Something to help me actually change. To leap from where I was to where I wanted to be.
Shauna Niequist’s ‘Present Over Perfect’ landed in my lap at just the right time. The chapter on Legacy hit hard:
“If I’m honest, I let words like responsible and capable govern many of my years and what good are they? Words I’m choosing this season? Adventure, family, laughter…”
What words did I want to choose?
What would I want them to say when I am gone?
I started focusing on the values that really mattered to me (my family — first, a spirit of adventure) instead of what other people expected of me (to be the one who ‘fixed’ everything) — and it was enlightening.
It suddenly hit me that I didn’t want to be remembered for my great budgets or schedules, but instead for my enthusiasm and my kindness.
I drew up a detailed list of what really matters and I started using this as a guiding principal for my choices — big or small.
Did that choice take me closer to my family? Or further away?
Was I being true to me?
Did it bring me fun — as I defined it?
If the answers were yes — time to say Hell Yes!
If the answers were no — then it gave a clear indication that I needed to rethink.
To place the value on me — and what I was worth.
“Is this the life I want to live? Is this the best I can be? Breathe in. Breathe out. And Decide…”
One year on and it is both humbling and exhilarating to see how the world that I dared to dream up has become my reality.
Yes, I earn less. I no longer have a company car or the pension contributions. Or either of the jobs that were the in play at the start.
But I see that rejection as the starting point of what I see as my rebirth.
I was worth more than they were offering. So much more.
But I needed to look deep inside myself to work out what that ‘more’ really looked like.
And I am so pleased that I did.
If you would like to read more about my Life Leap — from London to Shanghai — then visit me here
Originally published at medium.com