Sharon Blackie’s book If Women Rose Rooted sat on my Kindle unread for about four years. One day, about a year and a half before I decided to leave the corporate world, I opened it and started reading.
It was just the right time for me to hear the author’s story of working as a psychologist for a major tobacco firm and sitting in her car in the parking lot, crying most mornings before she had to go to work. She longed for a different life – one where her soul’s purpose and what she woke up to do every day were in alignment.
She said, “We can possess all the fine goods that our civilisation has to offer us; we can have important jobs and social status, and tone our bodies on all the latest machines – but without a sense of belonging to the world, we feel empty and our lives lack meaning.”
Goodness, did that speak to me. Although I had loved so many of the 12 years I spent working in advertising, I had come to the point where what I was doing no longer held meaning for me.
I was constantly putting out fires, managing difficult relationships, chasing money, and really doing very little of the fun creative stuff that I used to do when I first started. What’s more, my body was protesting – it was protesting against the constant pressure to perform, the jolts of adrenaline to get through late nights and meetings fraught with tension and, of course, the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes earlier on in my career.
I realised it was time to take a leap – time to start living in my way of integrity. I chatted with a friend who was going through something similar, and he said that he had implemented a “six-month exit strategy”. That meant he’d made the decision that within six months, he’d be on a new career path. I decided to do the same. I didn’t know how or what or when or where yet, but just saying it out loud gave me instant relief that within six months, I’d be on a new, more purposeful and soul-driven path.
I reached out to a number of friends, sent my CV out far and wide, and met with recruiters and career coaches. I did everything I could to put myself out there.
One of the paths I pursued was to reach out to a friend from my ad agency days who had been working at Londolozi Private Game Reserve for several years. She and her partner were absolutely thriving – she was a different woman from the one I would have multiple coffees with, discussing our lives in any quiet corner at the agency, years before.
They introduced me to Bronwyn and Rich Varty-Laburn. While there was no suitable vacancy for me at Londolozi itself, Bron introduced me to Good Work Foundation. She said that it was growing exponentially and the marketing team needed support. I flew to Hazyview a few weeks later for an interview with Ryan James and our dear Maria Awogu. Ryan took me on a tour of the campus – and I was so deeply touched that I practically begged him to hire me.
After serving three months’ notice at the ad agency, I started in the marketing team at Good Work Foundation in January 2019, exactly six months after I decided to implement my six-month exit strategy.
This is my fifth year at GWF and boy, does my heart bleed pink! Being part of this mission has fundamentally changed my life. I feel as though I have unfurled from that strung-out person who would come home crying after a hard day at the office.
Slowly but surely, as part of this incredible team, I’m bringing myself back in alignment with my soul’s purpose of helping others in a meaningful way.
Every interaction I have with one of our young Open Learning Academy students while they’re figuring out how to make the robots Dot and Dash move from point A to point B fills my heart with pure joy.
Or every time I hear one of our staff members break into song during the morning circle. Or hearing our adult graduates talk about how transformative their year at GWF was on every level – improving their skills, their confidence and their outlook on the world – and then seeing them being employed in jobs they love and are inspired by.
Each of these glimmers of hope and joy and meaning reminds me that I’m in the right place. Taking that leap into my own path of integrity was probably one of the scariest things I have done – but absolutely the most rewarding.
The only thing left to say is that if you’re on the precipice of making a big decision that will take you to living in a place of integrity where your soul and your being are aligned, do it. Leap off and enjoy the beautiful journey that unfolds. It’s worth it!