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The one about the dog and her Mommy

© 2008 Avocationist · March 5th, 2008 · No Comments

Angelina Corbet
In the fourth part of our interview, Angelina Corbet talks about separating her identity from her career and the impact of “real life” on her understanding and choices.

“Even the stuff that really felt lousy served some purpose.”

This is the fourth part of our five-part interview. Find out more about Angelina and Vocationing at www.themobiuscompany.com

Read the interview:

Avocationist:What else influenced your early career choices?

Angelina: In the early part of my career I defined myself by my career. If you define yourself by your career then you put restrictions on yourself when you look for a new career. You say, “I’ve got to make so much money. I’ve got to have this title. I’ve got to work for this kind of company”. As I have gotten older and I’ve made so many career transitions, and, with a little bit of wisdom that comes with age, I’ve paid more attention to the fact that I am not what I do. I’m who I am. I mean, my personality, the definition of who I am is who I am, not what I do.

“I have a career ... but that’s not the definition of me.”

I have a career and I do other activities, but that’s not the definition of me. The definition of me is who I am, regardless of the career. That has really freed me to look very differently at all of the possibilities of what I want to do.

Avocationist: That's a big shift. When did you get to that point?

Angelina: Oh, I would say probably about four or five years ago. It really was almost like an epiphany.

Avocationist: Do you remember a particular time when you kind of realized that, or did it grow over time?

“How dare she think I’m some dog’s mother”

Angelina: Well, it grew over time, but the first time I ever realized it was absolutely crystal clear to me. At the time, I was not working. We had adopted a dog. I used to meet this little girl every morning when I walked the dog. One day I met the little girl at a grocery store and she looked at me and she said, “Oh aren’t you Cassie’s mommy?” I just broke down, got hysterical crying in the store. I explained to this little seven year old, “No, I’m a former vice president. No, I’m a former executive”. I just kind of rattled off my resume to her because it occurred to me that that’s who I thought I was and how dare she think I’m some dog’s mother. I was more important than that.

It was my first real insight in to, “Wait a minute. You’re getting stuff confused here”.

Avocationist: When was that?

Angelina: Well, the really interesting thing is I got it confused two or three more times since that first happened and that was in 1991.

I mean we’ve got 15 years worth of continuing to be confused. I would only say it’s in the last four or five years I went, “Oh, okay, wait a minute. I think I’m getting it now”.

Avocationist: This latest time you got it. Do you remember a particular event around that or was it more just a realization?

Angelina: I think it was just more a realization. I think something just comes back around so many times until you go, “Oh, okay. Oh, okay”.

Avocationist: Talk about what it was like from going to being a teacher to being a computer programmer, versus what it was like during your latest transition.

Angelina: The first time I made the transition from teacher to computer programmer. It was very interesting because I went from working with a lot of people and teaching five or six classes a day with 30 kids. I was constantly “on”. I went from being “on”, to being a computer programmer, sitting at a desk and doing my own things. One of the things that I found very interesting was, one of my bosses said to me early on, “You know this is going to be a challenge because we’ve got a second project for you. During the day we need you to be working on both of them. Is that going to be difficult?” I just said, "every 44 minutes, 40 new people used to show up in my room". I said, “You’re apologizing because I got to work on two projects? This is going to be very easy”. That was a very interesting kind of transition. What was expected of me in one case and what was expected of me in the other case. The other thing I found was because I’m an extrovert and I changed to work that was much more on my own, I had to develop a much richer social life.

Avocationist: So you found a way to compensate for the lack of human contact at work.

Angelina: Yes, because I didn’t have my day full of people. The other thing I discovered was that it was interesting because I look back on it when it was happening and realized that teaching was so emotionally satisfying. The programming, by contrast, was so intellectual satisfying. Really, I just saw the dichotomy and went, “Whoa, how interesting is that”.

I think the second thing is probably, as all of us have, just certain really challenges in life. Whether they are physical or mental or emotional or family. Whatever they are. I think those challenges cause you to think different about yourself and the world.

Avocationist: What else has impacted you?

Angelina: I have a meditative, prayer practice. I find that stillness is really just the single best teacher in the world. In stillness, you know who you are, you know who God is, you figure it out. We’re a culture that’s addicted to speed and it's not in speed it's in quiet, it's in stillness, it's in peace. I’ve had the good fortune of being blessed with a number of very, very good spiritual teachers who smack me aside of the head when I’m like crazy. More importantly, I have a husband who’ll smack me across the side of the head when I’m out of control.

Avocationist: Yes. You talked about challenges that we all have in lives, were there any in your particular life that caused big changes for you, or big turning points?

Angelina: Probably one of my biggest turning points was a divorce. That was a significant turning point. Having gone through a divorce when I was in the middle of a career transition.

Avocationist: Oh wow.

Angelina: Another big challenge was when my ex-husband eventually passed away and died of AIDS when I was in another career transition. The divorce was one of them. Death was another one, that I would say was a huge challenge. I guess the other thing I’d say is to some extent kind of crisis of the soul is a challenge I think all of us face.

Avocationist: What do you mean by that?

Angelina: What is meaningful, what’s not meaningful? Why is this happening? What is it all? That hit me profoundly. I didn’t change careers but the jolt that happens when something like a 9-11, when the world has that kind of impact.

They’re the things that just kind of cause you to stop and say, “Okay. What am I taking seriously here? What am I think I’m doing? How do I want to spend my time?”

Avocationist: Do you have any regrets?

Angelina: This is probably the strangest thing about me. Compared to everybody else I know. I have none.

It's strange. But I really have this belief, which again is slightly off center, a little different. I have this belief that we invite everything in to our lives. We invite it in to our lives because there’s this nugget. There’s this gem. There’s this pearl. In the middle of whatever we’ve just invited. It's there for a reason. It's usually to grow and to learn and so I don’t have any regrets. Even the stuff that really felt lousy served some purpose.

I don’t think I’d be where I am had I not had each one of those experiences. It's very strange, but I really have lead a life of no regrets.

Avocationist: That’s wonderful.

Angelina: Yeah, it is.

There was a thing my grandfather used to say, “God wrote straight with a crooked line”. When I left my career on Wall Street to get into school reform, I wasn’t working for a couple of months. It was during that time that my ex-husband passed away from AIDS. In hindsight, I looked back on it and said, “Had I been working, I wouldn’t have been able to spend any time with him. I wouldn’t have been able to go visit him.” One of the things that’s just very interesting to me is when people are in transition in careers, its almost like there’s time in here for something. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss it. That opportunity, that blank piece of time, that empty piece of space, is there for a reason. Yes, you need to be looking for the next job, but don’t ignore the fact that maybe during that piece of time, you were supposed to spend more time with somebody. Or you were supposed to build something. Or you were supposed to visit somebody. It’s like those opportunities show up and they happen when you have this chunk of time, and if you had your job you never would have done it.

It’s like there’s this gift in the middle of all that stuff and you don’t expect it.

In the next segment, Angelina offers her advice on matching up your abilities with your career.

Tags: Corporate Jobs · Mid-Life Career Change · November Newsletter · Personal Growth

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