She was my First: A Tale of Surviving and THRIVING

“Life is short” …

 Ask my tribe, and they will tell you those words fall out of my mouth as often as “hello”, or “I’d like a medium cold brew with a turbo shot”.  Having lost two of the most important people in my world within months of each other in 2010, I deeply believed it.  And I reacted. I left my job to start a non-profit for prostate cancer research, quickly married the love of my life, and in the eyes of others became a poster child for positivity and overcoming adversity. My busy Facebook feed was filled with love and friends and unicorns (kidding). 

 A year later I decided to accept an offer at a large company. Why not? My non-profit was running successfully and quite frankly, I missed being around brilliant humans and collecting a great paycheck every two weeks. Plus, at 44 I felt contributing to retirement with a man I actually wanted to spend my golden years with was pretty damn practical. Life is short, life was good.

I had no doubts that I would succeed there. I was bringing industry knowledge and had built a professional reputation for powerfully leading teams, and designing strategies through innovative problem solving. I was psyched!

 And then, 18 months in, I met her. She was my first. 

Her RBF (resting bitch face) was both legendary and eerily unsettling, but it was OK.  I had never met a manager I couldn’t find common ground and success with.  I had a period of being very forgiving (maybe she’s just socially awkward?) but it became obvious that she had a blatant inability to manage different personalities or situations.  She firmly embraced what we refer to professionally as a “directive” or “coercive” style of management (my way or the highway). Those of us on the team that didn’t fall into a soldier-like mini-me trance became a frustrating burden to her and quite frankly, a target. For nearly a year she belittled me behind closed doors, falsely represented me and my team, and told me outright “things would be better for both of us if you just left”.  Not a performance warning, just her personal opinion.

It was hostile to a point that I had a hard time acknowledging that it was actually real.  I found myself in a state of continual shock. Despite coaching tons of people on how to navigate difficult managers, not one of my approaches worked. 

I woke up every day and told myself I was stronger. That I just needed to survive her. I mean, life is short right? I had a successful career so far. I was still living the Facebook version of myself and telling myself every damn positive thing I could.  It was exhausting hiding my confidence meltdown to my family, friends, and colleagues. Despite the tears, paralyzing anxiety, and being considered somewhat intelligent I had NO idea of what was lurking right around the corner.

Just two weeks later I found myself on a 32-day “vacation” at the hospital due to a previously harmless disease that had reached a life-threatening state due to high levels of pervasive stress. I had been slowly killing myself just trying to survive. 

Life really is short.

What I couldn’t possibly know at the time is that I had been given a GIFT. When I returned to work two months later, to a fantastic new manager (the former had moved to a new role), I had CLARITY. As I became stronger physically, I started to see things for exactly what they were. I saw others dealing with the same types of situations, losing their self-worth in their “survival” and paying consequences that extended way past the workplace. As a natural empath, it got to me. It fueled me.

You see, I was also getting myself back. The confident, competent, and positive version of myself. And I made a promise to her: NEVER again. 

So, I started to use that pain and suffering I experienced and witnessed in others as my motivation. I began to set goals to THRIVE in my life instead of just surviving the days in it.  It became the genesis for Becoming Bodacious, a catalytic and motivational coaching business designed to help other women become passionate about their lives and careers.  

I even added teens to my target demographic. Why not be proactive and guide them early on to set goals, know what to give power to, and to navigate things when they get rough?  Future employers: you're welcome.

Risky? Hell YES. I left a six-figure job on the back end of my career.  It was bold. It was audacious. At times, I questioned my own sanity, and I’m sure others did as well. They still might!

The good news? It was SO worth it! Today, I feel like a new person. I am in control, joyful, and able to appreciate all aspects of my life on a much higher level. I love going to work. Every time I witness someone overcoming their challenges by feeling more empowered, enthusiastic, and confident I know I made the right choice.  

She was my first, and she will be my last. I thank her every day for the gift.  

Life is short.   Find your joy and THRIVE in it. Trust me, you’ll be overwhelmingly grateful you did.

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