Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw
Leaving an organisation where I have worked for over 30 years, I reflect on this transition and the gift of learning from my body of work over time.
Leaving a long-term job role
Today marks an auspicious day when I leave an organisation where I have worked for over 30 years. It’s not without sadness. And it’s been a strange conclusion in many ways. I’ve been on leave for some time caring for my mother who recently passed away after a long battle with terminal cancer. So not being in the workplace as I leave, the usual farewells have not been part of the process. It’s as if I have disappeared off into the sunset on another journey.
This is in part very true. I realised about two years ago that I no longer enjoyed my job or working in the organisation. The organisation had changed and so had I. It was time to get back to my long-harboured creative loves and pursuits that lingered in the margins of my days. The books and creative inspiration I craved and hung onto as I made a long commute to work by car and train became key. This liminal time became a passage of transition as I sowed the seeds of my leaving into the stitches and seams of my days. I realised my heart was no longer in it as I applied for jobs I didn’t really want.
In truth, this leaving had been a long time coming and at this stage, I had already started to move on and transition to another life. The one I really wanted to be living. You may know that feeling – your heart has left the building, or relationship or place. And you walk in the door each day feeling so empty dragging yourself through the day until it’s time to leave. So you make a plan to leave for good to create a new life.
The greatest gift
My time in the organisation – a large government department focused on adult vocational education, TAFE NSW – was not without great joy and opportunity. The greatest gift of this transition has been to reflect on my body of work over time to plan a vision for a new life.
It’s so easy when we feel the sadness of moving on to devalue the past, all that we are and all that the organisation and its people have given us. The opportunities, the connections, the people, the learning, the vision, the strategy, the excitement – it can all get snowed over in a narrative of loss. There’s a tendency to risk losing the good and the valuable continuing threads with all of these feelings.
Pain is a player in this scenario too as we may feel undervalued. In my situation, I’ve been made ‘redundant’, my job ‘deleted’ in a restructure I am no longer a part of. The language itself is a challenge to deal with, not exactly creating the best of feelings. We can tie our self-image to this boatload of emotions and feel ourselves being towed behind it, awash with anger. In this, we can risk losing focus on the valuable gift of the resources of such timing.
But the greatest gift hidden in all of these experiences is what Pamela Slim calls our ‘body of work’ – the thread that ties our story together. This is the story we have been crafting and creating from our desires, our dreams, the opportunities, the interactions, the people we worked with, the projects envisaged, the products created and the services delivered. Therein lies the seeds of so much wisdom.
Your body of work
It took a painful experience for me to realise all of this and to start to move on. A chance gut-wrenching workplace experience one day was the catalyst that made me realise I could no longer stay. I had to make changes. The next day I reached out to my friend, Victoria Smith, a life-coach and inspiration, someone who’s been down this road before me, to help me track a new path.
I’d reached a low point and I knew I could no longer navigate this time by myself. My coaching series with Victoria became the blueprint for a new life. A conversation about Pamela Slim’s ‘Body of Work’ in that coaching series was a pivotal piece that helped to tie my transition journey together.
The trick with a wise transition is to reflect on the driving force and heart of your work over time. What really drives you? Across all the job roles you have done, what are the recurring passions? What makes you come alive? Which themes occur in various ways again and again?
Pamela Slim says that her motivation in writing the book was to:
find a set of “new” skills for the world of work in the twenty-first century that would provide options, flexibility and freedom to workers across every mode, in every industry.
Her work enables us to do just that by identifying these core elements:
- defining your roots
- naming your ingredients
- choosing your work mode
- creating and innovating
- surfing the fear
- knowing your definition of success
- sharing your story
My body of work in transition
As I’ve moved through this time of transition, I have worked through all these areas. You will see these themes woven through my blog posts, as I’ve shared my story along the way. I have realised that the key threads that tie my story together are:
- making a difference (always a motivator for me, sharing skills and knowledge to help others);
- teaching, coaching, mentoring, blogging (different forms of empowering others and sharing knowledge, skills and experience);
- creativity (innovating, leading it, fostering it, writing);
- leadership and self-leadership (leading others means leading yourself first);
- being a reflective practitioner and knowing myself (a constant search for self-understanding, professional development and reflecting on experiences in work and other life roles);
- writing (the authentic heart of it all, being a writer, becoming a teacher of writing and weaving it as a strategic and professional superpower in my life);
- introversion and intuition as key strengths and gifts as an INTJ, the captains of my personality ship I needed to learn to work with; and,
- in all of this, being wholehearted in how we live and work, not bringing parts of ourselves to the door of any workplace or relationship.
