I was approaching my second year at Meta and my eighteenth year as an HR practitioner, and the fire I once had to climb the corporate ladder continuously was like a waning candle or a slow ember. Losing Al so suddenly fundamentally shifted my motivation for working. It was no longer about proving myself or chasing a six-figure paycheck. I now craved a career where I could fulfill my deepest purpose, which I now believed was transforming other women to live more in alignment with themselves the way I had learned to do.

5 Ways to Cope With Sudden Change

  1. Reconnect with your heart.
  2. Restore your body. 
  3. Reframe your beliefs.
  4. Renew your spirit.
  5. Reinvent your routines.

Truth be told, I knew long before Al died that the corporate rat race was slowly sucking my soul, but I didn’t have the courage to step away from it nor the role models or resources to make entrepreneurship a reality. However, Al’s passing opened a portal to a new universe — a realm where I was not afraid to take risks or embrace the bossy, badass woman I am on the inside!

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My Search for Creative Freedom

With that epiphany, I began ignoring the frequent attempts by external recruiters to connect me with new opportunities. Before then, I would entertain certain roles that seemed interesting or ones that could be a potential next step in my career. During the first half of 2022, I had numerous recruiters contact me, and I had even gone through some initial interviews for head of DEI-type roles.

But it was clear to me now that what I really wanted was the creative freedom to run my own business. And no matter how good the job description or the salary sounded, I would be leaving Meta for another corporate job that promised much of the same things: burnout, boredom or bureaucracy.

In July, just as I had made up my mind to no longer pursue other jobs and instead focus on my role at Meta until I was ready to make a permanent transition, a tempting opportunity came across my inbox. A search firm reached out to me for a unique opportunity as VP of diversity, equity and inclusion for a small, mission-driven software company. I was instantly intrigued. I was generally familiar with the company, but surprised to learn that they had a strong philanthropic arm and were investing heavily in underserved communities, which completely aligned with my values.

After a successful first round of interviews, the company was ready to advance me to the final stage. A part of me really wanted the role. I felt a connection with the hiring manager, and I knew I could come in and make progress on their most pressing DEI challenges. But a voice inside me said, Is this what you really want? I knew it wasn’t. A part of my ego still wanted to prove I could do it and even check off the accomplishment of reaching the VP level in my career. Luckily, all the lessons I had learned over the past year came to the surface and drowned out my wavering ego stuck at an imaginary crossroads.

The choice was clear. I contacted the search firm the next day and told them I was withdrawing my candidacy.

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The Power of a Chance Encounter

That same week, I had a serendipitous encounter with a distant neighbor that solidified my decision. Each day I typically walked my dog along the same route, which involved traveling down a tree-lined pathway that connected my neighborhood to the adjacent one.

Coming out of the narrow pathway was a well-kept, two-story black-and-white house at the end of a cul-de-sac. As I approached the house on my way to the nearby park, I recognized the tall blonde woman walking my way as one of the friendly neighbors Al had always stopped to talk to on his walks with Rocket. She had two small dogs that despised every other canine but, for some reason, took a liking to Rocket.

Book Cover of Do You by Regina LawlessI had seen her a few times since Al passed. She was one of the first neighbors to ask about him after he died because she hadn’t seen him walking Rocket for a few days. She and I always spoke when we saw each other, but for the life of me, I could never remember her name. I am notoriously bad with names, but I never forget a face.

When we ran into each other this morning, we quickly moved past the normal pleasantries and began discussing work. I asked her to remind me of her name, and she told me it was Misty. Misty shared that, like me, she worked from home and had been in the tech industry before leaving her job to start her own business.

My ears immediately perked up. I asked her if she’d be open to a cup of coffee so I could pick her brain on how she made the leap out of corporate.

It was like the universe was waiting for me to declare what I wanted so it could offer me all the resources and information I needed, starting with this unexpected encounter with Misty. We exchanged numbers, and I reached out later that day to schedule our coffee talk.

Misty and I met up for coffee in early August 2022. We laughed about some of the situations we had encountered in the wonderfully wacky world of tech. I was fascinated by her business, which consisted of using theater skills to teach executive women public speaking skills. Her passion was contagious, and I loved hearing about the freedom and fulfillment she had in serving her dedicated tribe of amazing women.

What seemed like a series of random events and information was actually what I believe to have been a spiritual fulfillment of my heart’s desires. The caveat was that these desires could only come to pass once I declared them out loud and made space in my life for them to manifest.

You see, if I had continued my pattern of jumping from one job to the next, chasing more status or more zeros on my paycheck, I would have cemented the status quo. Instead, I decided to close the door on another job and open the door to a future of my design.

Excerpted with permission from Do You: A Journey of Success, Loss, and Learning to Live a More MeaningFULL Life, by Regina Lawless. Fast Company Press, February 2024.

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