I would imagine, from a distance, it looks like I’m in the throes of one hell of a midlife crisis. But to be fair, I think that’s only because I’m in my 40s, and for the past couple of years, I keep trying to reinvent myself.
First, it was running. Except it wasn’t just running; I became “a runner”. I bought the shoes, the fancy wicking clothing, and a watch to tell me fourteen different things about my runs besides my pace. I joined online running groups, entered races I would never place in, and bought the little 13.1 magnet after I completed my first half-marathon. After a while, running morphed into obstacle-course racing which was quite the bee in my bonnet for at least a few months. I got so far as registering for a Spartan race three hours away but ultimately had to pull out due to injury. For a while, I went to the gym nearly every day, tracked every calorie that passed between my lips and recorded every workout as if it wouldn’t exist if it weren’t in MyFitnessPal. Today, I’m 30ish pounds heavier than I’d like to be and am lucky if I can score a 30 minute brisk walk once a week.
Then last summer, after years of alcohol abuse, I finally decided to quit drinking and became a “recovering alcoholic”. This meant listening to lots of podcasts about recovery, reading large blue books and sharing my life story with a roomful of strangers six to seven times a week. After a while, I began attending fewer and fewer meetings until I quit going altogether, and the large blue book was relegated to the bottom shelf of my nightstand, under an outdated Cosmopolitan magazine. During this time, I took up journaling, which helped me process my early struggles as a “recovering alchoholic” and also began to clarify the internal need to do something…different. As of today, I have nearly six months of sobriety under my belt. Because I’m not active in a 12-step program, I’m sure some will suggest I’m not technically ‘sober’, and that’s okay. That’s an entirely different subject that I may broach later.
Shortly after I got sober, I read Rich Roll’s book, “Finding Ultra” and was inspired to stop consuming animal products, which, for the purposes of easy definition, means I became a “vegan”. This is a complicated label, because “vegan” implies a particular ethical stance which didn’t really inform my decision to change my diet, at least not initially. Of course, I love animals as much as the next person. Probably more, considering we have a total seven pets living in our house (another story for another day). And yes, I’ve begun to educate myself on the ecological, environmental and ethical issues surrounding big-ag business which has further solidified my decision to give up animal products. But truly, the decision was purely for health purposes. Also, I’m a human being and occasionally weak, so once in a while you’ll find me stealthily picking through a vegetarian omelet or “forgetting” to order my pizza without cheese. So, perhaps “vegan-ish” is a more appropriate label.
That leads us to today: a cold, sunny day in November as I’m plotting my next move which, by all accounts, is a doozy. After much soul-searching, two employer changes in eighteen months and a lot of sleepless nights, I’ve decided to abandon my career in Human Resources and leap into the great unknown abyss of independent consulting. As if hurling myself into a midlife cliché isn’t enough, I’m leaving a six-figure job in the safety of corporate mediocrity, to do so. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous. I feel sick just writing it out. But I also feel sick imagining having to spend one more second than absolutely necessary doing something I absolutely cannot stand to do anymore.
People always say they want to go into Human Resources because they love people. Well I’ll tell you what, Peaches, if that’s the case, you won’t like people for long. HR is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not intended to help people. It’s intended to help companies. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just clarifying what HR is really about. Yes, sure, we hire people, but we terminate them too. We defend terrible managers who don’t do their jobs, we rationalize job cuts, and we help decide who gets a promotion and who gets reallocated. We keep a box of Kleenex in our office for the criers – unless you’re my former co-worker, Simon. Simon’s theory was that having tissue available simply encouraged criers to cry more. That flavor of jaded attitude is unique to those of us in HR. We are feared, avoided and reviled. Today, I terminated a probationary employee for inappropriate behavior and was told to go to hell. In the same breath, I was then asked whether he could come in for our next open interview event to reapply. I’ve had my car keyed, I’ve endured threats and have had my name scrawled on bathroom walls along with a series of unfortunate and grammatically incorrect insults.
That’s not to say there aren’t things about my job I enjoy. I like meeting people in interviews and hearing about their experiences. I love getting up in front of a group and training in something I’m well-versed in or feel passionate about. Every day I have the opportunity to help someone solve a problem – whether it’s getting an issue with their health insurance resolved or helping them deal with a difficult co-worker. But even then, I’m doing these activities in order to help the company make more money, not really for the benefit of the employee. And frankly, I’m tired of working for enterprise corporations, under mega-tons of bureaucracy and red tape, asking my boss’s boss’s boss to proofread an employee announcement about the holiday carry-ins before I’m allowed to send it out.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll go into more detail about my rationale and my plans. For now, while I’m still working, I need to maintain anonymity lest I be found out and terminated before I’m ready to resign. But, like I said, I think this one’s going to be a doozy. And if you want to call it a midlife crisis, by all means, go ahead. I am in my 40’s, after all.