A student from a powerful family is unhappy with his grade. He files a complaint with the university alleging religious bias. Although Cheri is cleared, she's enough of a player to recognize that her brand has been tarnished. And the academic career over. Simultaneously, her husband dies.
Her journey from anger to inner peace is the content of the 400-page 2016 novel "Happy Family" by Tracy Barone. The title, for most of the novel, is ironic. The families in the loop are not happy. Before her husband was diagnosed with cancer, his diary reveals he was planning to separate from her.
Like so many of us, Cheri enters the work crisis carrying more than the average amount of baggage. She had been adopted and never felt part of the family. She caught the father who adopted her living a double existence. That included a biological son. She had a history of drug abuse. The first love of her life turned on her. The only kind of glue that held her together was work.
Her solution? To not do a 180 professionally. She would no longer be part of academia. But she would do much of the kind of work she had been doing. Only differently, this time.
And maybe that is the lesson for all us victims of Career Interrupted. There is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Cheri could come to that insight because adversity had changed her. She learned to forgive herself and others. She could even thank her pain-in-the-neck mother for intervening in the worst of times.
In 2003, when my own career niche in communications collapsed, I considered radical professional shifts. Those ranged from getting a graduate degree in loss prevention (where I had a part-time job) to selling real estate (the boom was on). A cognitive therapist in West Hartford, Connecticut, Amy Karnilowicz, mandated: Write about what you are going through. That I did.
The chronicle of hitting a bottom never found a publisher. But I found my way to blogging and other social media. And those found me whole new target markets. Like fictional Cheri, I began to work differently. As life delivers other challenges, I begin to live differently.
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