by Angela Noel
July 13th, 2016
“You know that scene in Runaway Bride? The one where she doesn’t know how she likes her eggs?” Melissa asks me.
“Sure,” I reply.
“I always think of that scene. That was me until last year.” Mel leans in, her black hair framing her face, “I chose never to really make a choice. The path that had been laid out for me, had become ME.”
Get good grades. Do well in sports. Get promoted at work. These were the stars Mel had been invited by well-meaning family and friends to steer her life by. Content to follow this advice for the most part, Mel smiled and maximized whatever life served up. That is, until the layoffs began.
Most corporations go through moments of disruption. In fact, corporations often seek creative disruption to respond to ever-changing business needs. What Mel and thousands of others, including me, experienced in late 2014 through 2015 didn’t feel creative, it just felt disruptive. Several waves of layoffs and multiple reorganizations caused anxiety. Those who were forced to leave lost the security of a job. Those that remained felt guilt at being left behind. Some might say that being laid off is just a part of life. But that doesn’t make it easy. Whether a team member is let go or left to pick up the pieces, as Ash Beckham says in her awesome TED Talk, “hard is just hard.”
People Mel had hired, invested in, and cared about were told to pack up their desks. To Melissa, whose joy at work was linked to her love and compassion for people, the loss felt significant.
And, she was sick. Her guts hurt. Western medicine shrugged its collective shoulders and said, in effect, “I dunno. Let’s try this.” Stress at work, and rebellion within her own body challenged Melissa in new ways. She could do nothing about the layoffs, nor could she trust that her doctors could solve her problem. Fed up and concerned that potentially unnecessary procedures or drugs were being prescribed for her, Mel refused the doctor’s advice.
Lacking another option, Mel got curious. A friend told her to look into essential oils: the aromatic chemicals derived from certain plants.
The chemical components of peppermint oil are well understood, its medicinal properties widely acknowledged as promising. Peppermint, Mel’s research told her, had the potential to alleviate her symptoms.
Some sources say that the word “essential” when used to describe these oils, comes from a contraction of the word “quintessence.”
Plato and his student Aristotle theorized quintessence was the animating force of life, or the air the gods breathed. But Mel wasn’t interested in the ancient Greek theories at that point. She needed results.
She tried the peppermint oil. It worked. Mel’s research into essential oils led her to solve not one problem, but two. Her desire to relieve her own physical pain, in the midst of relative chaos at work, unmoored her from the conventional path she’d been taught to follow. “I wanted to contribute in a positive, healthy way. I wanted to add value to people’s lives. I was missing that.”
The decision happened over a weekend. “A small moment to make an incremental change,” Melissa calls it. She filed paperwork to create an LLC. Forever Pure Products was born. Then she created a Facebook page. She studied to get an aromatherapy license and soon began selling homemade and well-researched essential oil blends to friends and friends of friends.
Her new role at work, after the reorganization, meant she had to get to work very early. She couldn’t develop her company, be at the office on time, play with her kids, and connect with her husband if she was exhausted. Melissa didn’t consider quitting her job. Despite all the upheaval, good things still happened there. Instead, she started going to bed earlier, cut unnecessary things, like alcohol, from her life, and added a daily workout.
Without all the noise in her head, or the voices from the past anchoring her to a well-worn path, she was free. “I could see the risks more clearly. I could see that what I had been afraid of weren’t really risks at all. Why not have my own business? Why not allocate my energy differently? I don’t have to stay late or answer work emails at nine o’clock at night. No one asked me to. But I did it because that’s just what I did.” Clear eyed, Melissa says, “Now instead of making the choice of “no choice” I’m actively deciding how I want to spend my energy. I’m doing my part, but I’m part of something bigger. That’s how I want to contribute.”
Someday, Mel would love to be a tiny house owner. She’d like to see how simple her life can become. Simple feels good.
Clear out the clutter of the world’s expectations and “the essence of a thing in it’s purest and most concentrated form” emerges; quintessential Mel, quintessential me, quintessential you.
“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.”
― Gautama Buddha
Be awesome in real life.