Breaking up is never easy. I recently ended a long-term relationship, and will be packing my things into boxes to be moved next week. Breakups can be bittersweet, and this one certainly falls within that category. We’ve been together (on-again/off-again) for a long time, more than 19 years, in fact. However, as breakups go, this one has been pretty simple so far. Since I showed my cards and explained why I couldn’t stay, no tears have been shed, no teeth have been gnashed, and I really don’t expect that either of us will be emotionally scarred for life.
Although I am confident that the decision to leave was the right one to make, I am nevertheless somewhat apprehensive about what the future will bring. I have seen others end similar relationships and then later come crawling back, groveling for yet another chance to make things work. That’s not going to be me this time; I firmly believe that severing these ties is what is best for me. It’s what is best for both of us, really.
I won’t deny that over the years this relationship has brought me financial security and peace of mind. However, as wonderful as that security has been, there has never been a deep emotional or personal tie between us. That is the heart of the problem and the main reason my eyes strayed recently.
Yes, my attention and imagination have been captured elsewhere. I will admit that lately, I have been shamelessly flirting and testing the waters of a new relationship. So, next week, I will leave this comfort and safety I’ve known for almost two decades for something edgy and new; something that I think will make me feel alive again.
You see, I’m breaking up with Corporate America (“C.A.”) and re-igniting my relationship with Entrepreneurship (“E.”) C.A., if you’re reading this: as cliché as it sounds, please know that it’s not you. It’s me.
Sure, we have had some good times (I said this was bittersweet, right?) I first met C.A. in 1996, and after a whirlwind courtship while I worked for C.A. as a temporary employee, I was swept off my feet by everything C.A. could (and did) offer me. A paycheck every two weeks? Benefits galore? Paid time off? Tuition reimbursement?! As a young woman of 22, I was starry-eyed and fell head-over-heels into this career relationship. At some point in the early 2000s, I became aware of a tiny, nagging voice in my head, prodding “Is this what you really want to do for the rest of your life?” But, in those early years at least, one look at my paycheck was enough to silence that voice. Annual raises? Yes, please. Merit bonuses? Sure thing! Group life insurance? Sign me up!
However, with each passing year, I became a little more disenchanted. That voice inside my head got just a little bit louder, the nagging just a little bit more intense, until I was finally forced to confront the truth: I want more than just a job; I want to feel like I’m making a difference. As wonderful as money and benefits are, I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve come to realize that there’s more to life than money.
Please don’t get me wrong; for many, many people, C.A. is the right place to be, as was true for many years for me. After all, C.A. helped put me through college and through law school. C.A. gave me paid maternity leave, paid holidays and so much more. Many people can and do find that career and life balance, that sense of fulfillment, with C.A. But for me, that magic just isn’t there anymore.
This is where E. comes into the story. E. is exciting and new. E. cannot guarantee me any of the perks C.A. offers, but E. will let me “drive” the relationship. With E., I get to choose the direction we’re going and I get to choose how we get there. Sure, it’s scary; I may send this new relationship careening off a cliff, but I’m going to do everything in my power not to let that happen.
I know some of my colleagues, friends and loved ones don’t understand why I would want to walk away from C.A. at this point in my life. It really boils down to this: I don’t want to look back on my life and be filled with regrets, wondering what I could have made of myself if only I’d had the courage to brave the waters. So, stand back and watch as I dive in head first.
Breaking up is never easy, but it’s time. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some boxes to pack.