On Choosing Life

Driving down a “Wacky Races” Dallas highway after days of meetings with Big New Global Client, cars streaming around me, late for my plane, desperately missing my 3 year old, I was DONE.

Tears streaming down my face, I realized — this is it. I had been waiting for a wall, and I’d hit it.

Was I just tired? Feeling taken for granted? Embroiled in a dysfunctional work situation? Well yes, sure. Ask any consultant/road warrior and the story will be very similar.

But this was different. I was completely empty. How had I got here?

In 1985, my Grandma gave me a book called “How to be Successful”. I vividly remember the white manual with its tips for young adults on navigating life. I can’t remember what it told me, but I do remember feeling a sudden, fleeting burden. Then I went back to my Wham listening, Judy Blume reading, mix-tape-making days.

Little did I know that was the moment that I self-inflicted my pressure.

Fast forward — degree from Top 5 University, job at national PR firm, move to USA, more jobs at top firms, marriage to a wonderful man, birth of a precious daughter. Check>> I was successful. I had made it. I had “it all”. But this wasn’t it. Why didn’t it like it was mine? What was wrong with me?

What was wrong with me was that I wasn’t listening to myself.

How ironic for someone who had spent her career listening to her clients. I was ignoring my heart, my head. I was running, running, barely stopping to register if this was what I wanted. I was missing my life.

Then, in May 2015 I had a delightful pulmonary embolism. Cue Blood Doctor: “You’re lucky. The clot started in your leg, travelled through your heart, made it through your brain and lodged itself in your right lung. If it had stopped anywhere along the way, you wouldn’t be here talking to me.”

Gulp.

Now, this PE wasn’t caused by stress. (It was caused by my birth control — Google “Merck blood clot class action” for a bit of fun reading.)

As I gazed out of my hospital window at the lilacs I’d spent all winter waiting for, I realized something. I had to give myself THE BEST POSSIBLE CHANCE IN LIFE.

For an overachieving Type A, that doesn’t sound enough, does it? Best chance…?

What I mean is that shit is going to happen. We’re going to get sick. Life is going to get hard. We need to be as strong as we can be to fight. To make it count.

This strength wasn’t just about my ability to do a Doug Melroe step class. This was about having the courage to listen to myself and create a new path that I really wanted.

So, 30 years after Grandma Marian gave me my book, I am changing.

I am focusing on creating more time, more true friends, more generosity, more calm, more “being me”, more client smiles, more feeling that I have done the right thing, more gratitude, more strength both in my body and my mind.

You forget, after you’ve had a career for a while, that you can choose.

You can choose life.

 

This post originally appeared on Medium. Follow Laura here.