Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Very Proper Send-off

One of my last actions working in Corporate America was to send an email to the hundreds of people I was privileged to work with over the past twelve years. I received countless replies, and forwarded every single one of them to my personal email address to pull up and read on a rainy day.

It's raining today.

I re-read every message this morning, grateful for the friends and acquaintances I've made over the years. How do you say goodbye to people who you've worked and played with for over ten years? It is not easy. And luckily for me, I simply had to announce that Dim Sum was something I'd always wanted to try, and consistently demonstrate that I love me a good party. The rest, when you have fabulous friends like I'm blessed to have, all falls into place. Having phenomenal current and former team members who also love to party certainly helps.

Mama Bear joined me for my final day at work. Yes, I know it's weird to declare "Bring your Mother to Work Day." But I highly encourage you all to do it. Your Mamas love you and want to meet your friends. She made me laugh at the Naperville train station as I was listening to a conference call, no less. Before we even had a cup of coffee in our hands to await an express train into Chicago, she announced, "I could never in a million years do this every day." I replied: "Try it nine months pregnant."  I sure am glad I had my children in another lifetime when I commuted daily downtown.

My final day would not have been complete without her there. 
Nor would that first martini at the bar have tasted as delicious, just her and me, before the crowd arrived.
I was elated the entire last month of work, primarily to move forward in a new and exciting direction in my life. The message from my peers was consistently similar. A variation of "I'm thrilled for you" and in the same sentence, "I'm jealous." I wish I could take them all with me.

Some of the people were with me from the beginning of time. Or at least when I started my career at MCI over seventeen years ago, just two weeks after graduating from college.

Others were blessings dropped to me along the way, perhaps to work a single deal...

...provide encouragement along the way...
...or handle hairy customer escalations with grace, even traveling with me to smooth things over.
David Mikols - I'm holding you to it! When you travel the world you will be my guest blogger to share the highlights!

Some complained that they've seen this movie before when I left to stay home when the kids were little but ended up coming back to work 18 months later. Let's just say that the stay-at-home-mom gig was not for me, but there's no doubt about this writing venture. Regardless, I'm glad these gems got their hall passes in order to come out on a rainy, humid night. At least they didn't experience a bad hair night. Unlike yours truly. 

I've worked with some for years,

And others for just a short time.

Some ventured out to say goodbye to me even though they moved on in their own careers. A testament to how an employer can bring people together resulting in beautiful friendships to bloom and prosper.

Meet my Work Husband, who I can easily sum up in a single yet multidimensional word: Snarky.

He really is charming.
Not to mention great at giving delightfully entertaining going away presents.

And he keeps a concubine. But we Work Wives all get along in our effort to guide him to prudent choices, which can be difficult for single men in the Windy City. In return, we never pay for our own drinks or dinners or carry our own bags when traveling with the Work Husband. It's a very lucrative deal for all involved. Meet my partner in crime, one of the other kept women.

Every hug given, kiss exchanged and topic discussed with each individual was a golden moment that night. But it's extra sweet when a customer walks in the door. This one offered to be my bodyguard in my new career. He'll definitely have the right of first refusal.

None of this would have been as sweet if Mr. Musky hadn't joined me. And while he's not the fete going type, he did say that he enjoyed himself, despite the disorderly nature of party communication. In his Type A world, people speak in an organized manner and don't flit from subject to subject or person to person.
Nothing a little smooch can't resolve.

Go Fighting Illini. 
Not the Badgers,

Nor the Buckeyes, 
Nor the Hawkeyes.

The gifts were a riot, very thoughtful and leave no doubt as to where I spent all these years.
I loved this - an AT&T "yearbook" signed by all (it's actually a book about the "new AT&T," published circa 2005, but signed with well wishes by all my fantastic friends).
It pays to save - my champagne choices from over a year ago, and a co-worker saved this for me so I know which bubbly to buy when the book gets published.
The dumping ground of AT&T Propaganda
More freebies - great for a good laugh!
Is that a harmonica? Nope - guess again
Lookie there. I made Employee of the Month on my last day!
Look what happens to your computer bag when you leave your employer. It gets very empty and your shoulder is saved thanks to the very lightweight iPad.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all who attended my Very Proper Send-Off. I loved chatting you all up, the hugs, kisses, well wishes and toasts.

