Monday was my last day of working at a job I truly loved and had for 16 years. I grew up professionally in the company, and a large portion of my adult life was devoted to my career there. A year ago when we decided to go on the road I thought for sure I would have to quit. Traveling in an RV was an unusual choice and although much of my work was done remotely, or with fly-in business trips, I thought it was too “outside of the box” for my then boss to approve. I was grateful and surprised though when he said I could travel anywhere on the east coast, as long as I was near an airport, had cell coverage, and internet access. So, unlike many people, I had the opportunity to try this lifestyle while at the same time keeping my current job. I am extremely grateful for that opportunity, because dealing with all of the change over the last year has been much easier with the consistency of a job I was comfortable in. And striking a balance on the east coast was relatively easy, because we have many field offices there and finding cool places to stay while still being within a reasonable drive to an airport was not that difficult. Lee and I both knew, however, that things would get much tougher when we headed out west. There are longer travel days, more places with minimal or no cell coverage, and staying close to an airport can be much harder. Shortly after we hit the road, I got a new boss, and he didn’t care where I was, as long as I could get to an airport, and still had cell and internet. That worked out just fine, and we were always able to meet those requirements without too much difficulty. We managed to make it work until we hit Glacier and it became clear to me that something had to give.
Just to be clear, many people travel and work corporate jobs very successfully in the West. I know two people very well, who have struck a good balance and manage to see great things and still work. For me though, the constant pressure of balancing enjoying the life and fully contributing to my job was coming to a head. The nature of my job required me to be in constant contact via cell phone which ruled out many of the more remote locations that Lee wanted to experience. I also never really felt like I was “off work” and weekends and vacation were often full of work concerns. Lee, to his credit, allowed me plenty of time to work this out. He never put pressure on me to choose, but he also wasn’t shy about talking about what he ultimately wanted this life to look like. As a good partner, he understood though that I would get there eventually and forcing the issue would only result in resentment on my part.
Simultaneously, I was thinking more and more about starting my own consulting company and what that would look like in this lifestyle. I had toyed with the idea for many years, but with a mortgage and three kids in the house, I never had the courage to take that leap. Now things were different. We had minimal debt, it was just Lee and I, and one of the major drawbacks of consulting (the weekly travel to a location) could be somewhat mitigated by our ability to move our house to wherever the work was. I was under no illusions that consulting would solve everything. I knew I would still need internet and cell, but it would give me more flexibility in my scheduling. Plus, I was very excited about the opportunity to do the work I loved for other companies and in other industries. One of the best parts of my job is when I get to help people’s lives be a little better. In a corporate job, those moments happen, but always on someone else’s terms. Consulting would allow me to focus on work that could be meaningful.
In many people’s minds the decision would be a no brainer, but for me it was really difficult to walk away from a “perfectly good job”. I was raised with a Midwestern work ethic and in that environment you don’t leave a job unless you have a really good reason. Plus, I am risk averse by nature, and to be honest, super comfortable with the environment I was in. I knew the rules, I had long term relationships, and a solid reputation as a person who gets things done. To walk away from all that was difficult, no matter how attractive the alternative was. So that’s where the situation stood until God/Universe opened a path for me. The company offered a Voluntary Separation Package that provided salary and health insurance for a specific amount of time, along with a separation bonus. The deal was the perfect amount, and came at the perfect time, so the choice seemed very clear to me. That doesn’t mean it was easy to make the choice, but there was not a doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do. So I signed the papers, and the last few weeks have been about saying goodbye.
That has been brutal, by the way. You know when you leave a job that many of the people you have had daily contact with simply won’t be part of your life going forward, and because I was there for so long some of those people felt like family to me. There definitely is a grieving process and feelings of loss. Loss of relationships, loss of identity, loss of security. It is not a small thing. I am very grateful for my support system, however. People have been checking in with me and been great about acknowledging that this is a big deal and encouraging me to take my time dealing with it. So that’s what I am trying to do, deal with it.
So here’s my approach, and I am sharing this not because I think it will work for everyone, but in the hopes it might help someone. First, I am not treating this time as a vacation. Many people do, and that’s perfectly fine, but for me it’s important to spend some time every day working on my new life and business. I am being very careful to strike a balance here and not overdue it, because that could easily turn into feelings of being panicked. In my head, I know we will be fine. We are smart, driven people who work hard. As Lee says, we have been through much tougher situations than this, with less skills. Emotionally though, it’s hard not to give in to the fear. It’s not rational fear, it’s not rooted in anything that’s real, but wow, is it powerful. Knowing where it comes from, doesn’t really seem to help lessen its effect and as much as I would like to just move past it, I know it will take some time. So in the interim I completed my consulting website, www.tsperkinsconsulting.com, if you are curious. I updated my resume (thanks so much Cori for helping), I changed my Linked In profile, and I am reaching out to my professional network to let them know I am consulting now. Finally, I am writing this blog. Saying things out loud lessens their power over you. Knowing everyone goes through this experience sooner or later helps. Knowing that people truly care helps. Having Lee be so completely supportive helps. But ultimately, I understand that I have to work through this. I have to believe in myself. I have to put my big girl panties on and own my choice.
Thanks for listening,
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