A few days ago I decided to start shopping for a new car. I have always loved BMWs but haven’t owned one for a very long time. You could say that my spiritual initiation was reflected outwardly by the first car accident I was ever in.
My “beemer” getting hit from behind was the beginning of more than a collapse of my car. It signified the collapse of a life that although highly materially successful, had become spiritually bankrupt. Now, it’s not like I was an arms dealer or something. I had a very successful private practice as a psychotherapist in Lake Forest, California. I was married, owned a beautiful home, etc but I knew this life I was leading was not working anymore.
After walking away from all of it, I came to Los Angeles and spent the next two years trying to launch a career as a media psychologist with a talk show I had produced. The night before I was to bring my demo to a producer,I was given a dream. In the dream I was told that this was not the time for me to be in television. I was told there was a book I was to write and publish that would come first. What they didn’t tell me was that it would take twenty years and I would go through a journey that was meant to strip me of my false ego. When I had this dream I was at the end of my property settlement and I knew I still was not ready to go back to being a therapist so I took a job in a friend’s chiropractic office as a receptionist ( I give great phone) and a job as a restaurant hostess in Malibu. My friends thought I had gone mad but it taught me something important about the uselessness of defining yourself by what you do.
This memory came back to me when I started car shopping this week and met a very unusual BMW salesman. My first take on this guy with an Italian accent, hair longer than mine, in an Armani suit was “faux.” This was furthered by his attitude. His opening line to me with an imperious, flat affect was ” Am I ready to buy a car or have I just started looking?” I was dressed in old yoga sweats at the time so we both were judging a book by its cover (or sartorial taste as it were). I told him my price range, at which point we went over to the used BMW lot and looked at 2008’s.
As we drove, I asked him, ‘ Are you happy selling cars because you don’t seem to be?” At which point he began to share with me his fantastic story. He left behind his very lucrative practice as a cosmetic/reconstructive surgeon with a teaching fellowship in plastic surgery in Rome so he could be here with his long lost 13 year old son. He explained how in Italy, the family comes first before the career. He had never sold cars before but it was the only thing he could do here and make good money because the licensing laws here would require him to repeat a three year medical residency .
I contemplated this after I left. What American cosmetic surgeon would give up his practice to go to Italy and sell cars to be near his child? We have an addiction to work here and the identity it gives us. We spend so much time working in America ( more than any other country) that we think the work is us. My time spent as a receptionist and restaurant hostess taught me so much about how I wanted to define myself.
My biggest struggle in marketing myself now really comes from this. I have been a psychotherapist, a columnist, a public speaker, a futurist, a college instructor, and recently an author, and yet who I really am is not described by any of those labels. If you ever want to get back to your real essence, take a sabbatical from your career and go on an amazing journey. And for those who have lost their jobs or their businesses in the last year, you can, if you allow yourself, use this time to discover who you really are so that when you put the cloak of your career on again, you will know who lives and breathes underneath it. Use this career transition so that it never smothers your life force through too much attention to career and not enough for your “famiglia” again. Heh, if a physician could give up his profession to become a BMW salesman, anything is possible.
Dr. Toni Galardi’s new book, The LifeQuake Phenomenon showcases many New Thought leaders who left behind successful careers and risked following their vocation of destiny. Here is a link to an article worth reading. http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_opinion/363915.html