Bringing all this together in a new way into a new life and business is exciting but challenging work. It’s taken consistent work towards my vision sustained over time. And it is about hard work and not luck as Kerstin Pilz reminds us in this beautiful piece, ‘Why luck had nothing to do with my self-directed life.’
Making a path for my transition
So finding myself feeling half-hearted, experiencing a ‘loss of heart’ as Lynn Hanford-Day describes it, a kind of burnout, I shifted to a job-share arrangement 18 months ago to plan a new future. Coaching with Victoria helped me shape this new path and I knew the ingredients for the future, based on the key threads of my past and taking them forward.
I set my goals of:
- becoming a Beautiful You Coaching Academy life coach (achieved July 2017)
- becoming a certified Jung/Myers-Briggs personality type practitioner (achieved December 2016)
- working with my Introverted Intuition preference as a key compass especially via tarot and oracle card tools (achieved via courses, personality work and ongoing practice in 2017)
Setting and achieving these goals has been the backbone of my transition journey, with key learning milestones stepping the way.
Core desired feelings as guides to transition
My core desired feelings are at the heart of everything I do. I want to feel and convey being:
creative, connected, flowing, intuitive, poetic.
Connection especially has been a theme now and finding new kinds of networks. Not being in a traditional workplace can mean a loss of connection. At a time of leaving the workplace, I’ve developed rich connections with a beautiful community of fellow life coaches. We support and inspire each other. I’ve also had the chance to develop deep connections with valued coaching clients who have honoured me through sharing their journey.
Via social media, especially Instagram, I have found the most amazing kindred creative souls. Through Quiet Writing, women have shared wholehearted stories of transition inspiring me and others as we reflect on and initiate change. The hallmarks are startlingly similar across the stories, though they play out in different ways. I am meeting more and more online friends in real life in the most incredible encounters where we share our stories. The personality type community is another tribe of people where I feel a strong connection and source of learning and growth. And I know I will reconnect in different ways over time with many special people from the workplace.
Creating your story
As we move through times of transition, we can create our story, as George Bernard Shaw reminds us. The special ingredients of our body of work, our drivers and passions, are the greatest gifts and teachers on the journey of change. Painful as it might be at times to feel redundant, rejected or no longer belonging to the team, it’s an opportunity to create ourselves anew.
This time can be an opportunity to interrogate what Steven Pressfield calls our ‘shadow careers’, where our lives are an imitation of the real thing we want. He suggests in ‘Turning Pro’:
If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.
That metaphor will point you toward you true calling.
So now I move full steam into a new career focused on being a writer and a personality and life coach supporting women to create their wholehearted story at times of transition. I know the ingredients of my body of work. Writing, creativity, making a difference, coaching, teaching, reflecting, sharing knowledge, leadership, self-leadership, introversion and intuition are the threads taking my story forward in support of others.
Distilling all of this brings me to the focus of this transition and new phase of life:
choosing to journey deeper into your wholehearted story
This is the theme of my journey and body of work. And it is what I offer to you through my writing, this blog, my coaching and personality type work and my intuitive tarot work. My deepest threads weaving together into a new story to inspire yours.
Thank you for your support on this journey. May you find your true calling, bringing together all the elements of your body of work forward into a new life. I look forward to sharing my newly formed self-sustaining creative life with you in all its guises in support of your own.
If you’d like to find out how to work with me, you can find out more here. I’d love to work with you!
Image of me by Lauren of Sol + Co
With gratitude and love to my family and all my key influences, special friends, life coaches, teachers, coaching clients and fellow travellers on the journey this past year or so, especially my dear friend Victoria Smith.
Thanks to TAFE NSW and all my colleagues for our time together. It is a time I treasure and one from which the deepest friendships and connections have come. I’ve been blessed with inspiring leaders and mentors who have taught me so much about leadership and self-leadership.
Much love too to my beautiful mum, Shirley, who supported my journey transition generously and with the greatest enthusiasm even as her journey was coming to a close. This truly is the greatest of gifts for which I am forever grateful, her body of work being the deepest love of family.
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