Personal turning points aren’t necessarily the larger than life scenes of dramatic cinema. Sometimes they’re small, quiet moments when your mind is finally ready to see what your body already knew. Sometimes the moments are so mundane in appearance that it’s not till later that you realize how remarkable that seemingly ordinary moment was. Such was the case for me.
Before I set off across the world, I spent most of my time in my corner office in a smoggy industrial gray part of Los Angeles – most of my days, most of my nights, and far too many weekends. I toiled for years to get that office. First the title, then the waiting for someone more senior to vacate, then the petty argument with the Operations manager about putting up a white board so had enough writing space to chart my campaigns, then the bureaucracy to get a standing desk before I actually contracted carpal tunnel like so many of my coworkers and a doctors note required it, directing the handyman to place the photographs where I wanted them, move in the extra filing cabinet and wall mounted book shelf (yes I still own such things). It was a labor. But when it was finished I was proud of my office. It conveyed my stature, it displayed my accomplishments, it had good natural light.
Alone in my large office one late afternoon in March, the door shut, I hung up the phone with the Chief of Staff, and I knew I was done. I looked around the office that I had worked so hard to put together, my history in the organization sitting on every shelf, and hanging from every wall. I wanted to keep that office. I wanted to keep working with my staff. But I didn’t want to keep my job. I don’t remember what that particular discussion with the COS was about. He and I talked regularly. It wasn’t the time I hung up the phone with him after a particularly frustrating argument and immediately burst into tears. It wasn’t the time I walked out of the senior staff meeting thoroughly disgusted with the way the organization was demeaning and belittling accusations of sexual harassment that had surfaced on the heels of the #MeToo movement. And it wasn’t the time that I confronted our union president after one of his notorious tirades, this one directed at me for no particular reason, and told him, that he was abusive, that he had a drinking problem and that he needed professional help. Years of therapy crystallized in that moment as I realized I was still, in my 40’s, living with an abusive parental figure having merely transitioned from my step-father to my boss.
I stayed after all those incidents.