“No! No! No!” everything inside of me screamed. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be at anymore meetings or corporate lunches. I didn’t want to dress right, carry a calendar the size of a phone book, answer 100 emails and voicemails a day, develop anymore programs, runany more campaigns or meet anymore people!
I walked into my office and closed the door. My brain ached from too many agendas, too many board minutes and too much strategizing. I’d had this feeling before. I slumped down into my chair and faced my desk.
I was burned out, exhausted and flat out of ideas, solutions and motivation.
And I was terrified.
I needed that job. I was alone. I was my sole support. It was a big job and who was I kidding, I needed it.
I looked at my office door to be sure it was locked, put my arms kindergarten-style on my desk, buried my face down into them and sobbed.
Strangled and trapped. Confused and desperate. I sobbed.
What was I to do?
It’s funny how sometimes two things can happen at once.
Through the tears and the sobbing, a vivid scene began to emerge from behind my closed and swollen eyelids.
I was standing on the edge of a high cliff. The air was crisp, and the wind was blowing through my hair. The world was spread out before me. I could see all the way to the horizon, even as far as its strangely beckoning curve.
I had the feeling that what I was seeing was not merely the world as I knew it—the world with forests and fields and mountains and oceans—but another world as well, a special world, a world of opportunity.
I cast my eyes this way and that and couldn’t erase the exhilarating feeling that wherever my eyes landed, opportunity lay before me.
I took an involuntary gasp of air at the wonder and complexity of it, at how empowered and hopeful I felt.
The world—a world full of opportunity—was at my feet.
All I had to do to get there was to step off that cliff.
I couldn’t do it.
Moving slowly, I took a step back away from the scene beyond the cliff. The wind fell. My hair stopped blowing. I felt myself shriveling down into myself.
As I continued to step away from the world beyond the cliff and back toward my desk, my 401K, my responsibility, my salary, my security with the corporation, that world—the world of opportunity that had been spread out before me—grew smaller and smaller before my eyes.
Soon, I was so far back away from the edge of the cliff that I couldn’t see that world at all.
I had backed right up into a wall.
I raised my head from my arms feeling as if I had been in a deep sleep and that in my sleep I’d had a profound dream.
I felt a little drugged but I also felt no longer afraid. I’d had an epiphany. A kindergarten-nap-style epiphany, right at my desk.
I wiped the tears from my eyes, walked down the hall, knocked on the CEO’s door and went in.
“I just had a dream,” I said.
“A dream?” he said.
“Yes.” I said. “I’m giving you six week’s notice.”
From the moment of the waking dream I’d had I never doubted that following its wisdom was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life backed up against a wall. I left a huge salary and a huge title with lots of public image and visibility attached to it and never regretted it or looked back.
For the next 25 years, up until today, in fact, I worked at every job that presented itself to me. I modeled for artists, sang and played cocktail piano, owned my own junk store, made and sold watercolor paintings, wrote stories, made rag rugs for the museum of art and even transcribed police interviews.
More than anything else though, I had done something that informed and colored the rest of my life. I had done something that nobody and no corporation could ever take away from me. I had jumped off a cliff, the cliff that I had seen in that “dream” in my office that day.
And learned that I could fly.