I came home looking like I had seen the Grim Reaper.
My hands were soaked with sweat. I had a pallor that made me look like a white sheet of paper. My knees were trembling like I was at a middle-school dance.
The day had not quite gone as I had planned.
Sure, I had seen the writing on the wall months before. Earlier that afternoon, I had been escorted to the foyer of a corporate office and told there would be further discussions about my future. I shook my boss's hand and gave him my security card. I nodded and tried to act as though we would resolve the problem.
We never did.
When I got home that night, I felt betrayed. I felt like my world was about to change. I felt as though a crushing blow was about to destroy my career and my chances for success.
I thought about seeking legal advice. I thought about fighting back.
Instead, I drove home in silence.
That was just over 14 years ago. My career took a sudden and drastic turn. That was the day-- on September 18, 2001, to be precise -- that I became a full-time writer.
I've written about the dirty details several times, but I've never really mentioned who came up with the idea to make the career change. I've never really explained who helped me through the transition of being a corporate drone to finding my passion.
After so many years and so many articles, it's time I gave this person some credit.
"You've always wanted to be a writer," my wife said when I walked in that day. She was standing in the hallway and seemed to know there was something seriously wrong. I remember those exact words and that exact setting like it was yesterday.
She knew I had been squashed like a bug.
She also knew I have a degree in journalism. I had never really used it. After college, I worked at a shoe store, a summer camp, and then in the corporate sector. I led a team of writers, designers, and testers at two different companies over a 10-year period.
Yet, something was always eating at me. I'd come home from work and wonder if I had made a difference. I questioned the idea of building up a department for a company that was so large (in every state and overseas) they barely knew my social security number.
My wife was there during my formative years in business. She saw the stress, the hard work, the conflict. She coached me through it, often feeling the brunt of the stress when I got home and couldn't shake off a bad day. She heard about projects that were spinning out of control, about budgets that had expanded like a balloon. She sensed how I was constantly trying to move up the ladder but had no idea what was waiting at the top.
I hate to imagine what this experience would have been like without having my spouse there to help me figure out what to do next. I probably would have tried to fight it. I would have ended up going into debt paying a legal team and then having a worse outcome. I would never have come up with the idea of becoming a writer. I would have probably bounced around from one job to another, maybe even going back to shoe sales or some other management job. I'd probably be stuck in a black hole.
What about you?
For those stuck in a job they hate, consider this simple fact. The best career decision I have ever made was getting married (a week after college, by the way). Without my spouse helping me figure out my skills and personality, someone who knows my inner thoughts and passions, someone who can read me so accurately, I'd be totally lost.
My career has only improved from that fateful day in September. I can't imagine being in a different career. My darkest hour turned into a brightly lit future.