A weird thing happened to me in the last week or two. My left brain (the one that has made it possible for me to move 63,000 people to all corners of the world with a cool head and precise planning) stepped aside to let my right brain have center stage for awhile.
You see, shortly after joining Worldwide ERC® as its new CEO, I had scheduled July 8 as the date of my relocation from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D.C. So in the days leading up to our west-to-east-coast flight, my husband Greg and our daughter Lauren and I got to experience the transitions I’ve set in motion as a workforce mobility professional thousands of times before.
My left brain was practically on auto-pilot. It’s a blessing to have years of relocation experience when you reach the day that you’re the transferee. Figure out the household goods and storage issues? No problem. Find a school for my daughter? Piece of cake. Withstand the ice-cold realization of a depressed market on the departure side and a higher cost of living at the destination? Reluctant but knowledgeable acceptance. I can manage logistics all day long. But I wasn’t primed for some of the feelings that popped up, without warning, at the most startling times.
Some people talk about the need to recreate their familiar network of local providers when they move – finding an organic grocery store, or a doctor they trust, or a hairdresser who won’t cut their bangs too short. But I found it was the other things that knocked the wind out of me. I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of “stuff” I had to sift through and make decisions about. (I needed another Peggy Smith to join me – one to be the relocation administrator, and one to be the transferee.) And I was stunned by the feelings that came up about my house...our house.
For years, Greg and I considered each and every aspect of the house we were finally able to build (and took a photo practically every time a nail was pounded). This was our dream, and every room had been designed, every detail had been selected joyfully and with great care. Even so, I knew I was ready for this move – I love my new job, and I had my checklist revved up, and my mobility blood was pumping. Until I remembered our first Christmas in the home we were packing up; and how our cat Mau and Mr. Bojangles, our dog, didn’t have a clue what was in store for them in the next few days; and how Lauren would escape to her special place in the house – her walk-in closet - when she was upset or just wanted to think.
My daughter, wise beyond her 11 years, has been incredibly supportive of this new chapter in her mom’s career, and true to the characteristics associated with the redhead she is, she boldly and fearlessly threw in her vote for this family adventure across the country. And while I knew this move would not be easy for her, nothing prepared me for the pain of seeing her bravery crumple on the day most of our belongings were moved out of the home we were leaving, and the true impact of leaving her friends hit with full force.
My left brain kept calmly assessing the situation, solving problems, working through tasks that would get us to the east coast. But my right brain was having a field day.
I know I am not alone in this experience. Two of our industry colleagues with whom I spoke recently have their own left brain/right brain experiences to share. Linda Howard, Prudential California/Nevada Realty, was moving locally from one home to another, and held a yard sale after her house was under contract. When her buyer showed up and wanted to purchase the old refrigerator in her garage (that she didn’t even want anymore) she found herself thinking, with rising resentment, “She’s already got my house – why should she have my extra refrigerator, too?” And during a move from Los Angeles to Sonoma, Jill Silvas, Pacific Union International, decided to take a frozen container of chicken broth from her old home to her new house... and propped it up on the back seat for the trip. “I knew it didn’t make any sense at the time, but it was something I’d made in a home I loved, and it represented part of our whole experience in L.A.,” said Jill. “But I was able to disengage in short order – as I drove, and the broth defrosted, it smelled awful! That was the end of my emotional attachment!” Both of these contemporaries are savvy professionals with years of industry experience. They’ve been on the business end of a relocation, and they know the score. But all the experience in the world can’t make us ready for the soft underbelly of a move - sometimes it’s just about old refrigerators and frozen broth.
I think it was the illustrious actress Bette Davis who said “old age isn’t for sissies.” Well, Ms. Davis, that’s probably true - and neither is workforce mobility. One thing that keeps running through my mind (both sides of it!) is how much better we would be at our work if each of us were to relocate at least one time in our careers. We can learn a lot from sitting on the other side of the desk in our industry. And, occasionally, letting our right side prevail.