Friday, October 29, 2004

Shadows of a Former Life

From my vantage point safe in Vermont, I faithfully watch The Apprentice. It reminds me of my old life on Wall Street, not that I was ever in the leagues of Trump or his lieutenants. No, I was one of thousands of bank vice presidents, neither very successful nor very unsuccessful. Eventually, like thousands of others, I was laid off—twice actually, an overachiever to the end.

During the many years I lived in New York, I took a lot of ribbing from family, friends and acquaintances. Please read the following with a heavy Southern accent in mind: “Why, I could never live in such a place.” These days I get the same comment with a Vermont accent.

But I loved New York. I still do. New York needs no defense from me.

And I left to save my life. Someone I respect—I don’t remember who—told me that we humans never change until we have no other choice. That observation is consistent with my experience. So when I packed all my belongings into a truck two years ago and moved to Vermont, it was not because I was brave; it was because I had no choice but to make a change. I can analyze the career insecurity of the financial services industry, the toll its long hours were taking on my health, the numbing difficulting of doing even the smallest task in New York, but all those factors had existed for decades. Ultimately the decision to move was intuitive.

Where to go was also intuitive. There were other places I could have gone, but I came to Vermont.

Now I watch the aspiring Trumps and Trumpettes, and the intellectual part of me enjoys seeing them execute strategy and learn people management. I appreciate the clarity of the bottom line orientation. I have opinions about who does a good job and who doesn’t. I appreciate many of the show’s lessons about business. But I don’t like these people much. And I’m glad I don’t live among them any more, although of course there are lots of more congenial people in New York as well.

On the other hand, one of the unexpected pleasures of Vermont has been finding some of the brightest, savviest business people I have ever worked with. And I have worked with the best.

I left New York to save my life and to get a life. I’m still working on it but the early returns are excellent. When I watch The Apprentice, I remember how far I have traveled.

1 comment:

Dan said...

It sounds like you have traveled a great distance, Karen. And good for you to know that what you were about was saving your own life (reminds of the Mary Oliver poem called "The Journey.") Your process sounds like it preserved your soul and I'm guessing it took courage and personal integrity and the willingness to be alone, at least for awhile, in order to pull out of a place that was no longer home to you. I honor your Work and I'll enjoy checking back here from time to time.