I have done some difficult things over the years.
I gave birth to a child…without the comfort of an epidural. Then, as now, when the Older One made up his mind to do something, he did it full-force–no letting anyone stop him, no taking the easy way. By the time, I was far enough into labor to get the blessed relief of modern medicine, my son was moving too fast for the drugs to be safely administered. Fortunately for both of us, time and unconditional love heals all wounds, making the memory of seeing my beautiful baby for the first time far more prominent than that of the excruciating pain preceding his arrival.
Fourteen years later, I traveled to the other side of the globe to meet my daughter. I fell in love with her at first sight…then left her in the care of strangers for five months while a Russian court pondered my fitness to be her momma. Last night, she told me she was glad she was a part of my family. I squeezed her tight and thanked her for waiting for me.
I have lived more than half my life with Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease that causes extremely painful inflammation of the digestive system, chronic nausea and uncontrollable diarrhea. As treatment for the disease, I have undergone seven surgeries.
Yes, I have done some difficult things. Today, however, I may have done one of the hardest. When the alarm went off this morning, I knew I was destined for a challenging day. It was, after all, the dawn of a new year–my birthday, and a milestone one at that.
I sighed as I threw off the blankets, squared my shoulders and went about the morning routine–shower, coffee, and argue with the increasingly obstinate Young One about whether the sparkles on her t-shirt are cool or embarrassing. (I happen to love the sparkle, but I’m afraid she is leaning toward a more tough-girl chic that abhors the bling I find so endearing.)
I drove to work with Katy Perry blaring through my speakers telling me to roar… Roar…ROAR and that I have the eye of the tiger…the fire, dancing through the fire, ’cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar louder, louder than a lion!
Yes, my girl Katy inspired me this morning, and as I walked through the parking lot, my stride was strong, and I knew I had a purpose.
I walked through the door of my office suite, beamed a cheery “hello” to the accounts payable manager who held the door open and wished me a happy b-day, and I strode with a swagger through the door of my office. Waiting for me on my desk was a giant tin of mini-muffins tied with green and gold ribbons and adorned with a card exclaiming, “Happy Birthday! We’ll miss you!”
Today, I did have the eye of the tiger, and I was determined to not go down without a fight. Not only was it my birthday, it was also my final day of work at a job that had become increasingly frustrating, disappointing and demeaning. I took one last look at the card, and heard Katy singing, “You hear my voice? You hear that sound. Like the sound of thunder. Gonna shake your ground,” and I knew I had one last job to do…the Exit Interview.
Three weeks ago, I returned to work after seven weeks of medical leave. My last surgery had been particularly difficult and while my surgeon considered the surgery a success, I was still in considerable pain. But I am a driven woman, and I needed to get back to work. I was looking forward to catching up with my boss on the progress of several important projects, but when we finally connected on a conference call, I learned that while I was out being an IBD patient, my job was being relocated to a state several hundreds of miles south. I was more than welcome to go with it, he said, but be prepared to make a lot less money.
Think about it, he said. Go home. Take pain meds. Think.
So I thought…about promises made and not kept…about unprofessional behavior…about derogatory comments…about insensitivity and lack of compassion. I thought, and then I said, “No, thank you.”
Now, it was my turn tell my HR manager why I couldn’t accept the offer of relocation with less pay. The exit interview…my last chance to claim my legacy and make a statement.
I had spent the night before contemplating which would have a greater impact…a loud, raging diatribe on the inappropriate behavior of senior leadership or a quiet, yet forceful commentary on lost growth opportunities for the business if the current culture is allowed to continue unchecked.
At the end of the day, no matter how angry and hurt I am at my perceived injustices, the people whom I leave behind…the ones who hold doors open for me, wish me a happy birthday and think to leave me muffins on a bittersweet departure day…deserve my professionalism. They deserve my hallmark calm and objectivity.
For them, I will lay aside my emotions and make a case for change. I will present data instead of hurt feelings. I will speak eloquently of inclusivity and the benefit of empowerment. As difficult as it is, I will make my exit an example of professionalism, and maybe…just maybe my legacy will be one of change.
I am sad that today, I end more than 20 years as a leader, but I am proud of the way I chose to make my exit. I have made many great connections and many friends along the way, and I hope that my professionalism will make a difference.
What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?