After reading this story, a lot of things really hit me. Like, what I wanna do with my life. The direction I want my life to go in. How important is it for me to have a Career, because society tells me I SHOULD have one. What drives me. What makes me absolutely cringe. How much I truly hate the corporate world, and so on & so forth.
In my old life I wore Ann Taylor suits and heels, and raced from my apartment in New Jersey to New York City's Penn Station every morning. I never would have imagined the way I live today. Let me back up. I was in advertising by age 23 and soon worked on some of the biggest accounts in the business- Playtex, Hasbro, Allergan. It was exciting and competitive. When I took a communications job at Maersk, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, things got even more intense. I'd jet off on business trips every other week; I slept with my BlackBerry under my pillow. After three years I felt very successful. But I wasn't fulfilled, and my personal life was falling apart (at 30 I was getting divorced). I worked even harder yet felt stuck. Then in April 2009 one of Maersk's ships was hijacked by Somali pirates, and the captain, Richard Phillips, was taken hostage- you probably know the story from the Tom Hanks movie. The company sent me to be with Phillips' wife, Andrea, in Vermont to handle the deluge of press. She was incredibly worried about her husband, but she's such a sweet woman that she was letting local female reporters use her bathroom! In the middle of the international media firestorm, I found myself drawn to the family and their tight-knit community of neighbors, who kept dropping off food. Meanwhile, I kept preparing for the worst- I knew I would be the one to break any bad news to them. When Richard Phillips was rescued after five days, everyone was beyond joyful, and he and Andrea asked me to stay on to help manage his overnight fame. Looking around at this family and the beautiful Vermont countryside, I realized I didn't want to go back to my corporate job. So I called my boss and quit. There's so much pressure to stay on the career track, it felt like ripping off a Band-Aid. That summer a friend of the Phillipses set me up on a blind date with a dairy farmer whose name was- of all things- Ransom. He lived just 10 miles away, and within a few months I moved onto his farm. After the Phillipses I took other work, and in 2011 I found a job at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets dealing with farmers, which married my old communications skills with my new way of life. At first the closeness of the community that drew me to Vermont was hard to get used to. I remember going to the hardware store for a can of paint stripper to redo the kitchen cabinets. This woman behind the counter says, "You'll need two cans." I'd never met her, but she knew who I was, and she'd clearly been in my kitchen. It was so awkward I went home and cried. And it was hard to override old criteria of success- to me, a high-powered corporate job. But I started to feel successful in other ways. I learned to garden and help with the animals; I've made new friends. And I love that whether I'm at work or the grocery store, I'm connecting with people meaningfully-people who are going to be a part of my life for a long time.
Alison Kosakowski Conant, 37