Wilderness in a Corner Office
You can have a great career, a loving spouse and family, the respect and envy of all who know you … and still be in the Wilderness.
You’re in the Wilderness if this career/family/respect is for a calling that is not yours, that doesn’t arise from your truest self.
In a way, this is the most excruciating form of Wilderness because you’re in hell and you know it, yet you get no sympathy for your suffering, even from yourself. In fact, if you dare to express your misery (even to yourself), you are looked at as an ingrate, a cream puff, a weenie.
You’re not. Your wilderness is real. Your suffering is real. And your peril is real.
“A lot of people said, ‘Wow, that’s so brave of you to [walk away from a career to write]’…. But I don’t see it as an act of bravery so much as a last ditch effort to save myself. Because if I wasn’t in so much pain walking into that building every day to teach, I would have easily done my 20 years and I would have been retired by now. But I couldn’t walk into that building anymore, I was in so much pain and suffering that I had to do this, it wasn’t an option, I was going to go to a very bad place if I didn’t change my life in a radical way.”
A case could be made that the short stories of John Cheever (and to a lesser extent those of John Updike) are tales of the Wilderness in a Corner Office. They’re about the crazy stuff that seemingly successful people are driven to by the unlived Calling within them.
We could make an equally valid case, I suspect, that the profession of psychotherapy is simply a response to the internal crises produced by Wilderness in a Corner Office. And the challenges faced and insights gained in therapy are their own passage through the Wilderness, their own seeking of a way “back home.”
The bad news is: a Wilderness Passage is mandatory. You can’t hide from it, even in the upper echelons of material success.
The good news is: a Wilderness Passage is mandatory. The Big Choice will be set before us, no matter how hard we try to hide from it.
The goddess, it would seem, plays for keeps.