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9/11 Fortified Decision to Create New Career Path

September 9, 2011

Ten years ago tomorrow, on September 10, 2001, I handed in the resignation letter that would end my 12-year journalism career and launch my new path as a life coach.

The next day — yes, that infamous day — it became crystal clear that I’d made the right decision for me. Life was too short. I was too miserable. I had some evolving to do!

By 8 a.m. on September 11, I was at work in my office, two blocks from the White House. As usual, I had turned on the TV and set about the tedious task of creating the list that would tell online news organizations around the country what “Web packages” we were working on that day.

It was the early days of newspaper Web presence, and most of the sites out there weren’t nimble enough to handle the breaking news Web content we’d been providing, so we’d switched to a more predictable schedule pegged to upcoming events — entertainment on Mondays, health on Tuesdays, sports on Wednesdays, etc.

Around 8:45, I heard urgency from voices on TV and looked up to see smoke pouring from the top of the World Trade Center. A co-worker and I were trying to make sense of it — an accident? an explosion inside the building? — when the second plane hit. This was no accident.

Then the Pentagon was hit. Then the Pennsylvania plane went down.  Meanwhile, rumors were swirling about a fire at the Capitol, a bomb at the State Department and problems elsewhere in Washington. I couldn’t reach my husband.

Our office’s big boss told us to stay put. This is a news organization, she said, and it’s our duty to cover the news. The newsroom mobilized. Palpable tension and fear, tempered by a sense of purpose.

But it was a Tuesday. That meant that we’d promised our subscribers a sports package for the next day. It was my duty as managing editor, my supervisor said, to keep our product on schedule. The country’s tallest buildings were collapsing, our city was under attack, and I’m pretty sure I could not have possibly cared less about Barry Bonds and the single-season home run record he was threatening to break.

I felt the resentment rise. Tension and fear, intensified by a sense of impotence. It was an all-time career low that only confirmed my decision to leave.

At one time, my career as a news editor had felt purposeful. But the events of September 11 — both the personal and the collective — drove home that my position had come to feel pointless.

In the month that I continued at my job post-resignation, I grieved the loss of the thousands who died on September 11. I grieved the loss of our nation’s sense of security and invulnerability. I grieved the loss of my beloved grandfather, for whom I would name my first child a year later.

And after I left, even though it was my choice to leave, I grieved the loss of an identity that had been mine for a dozen years.  For a long time, I remained caught between who I was and who I was becoming. The work world I knew made me so unhappy, but I knew it. The unknown work world awaiting me scared the crap out of me. Sometimes it still does.

Yet, to this day, I thank my uber-challenging boss often for making life so uncomfortable that I finally left a career I had lost passion for long before. My once-new path has opened my life to enlightening experiences, to amazing people, to my beautiful children, to my own heart.

Ten years later, I can say it’s been — and continues to be — a process of evolving and growing, of deepening and broadening, of realigning and reinventing. For all of it, I am profoundly grateful.

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