You ALL are what I will miss most of all.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cliff Diving

Lately, I've been pondering dreams. Not the kind that you comatosely will to continue because you're passionately making out with Matthew McConaughey and you want it to last forever, versus waking up and ethereally floating to the coffee maker leaving your family to wonder if you are experimenting with hallucinogenic substances.  Nor the sort that leave you breathless and gasping for air, grateful that your babies are still alive and the flesh eating beetles really were just horrifying vermin in last night's family movie experience. I'm talking about reality dreams. The kind that are made up of 1/4 cup wistfulness, 1/4 cup hard work, 1/4 cup possibility and 1/4 cup sheer guts. And when combined in the mixing bowl of daydreams, there's a remote possibility that they may come true.

For me, dreams are about passion. Risk. Defying logic, and jumping off the cliff, trusting that the water is deep enough and the adrenaline will carry you through to the other side, ready to climb back up and do it all over again. But knowing that if it's too scary, you can just walk back to the car and drive home, pleased as punch that you gave it a shot. I crave adrenaline. Maybe not to the extreme of catapulting myself into the air and careening with a splash as I smack the surface of the water, but definitely the feeling afterwards - the rush. I want to experience something extraordinary every day, and oftentimes I have to push myself to do so.

With a very grateful perspective and an adrenaline rush awaiting me, I bid adieu to my current employer to follow a life-long dream. Starting next week, I will pursue a career in writing.

Part of me expects nothing more than to amuse myself, blog more consistently and complete a novel I started ten years ago. Getting that sucker published will be icing on the cake. Then the daydreams kick in. What if I walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelf, reviewed by one of the employees with glowing remarks? What if it blinks up at me on my iPad when I launch the kindle store searching for a new read? What if a latte sipper at Starbucks giggles out loud while reading it in one of their plush purple chairs? What if, when asked about my haute couture on the red carpet for my book-turned-movie, I announce: "Valentino?"

If that ever happens, my friends, I guarantee you I'll need a catheter for the evening, not to mention a personal trainer to kick my butt for twelve months leading up to the event. See how these dreams can snowball?

I love that I sound naive. I love that I have so much to learn. I love that I have the end in mind, but the journey is undetermined. But most of all, I am thrilled to have bigger dreams now than when I was 20. It makes me wonder what I'll be dreaming about at the age of 60, or even 80. I never want to stop.

I am forever grateful for my current and former employers, work associates and customers for teaching me so many important life lessons in preparation for this quest. Most importantly, how to handle rejection. That skill will undoubtedly come in handy once I start shopping my novel around. And for understanding technology. Which will save my ass when I realize that nobody is interested in said manuscript, and I have to self-publish.

This blog provides me with an outlet to muse on life, family and friendships. I wasn't even sure if I had the goods to pursue writing. But since I started putting my thoughts to screen, so many people have supported me. Many people who don't know a thing about this dream encouraged me to write. They said things like:

"I don't know what you're trying to accomplish here, but you should really consider a career in writing."

"I love your style."

"You should enter this blogging contest."

"I want the first signed copy."

"I'd read anything you'd be willing to write about."

"Can I be your personal assistant? Editor? Bodyguard?"  For real. You all crack me up.

People, you truly have no idea how much you've inspired me to take this leap. To be a better person, a better mom, a better friend, a better writer.

And to Mr. biggest cheerleader...who read the first few chapters of that book long ago and believes I'm onto something special...Thank you, Babe, for your unwavering support and encouragement. I could never do this alone, and I love you for your confidence and support in me.

And for your muscles.

And, of course, for your extraordinary fishing skills.

Please keep reading...I've got a cliff to leap off.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Before and After




...and then we went home.

The End.