Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Thirty, Single, and Killing Herself For the Company

Busting Your Corporate Idol.  Chapter 5, Part 10

Mary is tall, with curly dark hair and a serious expression when you first meet her.  After a while her bubbly side emerges, a pleasant balance to her focus and determination.  She spoke to me with great sincerity and emotion, and she tells her story better than I ever could:

[At] my first job out of grad school, I was excited and wanted to do well.  The culture was a small company feel, everybody knows each other, familyish.  Everyone was trying to do the right thing to make the company successful. You wanted to go the extra mile, [because] you were working with your friends. You felt this camaraderie. I was traveling for the first time, yeah! I’ll go anywhere yeah! Just all the perks of being in a company vs. academia: the money, the bonuses, the 401k it was so exciting.  I felt so successful compared with my Ph.D. Writing email at night, fixing customer problems, writing customer requirements, it[work] fulfilled me to a certain amount. Even now, ten years later I still feel a connection to many of the people I worked with. 

So when the layoffs hit, it was such a slap in the face. It was really hard. I have very vivid images of the layoffs. I wasn’t part of it, but it was a mess.  I remember the CSO was crying. Everyone had to get in a room. I remember being up high, looking down and seeing everyone scrambling around in the corridor to see if they were on the list.  It was awful.” 

The layoffs were a wake up call for Mary.  

I was 30 and still single. I though ‘I’m killing myself for the company, and not getting anywhere in my personal life.’  You don’t realize that at first, except for Friday nights when you grab movie, Thai noodles and sit by yourself.  It started to be ‘wait a minute, I want to get married, have kids, and I’m getting older.  I have an awesome apartment downtown and no one to share it with’. I traveled a lot and gained weight, which made it hard to be single.  Even if I looked fine, I didn’t feel good about myself. 

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