I sat in the office quaking with anger and indignation. There was sadness, too, though it was slower to settle beneath such seething emotion. But I wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t give into the tumult that threatened, even as the walls pressed in against me.
After 15 years, it had come to this: a blithe dismissal of my talents and skills in favor of a quick fix, a stopgap measure I could never trust to be temporary. For years, I had worked in one department, flourished under its demands while cultivating a presence that aligned not only with my gifts as a writer but with my very personality and spirit.
And now I was being summarily transferred to another position in an understaffed department – to a job I had no interest in, a job that even as I sat in that office, the shocked and crestfallen faces of my immediate supervisors before me, I knew would strip me of some vital and necessary life force. I couldn’t do it, couldn’t envision myself for even a month picking up another’s slack.
And yet even as I expressed as much out loud, somewhere, amid all my clanging emotions and thoughts, I felt a subtle shift. Perhaps it had been happening all along, an inevitable slide toward a separation I’d been half-heartedly courting for what sometimes felt like forever. I loved my job, loved it with the easy comfort of someone who has settled into a familiar pattern and place. I was good at it and appreciated the creative freedom it offered. I was also grateful for the exhilarating moments that frequently accompanied its more tedious aspects. But the truth is, there’d been a long-simmering discontent that had more to do with a vague but undeniable calling than the specific duties of my day-to-day.
I didn’t know quite where I belonged if not there or what it was that beckoned. But I had the sense of a bigger space, a higher purpose wanting me to step up and be seen in a way that was both potentially liberating and terrifying.
And so sitting in that meeting, even as I railed at the injustice of a decision that felt like a punch to the gut, I also knew it was time. Time to close a chapter that had served me well and brought a deep sense of fulfillment but that also, in recent years, had begun to bear a heavy frustration.
On some level, I wondered if I were being overly dramatic, to be so staunchly and rebelliously opposed to something that would still guarantee me a paycheck, a place in a field of scarce opportunities. I knew, too, my position wasn’t a singular one, that my circumstances were merely an echo of what had been happening in companies across the country – and indeed in different incarnations in my own workplace – for the last several years. But I couldn’t deny the “No” that exploded inside with such vehemence it were as if I’d already closed the door and were being propelled into whatever awaited next.
I didn’t want to linger, to pin my hopes on a possible reversal or promised impermanence. I was done and I knew it.
And that is a frightening position to be in. We all flirt with such change in our lives. We imagine scenarios vastly different from the ones we inhabit, dream of breaking free from the numbingly familiar. Sometimes we take a step in a fresh direction, begin the untethering that will shape us anew, only to scurry back into every excuse and fear that roots us to where we have been. But the uncharted path still summons. The expansiveness we yearn for is the splinter in our illusory content.
Some of us are brave enough to make the leap into that unknown without a push, to heed the insistent voice that speaks. And some, like me, endlessly turn over possibilities, walk with the weight of our longing stitched into every seam…until, finally, the Universe forces our hand, and though the bigger picture is still crystalizing, we cannot avoid the part we are being called to play.
Yes, I feel hurt, scared, angry, betrayed – so many emotions tangled up with the grief of letting go and moving on. But I also know I am supported in this transition. Just a few hours before I walked into the meeting that would stun me, I myself had been contemplating what was next for me, what larger conversation needed my contribution. And for days, I’d been witnessing hawks, swooping down with their feral grace upon the defoliated trees.
In animal medicine, these majestic birds often appear as messengers, with some, like the common red-tailed hawk, a symbol of moving toward one’s soul purpose. They are visionary creatures that remind us to be open to new experiences and of our own potential to soar. The hawk’s fearless energy can inspire strong and powerful action in our own lives, and I know this is what is required of me now.
The change that is afoot has been brewing for quite some time. In some ways, I’ve been a co-creator in its manifestation, given some of my bold choices in the last year. I’ve let go of a beautiful, loving partnership – a difficult, painful decision I nonetheless knew was for my ultimate good. And after years of talking about working with youth in Africa, I’ve finally said yes to that dream. Next May I will travel to Tanzania for a month to volunteer in an orphanage.
As I’ve been diligently unraveling the patterns of my past and carving out space for a greater self-expression, there’s been a momentum carrying me forward. Now is the time to trust I’ve been amply prepared to answer a knocking purpose.
Less than two hours after I leave my meeting, and after I’ve retreated to the bathroom to have a good cry, I receive a call from one of my aunts. She tells me she recently came across an old column I’d written in which I’d recalled the words my dad always used to inspire me in moments of doubt or overwhelm: “You have all the resources you need.”
She has no idea how perfect her timing is. But I do, and I’m ready to tap those resources and strike out for the life that awaits.