To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…..Ecclesiastes 3:1
The rumors are true…..
Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. It’s taken quite a while to wrap my head around the idea that something I spent my entire life either preparing for or doing is coming to an end. Finally I decided, and I had my speech all ready. But when it came time to tell my boss, all I could manage to say was “It’s time, I need to leave.”
And with those words began the unraveling of a 32-year career, 27 of those at my current employer. An employer I’ve been privileged to work for, that’s helped me grow and contribute to the lives of thousands of our customers.
When I first started working, my young engineer coworkers and I all told ourselves we’d retire as early as we could. Who wouldn’t want to quit work and just get on with enjoying life? In the end, I see how simplistic that view was. Because over the last 32 years, my career and I have become almost inextricably linked.
My first “real” job was making motor oil additives at a petrochemical company. For five years I got some of the best experience an engineer fresh out of college could get. But I began to wonder – was I really making a difference? The result of my efforts was that car engines didn’t get as much sludge build-up. Is this what I wanted to look back on at the end of my life?
And so I completely changed fields to make medicines. Not stuff like Tylenol or BenGay – we made medicines that treat serious diseases. I’ve seen many letters from patients, telling us their lives were saved or made so much better because of our products. I watched as my own critically ill father made an amazing turnaround over just a few hours….right after the hospital started him on one of our products. That made it all worth it. It’s stories like my father’s that keep you going in a very challenging environment. What we do matters – often in a very big way.
In 2008, God began to challenge me. The thought kept coming into my mind “Could you leave all this if I asked you to?” In my head I said “Yes, I believe I could.” In my heart, I wondered. I knew someday God would ask me to make a choice, and I hoped I would have the courage to make the right one.
Assignments came and went. I had the good fortune to work with our plants and suppliers all over the world. I traveled to South America, Europe, India and China. My current position is one of most challenging and enjoyable I’ve ever had – as it required us to transform how we do business, and we were navigating major change on many fronts. I’ve watched my team really step up and learn to do what they needed to – and will need to continue to do long after I’m gone. They’re a great team, and I’m very proud of them.
And then it came – what I had secretly dreaded. The “would you be willing to give it all up” moment. After many discussions with family and select friends over many months, it became clear that it was time to leave.
And I said yes.
I’d like to tell you that I said yes quickly, but in reality it’s been a process over many months. I’m thankful for a God who is patient with me, who didn’t give up when I started waffling or dragging my feet. God is patient, but He is also persistent. Trust me, I know firsthand. So here’s why I’m leaving.
1. I love my job. But there are people I love more.
Bottom line – the more years I work, the less time I have for the people I care about – my family, my friends, and the Compassion sponsor children I’ve been blessed to come alongside in many ways around the world. I began to realize that God gave me my job for various reasons – to help others by making medicines available and accessible, to earn a living, to develop skills I’d need to serve Him and others. But everything has its season. When I was younger, career was extremely important – because I was young and unskilled, couldn’t make ends meet, and wanted to do something that would make a positive impact on people. And I’ve done that.
But as much as I’d like to stay in my comfortable position, God has taught me that what was obedience in one phase of my life can be disobedience in another. My world at work has changed over the last 32 years, and so has my life outside of work. My mother has gotten older. The needs of my family and friends have changed. Just because God put me at my company 27 years ago doesn’t mean God meant for me to stay there forever. We grow and move on – the only question is when. God has impressed upon me that I need to serve others in ways I can no longer do while working full time. It’s time for my “employment phase” to come to an end, but that doesn’t mean God is done with me yet.
2. Life is short
For most of my life, I was looking ahead to what I’d become. No more. Now as I look around I’m unable to escape the reality that life is short. That was indelibly etched on my heart the day my father died. Friends and colleagues at work have died. As much as I’d like to say “I’ll just work 5 more years,” I’ve come to realize I may end up regretting that choice. Because for some, there may not be 5 more years.
As I’ve learned in my career, timing can be everything. Opportunities pass you by. God has a plan for me – and His prompting has been clear that now is the time for the next part of His plan to start. Life is short – I need to get moving before I find the opportunity has passed me by.
3. There’s rarely a “good” time to leave your job
For quite a while I’ve been telling myself this isn’t a good time to leave work. There’s been massive change for several years, and it would be great to reach a point of stability and then leave. But it’s clear this rate of change is the “new normal,” and there will never be a GOOD time to leave. With enough advance notice, plans can be put in place to smooth the transition. We’ve done that. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll hear someday my team has done even better than if I’d stayed. I believe I will!
4. If someone in my shoes asked my advice, in a heart beat – I’d tell them to go.
One day, after I’d rehashed the pros and cons of leaving for the thousandth time, I asked myself what I’d do if one of my people asked my advice on how to handle the very same situation. And immediately I knew I’d say “There’s no doubt – you should leave.” I’d be disappointed to see them go, but I wouldn’t dream of holding them back. And with that, it was settled. I knew what I had to do.
I still want to make a difference. But going forward, I’ll be doing that in a different way. I’m not entirely sure what my life in the next few years is going to look like. But God does, and that’s all that matters. What about you? Do you think I’m crazy for doing this? Have you ever made a major life change – or are you contemplating one? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!