The Color Purple

The Color Purple


This week I painted a room purple.  I moved in with my boyfriend.  And I was asked to speak to a national audience about my career.

It waaaas a week of firsts.

Next month I’ll spend an hour with two other panelists answering questions and discussing what I do.  It’s a fair question, a question I used to ask my dad all the time.  “You go to work every day, but what do you actually DO?”

He was an an aerospace engineer who had security clearance and frequently traveled to Cape Canaveral for space shuttle launches.  And I was, you know, eight.  Answers were vague.

To promote the panel, my picture will be on our company’s website with a few sentences about my work and a favorite quote.  All week I’ve been asking myself, “how DID I get here?”  “Is quoting your college roommates parents appropriate?” “How do I not mention Stephen?”  Everything is so entwined, I can’t talk about one without talking about the other.

Because this week I painted a room purple.  I moved in with my boyfriend.  I got asked to speak about how I got here.

What I want to tell them is this…

My dad worked at the same company for 35 years before he retired.  I was young when I learned about healthcare, retirement, saving money and how to use an ATM.  I really liked using the ATM.  Money!  It just spits out!  (It took me a while to figure out the whole, more-money-needs-to-go-in-than-come-out concept, but the other lessons stuck.)

I wanted a job where I could grow.  A job where I had healthcare.  A job that had a retirement plan.  This December it will be 25 years since I got my first job in banking.  If you would have told me I’d still be in banking when I was 43 I would have cried and then maybe died.  Banking wasn’t interesting.  It wasn’t creative.  It wasn’t ME.

But the truth is, for the last 25 years it has provided an underlying stability that has allowed me to become ME.  It has afforded me the opportunity to travel, to buy one house and then another, to move across the country and begin a life I wasn’t sure was in the cards for me.  There were a lot of days I didn’t like work.  I don’t feel like I really hit my stride until year…20?  That’s a long time to wonder if you should be doing something different.

When we were graduating college and I was moving out of the last house I shared with roommates, I asked Shannon’s parents if they had any advice for us.  They said, “enjoy it.  Enjoy every stage.  Life is full of changes.  Make sure to enjoy them.”  That has stuck with me throughout the years.  Especially when I wasn’t happy with something.  Like my job.  Or being single.

I dated.  I loved.  I lost.  I never got married and I never had kids.  And then almost two years ago I met Stephen.  And it just…worked.  We talk to each other.  We like each other.  He prioritizes my happiness.  He is intelligent, kind, creative and talented.  He likes the things I like about myself and the things I don’t like about myself.  He works hard and sees the best in people.  If you would have told 18 year old me that I’d have to wait until I was 41 to find the relationship I wanted?  And that he was younger, a musician and lived in Georgia?  I laugh just thinking about it.

I want to tell them I got here one day at a time.  I got here by letting go of expectations others had of me and that I had of myself.  I got here by showing up to a job every day while I spent my evenings tearing myself down to the studs and rebuilding a life that (I hope!) reflects authenticity, kindness and compassion.  There was a lot of sweat.  There were a lot of tears.  And that was just this week.  I got here by hoping, by asking, by trusting and then letting it all go and getting to work.

This week I painted a room purple.  I moved in with my boyfriend.  I got asked to speak about how I got here.


And what I will tell them is this…

I take it one day at time.  I am grateful for opportunity.  When I don’t like what I’m doing, I still show up and do the best job I can.  I compete with myself and not others.  I ask for help.  Even when it’s uncomfortable.  I try to be kind.  I apologize when I’m not.  I forgive myself and others.  I make sure once I leave work for the day that I actually leave.  I go out into the world and sometimes, when the time is right, I paint it purple.

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