I just completed my exit interview, submitted my final time sheet, and am preparing to wrap up the last couple loose ends before I close the company laptop for good. Ending a six and a half year association with an employer comes with mixed feelings. I’ve made some great friends through work, I’ve experienced more success than failure, and made what I think is an impressive move from an entry-level associate making almost nothing to a well-respected customer facing associate that was fairly well paid. Along the way, however, I’ve grown disenchanted with the party line you’re forced to toe when you’re employed by a large company, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of recognition for individual accomplishment, and frustrated by the lip service large companies pay to ideas like work-life balance, associate’s needs coming before the company’s, and so on. All that said, I can’t imagine my life would be what it is today without all the good and bad I’ve experienced with my soon-to-be former employer. I just wish the stock price was higher (like the $60 range it trades in about once a year) before I unloaded all my options yesterday!

Despite having the past month off, I feel like things are going to be much different when the workweek starts for the rest of the world on Tuesday. There will be nothing to go back to for me. The constant that’s been there for so long is no longer hanging over me. I won’t think of what I need to accomplish the next day when I go to bed. I won’t dread getting out of bed each morning because I know there are 100 messages in my inbox I need to wade through before a 9:00 conference call.
For both part-time needs in the short term, and longer-term possibilities, I’ve started to explore the non-profit world a bit. If I am able to go to school, I’d like to be able to do something a couple days out of the week to knock out my tuition and other expenses (like all the stylish clothes I’ll have to buy if I’m attending classes with a bunch of 25 year olds). Whether the grad school route works or not, I can see myself working in the non-profit world full time. The idea of doing something that actually helps people at the end of the day greatly appeals to me. It could just be suburban, liberal guilt, but I hope it’s actually a true expression of my values that I’d rather not be beaten over the head to improve market share and stock price, but rather spending my time affecting the lives of people in a positive manner.

As I said a few weeks back when I shared my idea of returning to school, I’ve never been good at planning my career moves. Not only am I trying to develop a comprehensive plan for the first time in my life, but I’m also coming up with a plan B, which in many ways amazes me. In a perfect world, one day I’ll be a highly respected freelance writer, with articles, columns, and interviews being printed on a regular basis on topics that I choose. That would give me the opportunity to do something I love from the comfort of my home, satisfying goal #1 in my life: being an active and involved father who’s around the majority of the time. It’s scary to give up a job that kept me comfortably dressed and with a home full of fun toys, even if it is in pursuit of a dream that’s been deferred. It’s also exhilarating and exciting to start down that path with the wisdom of some life experience. Having a backup plan that could be equally satisfying is an incredibly comfortable feeling. As a friend of mine says, onwards and upwards. Today could very well be the start of something great in my life.

Happy Labor Day weekend to everyone. Have safe travels and celebrations wherever you are.