When I was 32, I took a flight to LaGuardia, caught a car service up to Connecticut, waltzed into my boss’ office, and told him I was quitting. Just over a year removed from winning the coveted Reach the Peak award — the highest honor my company gave out for “sales excellence” — I was the victim of an early midlife crisis. My boss, who I’ve remained in contact with to this day, was taken aback.
He assumed that I was going to a competitor, with the help of a slick-talking recruiter, of course. They made a living off of guys like me, essentially stealing us from one company before offering us to another, from which, of course, they’d hope to again snatch us as soon as enough time had passed.
I used to get calls from those clowns all the time. And, sure, I went on a few interviews — even got a couple of offers — one of them from Fidelity Investments. It was a hard gig to pass up, but when push came to shove, I did just that. It seemed so…pointless. Calling on the exact same people, wearing the exact same tailored suits, but hawking a different family of investments.
Part of the reason for my early midlife crisis was wrapped up in all of that — the notion that my white-collared compadres and I were little more than interchangeable parts. To me, there was no soul to what I was doing. I wanted more and I was aware of that for a long time. And I had finally gotten up enough courage to do something about it. Sure, prudence suggested that I find another gig before moving on, but I had saved up enough money to live off of for a year — maybe two. Plus, I’ve never really been all that into being prudent.
“What are you going to do?” my boss asked with a confused look on his face.
“Go to Jazz Fest and run the San Diego marathon,” I answered with a shrug. Beyond that, I hadn’t a clue.
Luckily, things worked out for me. I eventually landed in my hometown and wound up joining my sister-in-law in starting a blue-collar business that fabricates and installs granite countertops. But this June, after over seven years of being co-owner of that business, I found myself in a similar spot to where I’d been nearly a decade before.
Don’t get me wrong — I love the countertop company. And I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. It’s an outstanding little shop. Conservatively run, with very low debt and profitable to boot. But like before, suddenly I wanted more. So in June, I told my business partner that I wanted out. Throughout the months that followed, we worked hard to reach a solution agreeable to us both. And now, it’s finally official.
Yesterday, I went to say goodbye to the fellas. And it was tough. Especially when I said goodbye to our shop foreman who’s been working for us for over six years. He looked me in the eye and thanked me for being what he described as the single biggest influence in his life over the past several years. He told me that he doubted if I even realized how much I had taught him. About life. And that he’d never forget it. Or me. We shared a long embrace before I finally pulled back, dried my tears with the back of my hand, and drove away from the company I helped build for the very last time.
But as hard as yesterday was, the most difficult part of the transition was the actual decision, itself. Primarily because of the eerie peace it brought me from the moment I made it. Paradoxical? Perhaps. But the utter ease with which I made such a big decision initially made me wonder if I could really trust it. The last go round? Getting the courage to quit had been an arduous process. And back then, as a single buffoon who was be-bopping his way through life, I had far fewer things about which to fret than I do now. So why, I wondered, was a similar decision actually easier this time? I pondered that question for 48 straight hours until I finally accepted that there was no answer.
So what, exactly, will I do? Well, I can’t go to Jazz Fest or run a marathon because of those damn triplets. And Pookie, too. Besides, I’m way too content with my family to leave them for any significant period of time. (note to Lovie — except when I go on my annual backpacking trips.) So, instead, I guess I’ll do what it is I wanna do most.
Thankfully, I’ve got a lot going on. I’m working on a novel (fiction this time) and have even made a little leeway in trying to fool an agent into representing me. I’m also staying busy with the great opportunity that Babble was nice enough to give me. (Come visit me.) And soon, I’ll be regularly contributing to two other fantastic sites. Between the (modest) income from my writing and the little cash pop I received from selling my half of the company, I should be just fine for at least a year.
I’ll be the first to admit that my career path hasn’t exactly been a conventional one. I think it’s because I haven’t fit well in the spots I’ve landed. Strangely, in each of those spots, it looked to everyone around as if I fit just fine. But I’m less into the way things look and more into the way they feel. Not to mention the fact that I understand that not everything can be neatly tucked away inside tidy little boxes. And I’ve come to accept that I’m one of those things.
And that’s okay. Because there’s a spot for those things, too. It’s just harder to find. But if you try your best, the search rewards you with growth. Besides, I’d rather be looking wishing I had already found it, than stuck wishing I were brave enough to still be looking. And one of these days, I’m certain I’ll find my the perfect spot for me. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure I can see it from where I’m currently standing. It’s right over there.
I’m headed that way now.