I spent the first quarter of 2023 cooped up in the city transitioning out of my year-long career break and into the job market, both working a non-traditional job and searching for my next way to earn a living. It’s been a period of trials, errors, letting goes, and start overs. Spring sparked a desire to be out in nature, so I booked a solo glamping getaway in a cabin one hour outside of my home. I arrived with a stack of books, my laptop, and an open mind. Two days of forest bathing delivered new insights into the conversations of my ever-chatting mind regarding a return to corporate life. The messages arrived in wilderness language, an idiom I’m not completely fluent in, but I’m advancing at cracking the code.
Within moments of arriving in that rustic haven of solitude, I sat down in an outdoor chair to soak in the forest vibrations. I could hear a cacophonous symphony of birds, and felt embraced by tall, slim, imposing conifers that swayed at the wind’s command. The whispering wind spoke gently, then vigorously loud. Should I have chosen the seat to my left, it’s possible I would have passed out with blood gushing out of my head: a massive tree branch fell violently only inches away from me. It happened swiftly like lightning. I could feel the force of gravity rushing through my pores, then an immediate release of adrenaline. The eyes of the forest were on me, establishing dominance, requesting reverence.
I felt small, but not in an oppressive way. It was humbling more than it was scary. The code I cracked is not an unfamiliar lesson, and I needed the reminder: when life throws heavy branches at you, you can’t choose how you feel, but you can choose how to act. I chose to smile and express gratitude: “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to feel your strength. I’m just a visitor.”
If not for my sabbatical, I wouldn’t have accepted a part-time job earlier this year with untraditional pay in a startup company. Learning to trust my instincts has been a developing message of my career break. Accepting that role felt vibrantly aligned, and it was fun for a while. However, I left a couple of months later, a few shorter than expected, when the experience no longer felt aligned. I’m now aware of my non-negotiables, and certain decisions are made much more swiftly these days, like tree branches falling because they’ve matured.
Other decisions have a process and timing of their own, and often my instincts are overtaken by the thoughts in my head. Such as this: I created a story that at the end of my career break adventures I would find a new way to earn a living outside of the corporate world. In that story, I would experience a burst of inspiration and start a brand-new second act, a trade that would allow me to add my hobbies into my paycheck. Truth is, I’ve incorporated my hobbies, such as my love of writing, into my daily life, but that burning drive to start a new career from scratch never emerged.
What’s showing up now is a return to what feels familiar, a desire for safety. This wish translates to returning to my corporate career roots. It feels right in my current circumstances, but I’ve resisted accepting it.
Out in the woods, I obeyed my impulse to leave my cabin and go on a short twilight hike. I stepped on the trail feeling serene and expansive, following colorful butterflies that seamlessly camouflage in the foliage. Then a bigger inhabitant: a deer. We remained still for over a minute, our eyes locked on each other. I felt reverence for its graceful presence. As I approached it, I noticed two other family members before their white bushy tails disappeared into the forest. In the shamanic world, deer symbolizes the ability to move through life and obstacles with grace, as well as cultivating sensitivity and intuition. I decoded the deer cypher.
I continued walking as strokes of pink, golden and lilac painted the sky, but soon the vegetation turned denser and darker, a canopy so impenetrable I couldn’t see the world above it. The crows started cawing at shorter intervals, the Spanish moss became thicker and more abundant, and cobwebs lingered on my face and neck. I was now seeing fleeting shapes from the corner of my eyes. That felt irrational, but I was spooked, as if a million eyes were watching me. My heart was beating faster, but I kept walking, telling myself I was fabricating that eeriness. Then my instincts commanded me to turn around and stop being brave. I complied. Back in my cabin, my sense of safety and ease was restored.
That night while moon bathing next to the fire, I realized that the forest had just delivered me another message: it’s OK to give myself permission to step back into what feels safe and familiar. If in the past I joined the corporate world because of the “shoulds” (should be responsible, should prove that I can, should be a good daughter, should be a good wife), this time I’m seeking it because it feels right. It’s a deliberate choice and one that respects my limitations.
What’s more: in my second act, conscious of my non-negotiables, I can integrate my newfound appreciation for what makes me unique with the parts of me that delivered value to companies big and small. Heavy branches will fall near me in the wild jungle that the corporate world can be, but I can choose how to react and show up. I’m also free to decide when to turn inwards, when to turn around, when to leave.
Getaway Brazos Valley offers 46 cabins on 142 private acres and the space to connect with your wild nature. It’s located only one hour outside of central Houston, Texas. I loved the huge window into the woods and the comfort of a rustic glamping trip that included hot water, air-conditioning, a toilet, a mini-fridge, fire bundles, and a complimentary smores kit. If not for the two-burner stove that saved me from failed attempts to grill my food in the open fire, I would have survived only on fruit and potato chips.