Today and this week on Life Retreat, we want to bring to you a three part story of inspiration from one woman, who swapped her life as a business executive for something wholly more natural. This is part 1 of a story of imagination and individuality.
I’d like to share my story of choosing to leave a successful executive lifestyle in favour of a natural lifestyle. I hope that you find it interesting, and if you happen to be in the same situation as I was, I hope that it gives you ‘food for thought’.
I’d nearly reached 15 years service with the same company having been one of the founding directors, and was thinking about my goals for the coming year when it hit me. The thought “This is killing you!” flashed uninvited into my mind. I was shocked. This is the same person who always put work first, put up her hand to take on any new role, and the same person who was relentlessly passionate about this particular business and its growth. It was common to miss important family functions due to business travel commitments, I regularly missed friends’ celebrations, and lived with a single-minded purpose of building the company with my colleagues. To this end, we had listed the company after only 2 years, and committed to taking it to new heights. To me the company was number 1.
During this time, success had specific meaning to me, in that I achieved financial independence, owned my own property, and tried to be a role model to young women in IT. Trying to maintain a life-work balance however, my gym membership lapsed. I bought another membership. The next one lapsed too. I saw less of my family. I endured severe migraines for years, seldom taking sick leave believing in leading by example. I worked harder. It was nothing to work every night and every weekend. It all seemed normal and necessary. Imperceptibly, my weight increased. My cholesterol crept up. My health suffered.
After that initial irreverent seed was planted in my brain, it was nourished almost daily by longer hours, greater demands and a gnawing feeling of discontent. The daily challenges no longer seemed as worthwhile as before. In fact, they often seemed to be much the same as before. Where before the stress had driven my performance and achievement, it was now causing me to experience regular heart palpitations and shortness of breath. The feeling was uncommon and unwanted after a 25 year long career in IT, where it’s quite common for IT professionals to thrive on adrenalin and a high work ethic, as I had done my entire career. I started taking tranquilisers before work. And worked harder. I took a few days’ leave here and there thinking I was just exhausted and would bounce back. But despite putting in more effort, working harder and longer hours, I felt worse. At the same time, my Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent first surgery, and then months of debilitating chemotherapy losing her hair, then kilogram after kilogram in weight until she was a walking scarecrow. I started thinking that I had a good chance of getting some kind of dread disease too if I carried on the way I was going.
Then a new dilemma emerged. What would I do if I resigned from my high-powered career? After starting my career in IT as a computer programmer and working my way up the essentially male-dominated IT ladder to systems analyst, quality assurance manager and project manager, and then starting a new IT company and moving from development manager to strategic business development including sales and marketing. I felt defined by this company, this role.
Where to from here? The only training I had was in various aspects of IT software development. And starting and developing an IT business to the 250-man company it is today.
It seemed obvious that moving from one high stress environment to another wasn’t going to be the answer for me.
I needed a complete change. I needed something to capture my imagination. Something to re-kindle the excitement and passion for learning and growing as a person, that had clearly waned.
After nearly a year of this ongoing mental turmoil, I decided to resign and start my personal journey to a fuller, healthier natural lifestyle. Everyone, except my close family and friends, was shocked and surprised at my decision. But the side effects of a long term high stress environment were not good. I had put on weight, developed high cholesterol, chronic headaches, and despite going to gym several times a week and achieving the desired career success, I suffered loss of energy and joy de vivre.
The moment I resigned, I felt pure exhilaration and liberation from the weight of the corporate responsibility. It was palpable. I could taste and feel the excitement of starting again, starting afresh on a new road.
Read about the start of Cindy’s Journey to a Natural Lifestyle – Part 2 in the next blog this week.