It was a Wednesday afternoon and she was sat at her desk with the sunlight reflecting off her computer screen. The ringing phone pierced the rhythmic hum of the computer monitors and she jolted and sat up with a start. The wheels of her chair spun and her chair tilted at a dangerous angle. She steadied her feet tucked into her favorite brown pumps, sat upright and tried to understand what was going on.
The shrill sound of the ringing phone continued to disrupt her thoughts. With her back straight and her arms suspended above her laptop she realized where she was – still at work. She reached for the phone and reeled off the customary greeting, “Good afternoon. You have reached the offices of ZSJ Consulting. May I know who is speaking?” She listened and then responded, “Good afternoon Mr. Dean. How may I direct your call?”
Soon after she punched in the extension on the switchboard, made the necessary introductions, and dropped the receiver. She sat up right and took in her surroundings. She was at work. However, she wasn’t really there. Her body was clothed in a navy blue suit and planted on her office chair, but her mind was stuck in a rut. She could not move it, she could not inspire it, she could not even read it. She continued about her mundane tasks, and soon day turned to night and she clocked out and made her way home.
That night as she lay in bed waiting for sleep to come she continued to think about work. She was surprised by how far removed her mind had been when that phone call came in. She knew at some point she felt disconnected and strained during work but she did not realize she had begun to tune out completely. If she was being honest with herself she knew what was going on – she was stuck in a rut. Problem was she did not know how she had ended up here or more importantly, how to climb out of it. She retreated into the recesses of her mind and tried to better understand this conundrum. She tossed and turned as she thought through her current life. It was less than ideal.
Peering into internal corridors in her mind long abandoned she began to ascertain the problem. As she fell asleep her thoughts morphed into dreams. Soon after she had fallen asleep she met a lady. Surprisingly this lady was wearing the same exact outfit she had on earlier that day – a navy blue suit and brown pumps. The lady sat at a reception desk answering phones. She reached out her hand and tried to touch her, wondering if this was a reflection in the mirror or if she was still dreaming. She could not see the lady’s facial features clearly but something felt uncomfortably familiar. She soon realized she was peering into someone else’s life. As she realized she had been holding her breath, she let out a deep exhale. Good thing that wasn’t her. This woman looked pathetic. The lady lacked passion, in fact she was more of a shell than a fully functional human being. She was clearly going through the motions and expressed no excitement, in fact no real emotions at all. She did the bare minimum and every time she wasn’t typing away or answering the phone with a neutral expression, her mind seemed to wonder and an overcast expression would settle on her face.
She did not like this view. She walked quickly past the reception desk. Almost bumping her hip bone in her haste. She needed to find something else. To her dismay as she kept going through what seemed like a dimly lit strange but familiar tunnel, she began to realize why it felt like she had been here before. Strewn on the floor and hanging on the walls were old things that kind of belonged to her. There were half written dessert recipes, dusty untitled business plans, and incomplete applications for promotions and other positions. There was that graduate school application she had enthusiastically started but never quite completed. There was a Google page for an the internship at Cordon Bleu she hoped to apply for but never clicked further. There was a mixer in an online shopping cart that she never checked out. Her life was beginning to look like a series of loose ends. She sighed deeply.
Through her sleepy state of mind she knew there had to be something better in this dream. She decided to push on and go deeper. She put one foot in front of another, winding along the dimly lit path until it opened into a wide expanse. All of a sudden her mood got lighter and the room got brighter. She found herself smiling and realized someone was smiling back. It was a lady standing over a freshly baked cake that was sat on a cooling rack in a spacious kitchen. This lady had an apron on and flour smeared across her smiling cheek and forearm. She watched as the lady cut the cake in half, right across the middle. Then the lady began to cover the cake in soft buttery cream icing. She decided to stay a while. Watching the lady transform the scrumptious looking plain cake into a work of art she felt downright inspired. The lady filled the middle of the cake with fruit, and seemed to be sprinkling berries all over the top half of the cake as well. Her breath caught in her throat, this was beautiful. Her emotions began to darken as she started to entertain “what ifs,” so she decided it was time to move on.
