97: A Paltry Price for Personal Peace

97: A Paltry Price for Personal Peace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

A Paltry Price for Personal Peace

For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.

~Larry Eisenberg

Working hard comes naturally to me. Even at that, slaving like a hamster on a wheel took some time to perfect. I took the bait though, hook, line, and bonus check.

The medical billing company I work for hired me as a claims researcher and in one year promoted me to head of the Northeast Region Follow-Up Team. It was never my intention to be the best, or the fastest, or even the highest achiever. My ambition thrived on getting through each assignment from start to finish without disappointing one single person in the chain of command. I promised success and by God I would deliver.

In the first twelve months of my employment I proved one thing with absolute certainty. I had no idea how to say “no” when asked to take on a project. This characteristic alone rendered me ripe for the plucking when a management position became available, and I grabbed the ball as soon as it was tossed in my direction.

Every day I rolled up my sleeves and set about the business of leading my team in resolving the issues that prevented emergency room physicians from being paid by insurance companies. I stepped right into the ring and took on the fight while collecting a large salary increase, an annual bonus check, a nice office, and an extra week of vacation every year as my prize. Yep, this was living and I had worked hard earning every perk.

Fast-forward nine years.

“When are you going to finish?” My husband Joe grumbled as he climbed into bed, navigating around a sleeping dog and an ocean of paperwork.

“In a few minutes,” I replied.

My track record offered Joe little reason to believe me. Finishing was always just a moment or two away. Then after I knew he was sound asleep, I’d gather my paperwork and move to the kitchen table and work for a few more hours. Later I’d crawl into bed exhausted, knowing that in five or six hours the curtain would rise again on the three-ring circus of stress I called my career.

Somewhere along the way, amid a string of successful insurance appeals, employees that competed for a spot on my team, and a senior management lineup that truly appreciated my efforts, my enthusiasm for living was replaced with grinding drudgery that robbed me of both peace and pleasure. As the company expanded, so did my client base, and with it the chains of responsibility that shackled me to my work grew heavier every day.

One night in particular I remember pulling the covers up to my chin and whispering into the darkness, “Please God, help me find the path back to peace and happiness.”

The next morning as I drove to the office, I wondered how long it would take me to gather my courage and resign. Resigning would end the madness and Joe encouraged me to do so daily.

“Just do it Annie. Quit. We’ll make do and you’ll find another job. You’re heading for a breakdown.”

Resign, resign, resign! Not now though, I had a client presentation to prepare for and a conference call to attend in about an hour. Later, later, later!

Then an incoming e-mail bubble bounced across my computer screen and the phrase “position available” caught my eye. When I opened it the words “administrative assistant for senior vice president” glowed like a neon sign. Nah, I thought. They’d think I was crazy. Who in their right mind would step back to a secretarial position from a management position?

At home that evening my interest in the job persisted. I had ten years of experience as an executive secretary long before I ever arrived at the company. They didn’t know that, but I did, and I knew how much I loved it too.

The next morning I summoned the nerve and told my boss I intended to apply for the job.

“You’re in for a huge salary cut, and you’ll lose your bonus, not to mention you’ll be bored out of your mind,” he said. “You’re a leader, Annmarie, not a follower. How is it you think this makes any kind of sense?”

“Well,” I said. “I imagine it makes no sense at all from your point of view but from where I’m sitting I have a few choices to make. I can choose to give up on this company and resign, or I can look at this secretarial position as an opportunity and try it. If it’s not right for me, I’ll resign and find something else.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Not yet,” I said. “But if I stay in this position much longer, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up that way.”

Admittedly the manger of human resources was stunned too, but from a budgetary standpoint it’s hard to say no to someone who’s asking for a salary cut and a decrease in benefits. That’s pretty much a novelty you don’t run into every day.

I brought to the table a skill set that boasted nine years of in-house experience, which included a working knowledge of every department in the operations area of the company. Though I negotiated to a salary I felt was reasonable for what I was offering, the lost bonus and salary cut brought me to a twenty percent decrease in my income, not including the vacation time I surrendered. Even I was starting to think I had lost my mind.

I closed the door to my office that last day with very few regrets about leaving my management position, but with one whopping load of anxiety about whether I made a mistake taking a job that would look like a demotion. By the end of my first day in the new position I knew I had made the right decision.

No office, staff, salary, or bonus check can ever replace this new feeling of waking up every morning and actually wanting to go to work. I enjoy that pleasure every day. The tasks I perform and the responsibilities I manage aid one vice president in particular and add to the smooth running of the department in which I work. When I leave at the end of the day, I take nothing with me but my desire to come back tomorrow knowing that I am respected and appreciated for the contribution that I make.

My husband always tells me you can’t put a price on peace of mind, but divorce attorneys are plenty expensive. It looks likes my path to peace turned up none too soon!

~Annmarie B. Tait

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