There are days, perhaps a mere moment, when you know deep down in your heart you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing. When you’re in flow. On fire. Like a climber who’s reached the summit and is breathing in the cleanest air on earth.
This week I had one of those days.
I worked with a kickass company whom I love, doing what I’m good at – and what brings me alive – on my terms.
Yep, it was a great day to be alive. I am feeling profoundly grateful.
It wasn’t always this way.
Eight years ago, from the outside, it looked like I had it all. A big job with a big firm and a big salary to boot. Three kids, one just a few months old. I was newly married and had just received a big promotion. To anyone looking in, I was ‘Super Suzi’ – thirty something and reaching the pinnacle of her stellar professional career. I wore my ‘Working Woman Extraordinaire’ coat with pride.
Except that pinnacle was a crock.
Every morning, I would jumble the kids into the back of the car, gulping down a cold piece of toast, baby spittle on my crisp navy suit, and careen out of the driveway. I’d hurl the kids out the door at their respective schools and play centres, and tear into whatever important meeting I had, with an important client in some random soulless high-rise building.
On one of these mornings, my (then) 6-year-old son Nicholas (pictured above with me – he’s now 14) asked me for a hug as he clambered out of the back seat. To which I replied in a clipped, rushed, stressed-out tone – “No. I don’t have time.”
I shut the door in his dear little face and drove off, leaving him standing alone on the pavement. A few minutes later I pulled over to the side of the road because I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t see.
To this day, the look in my son’s eyes haunts me to the core of my soul.
It was one of the lowest points in my life. I was overwhelmed, overworked, out of kilter. I was stressed out and hollowed out. I was lost in every sense of the word.
But that tortured moment with my son was a gift like no other. Like the alcoholic who finally realises they’ve hit rock bottom, I knew it was time to ditch Super Suzi. It was time to say goodbye to an external ideal of what a successful life looked like. I had come face to face, compassionately, honestly, with what I needed to let go of, so that I could reach towards what was waiting for me.
It hasn’t been an easy road to the day I had today. It’s taken a lot of courage, sacrifice, hard work and the support of a wonderful, kind man beside me.
Why am I sharing my painful, shameful story with you?
To show you that you do have a choice about how you live your life, even when it feels like you don’t. That there’s a profound difference between climbing a mountain that’s freakin’ steep and just climbing the wrong damn mountain.
There are still days when I’m tired. When I feel overwhelmed. When I know I have to stop climbing and rest for a while. But, I have the wind beneath my sails and I get lifted up because now I’m doing what I love, what makes me come alive. And I’m learning to say “no”, to find balance, space for reflection.
I’ve ditched Super Suzi.
I’ve shed that too-tight skin.
As an executive coach and a writer, by dialling into my purpose of igniting better leadership with as many people as I am able, I know I’m climbing the right Everest. My Mount Everest.
Life is short.
Are you climbing the right mountain?