She walked across the bright expanse and found herself again in a corporate office. She sighed thinking she was back to reality, but she soon met a third woman who was nothing like the first. The only similarity shared was the corporate dress and the office setting. However, this lady was not sat behind the reception desk, she was leading a presentation for the corporate executives. They were attentive and admiration filled their eyes as they piped in every now and then expressing their support of her innovative idea. She stayed for a while admiring the woman’s confidence and competence. Finally she decided it was time to move on.
As she put one foot in front of another the scene changed yet again. This time she found herself on a patio. It looked like the outdoor seating of a charming cafe. She sat on a table and turned her attention to two women having coffee. They laughed and joked. They were alive and vibrant. As she peered closer, she realized it was the baker and the lady giving the presentation. They were friends? She was confused for a moment but then realized it made sense. They had similar traits – bold, chasing their dreams, living the life they wanted. Of course they would be friends. She rolled her eyes in exasperation – some people had all the luck – and strained her ears to hear the conversation.
Suddenly she blinked. Something was not adding up. The two women seemed to have merged into one. The working profession had a flour smear on her cheek and lower arm, the baker was wearing a suit. She rubbed her eyes and peered closer, smudging eye liner across her lid as she did so. There was only one woman sat at that table. She wasn’t chatting – she was merely enjoying her own company. She reminded herself she was dreaming yet still wanted to understand what was transpiring before her very eyes.
*Ring. Ring. Ring*
Her alarm clock pierced into her dreams. She sleepily opened her eyes. It had been one of the longest and shortest nights of her life. As she got up, brushed her teeth, and put the coffee maker on she thought through all that occurred. She realized the two women were actually the same person at different times of the day/week. They had evolved from the uninspired receptionist, dusted off the half-done goals, put in applications and followed their passions, and become confident, happy and self assured.
She felt overwhelmed yet inspired. She longed to be one or both of the two ladies she had met the deeper she traveled. The ones who had been on fire, who seemed to be operating in their element. Instead the one most familiar to her was the one directing calls and echoing “Yes Sir” and “I’ll get right on it.”
She realized that the more she worked at her current job – the longer the hours, the more mundane the days, the more menial the requests – the more she lost sight of her deepest desires. Last night in her dreams, she had come face to face with the women she wished to be and the life she wished to live. While she had corporate career goals and loved the company she worked for, she knew she needed to apply herself more in order to thrive where she had been planted. There was nothing wrong with the soil, the issues lay in her growth strategy, or lack thereof. She needed to apply for the job she really wanted, and she needed to revive her baking dreams – pronto!
When she completed her pastry chef course 3 years ago she had promised herself that this executive assistant job was just a temporary situation. She needed to pay her bills and devise a plan where she could qualify for the promotion she wanted at work and also begin to start baking those sweet treats. Yet somehow days had turned to weeks, and weeks had turned to years. She was 7 years in at her present job and yet to apply for another position. She had been encouraged to apply for promotions to work for one of the company directors or as part of a project team but she remained with one foot in and one foot out. Others had started after her and moved higher up the ranks because they were determined to make a career out of this current situation, whereas somewhere between putting it off till some tomorrow for sure she had decided it was just a job. So she was firmly planted at the reception desk doing the most mundane tasks. Detached from her job and far away from her dreams, she felt constantly agitated and underaccomplished. She needed something to change. Desperately.
Between her deep thought and getting ready for the day ahead she soon found herself in familiar territory. She was back at work. She was answering phones and fielding calls. She looked around with a sense of nostalgia. She was ready for the change she wanted. Her vivid dream had woken her up. Yes, the year was almost over. But she decided not to let that deter her. There were many many years ahead, and in them she was going to be all she could be. The detachment hurt her most and she no longer wanted to live in this rut she had been for the past few years. There was surely more to be done.
She went into her long forgotten shopping cart and checked out the mixer. She threw in a few baking tins and food flavorings for good measure. Then she completed the application for the position she really wanted. Luckily the firm had not found anyone to fill it yet. She promised to review it that night and send if off before bed.
That dream was exactly what she needed to wake her up! She wanted her best version of life to unfold when her eyes were wide open, and she was finally willing to put in the work.