How Do I Unplug These Things?

“…I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you — especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, came broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you — you’d forget me.” [Mr. Rochester]

“That I never should, sir…” [Jane Eyre]

~Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

I have loved this scene since the moment I first read it because I find something universal in the imagery. I don’t think that a string between hearts or souls is restricted to romantic relationships. Rather I think our lives consist of a whole set of strings. There is one for each person with whom(?) we have ever interacted. Some of these strings are thick and strong as steel, and others are as weak as cheaply made thread. Some are firmly attached to other people, and others have been severed completely. The strength and durability of the invisible string is dictated by the condition of the relationship.

Those dearest to us are connected to us by powerful yet flexible cords. Those of passing acquaintance are connected to us by slight and filmy threads, and there are innumerable people connected by strands somewhere between strong and weak. Worst of all are the unattached pieces. Those strings don’t belong to loved ones who have died because we are all still strongly attached to those who have gone before us. No, the free floaters belong to those who have hurt us the most — or who we have hurt the most. Free floaters are the unforgivens. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t forgive, but I am saying that we often file hurts away as lessons learned so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Likewise free floaters consist of our own unforgivens in which we have harmed someone else who can’t forget. These severed pieces float and tangle among our other heart strings as reminders.

Mostly today I am thinking of strong and everlasting connections. My career transition has pulled me out of one group of friends and into another where I have begun forming new strings. I don’t want to lose my connections with my old friends, but those relationships are being modified by time, distance, and changing roles. I have never played a string instrument, but I imagine tuning one to be something of an art form. The strings must be tightened or loosened to just the right degree for the perfect sound to be produced. I believe heart strings to be much the same. They must be finely tuned as well. Sometimes they need to be tightened for support, and sometimes they need to be loosened for exploration. Only by keeping an eye on the condition of each can the correct notes be played.

I find myself in a situation with my heart strings. There are people with whom(?) I have always been tightly bound to since they entered my life. Now I am discovering that life is asking me to loosen the strings a bit because we need to move a little distance apart. The strings are still strong and durable, but the sounds needs to change with flexibility. Right now I’m loosening the strings where I know it is necessary, and like Mr. Rochester, I’m concerned that I’m “inwardly bleeding.” However I’m not going to bleed out entirely, and like Jane Eyre, “I never should” forget those recipients and caretakers of my heart strings. We just need a little freedom of movement to improve the sound.

Gettin’ Ready to Leave This World

When I decided to leave my job, I did NOT take the decision lightly. I took a lot of time to think and pray about the whole process, and I geared myself up by consulting books that spoke to me on a personal level. After all, no two people can make this kind of decision the same way. I can only tell you what worked for me.

For years, I have enjoyed reading books on why other people make monumental decisions — career and otherwise. I have no idea why this matters to me except that I suppose I like to understand what makes other people tick. In light of that, the following list is compiled from books that encouraged me over the years to self-examine.

Setting the Stage Reading List

  • Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood
  • Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
  • What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson
  • Jesus Did It Anyway by Kent M. Keith
  • All That Is Bitter and Sweet by Ashley Judd
  • Praying for Strangers by River Jordan
  • Smile at Strangers by Susan Schorn
  • When God Winks at You by SQuire Rushnell (not a mispelling, by the way)
  • Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge
  • Quiet by Susan Cain

All of those books in one way or another helped me understand more about myself, and I found great inspiration in reading about other people doing the same thing. If I had never bothered to read those books, I don’t know that I would have had the courage and wisdom to make the decision to walk away from a job where I really no longer belonged.

When I finally made the decision and informed my boss, I felt two things: total relief and sheer panic! (It was the oxymoron of emotions!) It wasn’t the simple thing of placing an order at a restaurant and then instantly realizing that you don’t want what you’ve just told the server. Nope! Once you tell your boss that you’re leaving, you can’t really take that back and still look professional…especially once they’ve hired your replacement! There were a couple of times where I almost went back and said, “I was just kidding…really…I’m staying…because I fear change.” Yep! I almost went there, but instead, I reinforced my decision on a steady diet of prayer and reading.

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Prepping for Departure Reading List

  • What Color Is Your Parachute? 2016 by Richard Nelson Bolles
  • God Is Always Hiring by Regina Brett
  • Let Hope In by Pete Wilson
  • All the Places to Go, How Will You Know? by John Ortberg
  • In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
  • What Keeps You Up at Night by Pete Wilson

These books helped me overcome the fear about my decision by reminding me that all change involves risk, and failure isn’t always a bad thing. Where do we learn best but in the arena of failure?

I still need reminding frequently that I made the right decision so I often find myself diving into other books for perspective. The great thing about perspective is that it changes every day with our growing experience and knowledge. Strangely enough, I found two articles after I left that reinforced my decision for multiple reasons, and they also made me think more about why other people leave a seemingly “good” job. If you’re interested in the same sort of thing, check out these two resources:

“Top 6 Reasons People Quit” by Ed Rappuhn (The Tennessean)

“9 Things That Make Good Employees Quit” by Dr. Travis Bradberry (TalentSmart)

So I might still be trying to figure out exactly which direction that I’m heading, but at least I know that I took the right exit at the right time. Everything after that is just part of the adventure.