A couple of nights ago I had a dream about working in Apple Retail again. It was a good time in my life. I enjoyed it, made great friends, and it was the start of my tech career. Yet the dream was horrendous. I was back at the same place I started in 2007, and none of the years between really mattered.
Dreams can help us process things we’re holding on to. They can let us know where our pain is, where we need to let go, and where we need to heal.
The last two days reflecting on the dream, I realized my fear related to it was that I haven’t moved on. I haven’t grown. I haven’t lived and experienced anything of value since my time in Retail.
Then I realized that’s the way the last HR Director at Apple made me feel before I quit. In our last conversation, following months of discussions about concerns I had, he diminished my years of work helping build Apple’s infrastructure and services. He made me feel like I wasn’t part of the culture I helped build. He made me feel like I didn’t belong in a place I had worked hard to be in, growing into with skills, knowledge, and experience. He made me feel like, in his words, I was “back in Retail”, as if it were an insult I was ever there.
I’ve been angry with him, but more angry with myself for letting it happen. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t let yourself be influenced by others, or let the words people say hurt you, especially enough to change your life. Yet, what he said that day hurt, because it touched vulnerabilities I had carried for years despite my incredible career, success, and professional growth.
Then I left.
He didn’t make that decision for me. I did. I could have stayed. I could have escalated. I possibly could have fought and sued. I could have sit down, shut up, and kept cashing the checks. Instead, I quit and went elsewhere, leaving behind the work I had done, the team I had built, and people I enjoyed working with (most of them, anyway).
Being honest with myself about this, and forgiving myself for it, is the hard part that has taken time to reach.
The flip side is I needed personal growth. I needed to explore emotions, art, poetry, spirituality, and creativity. I also needed therapy. I needed to heal from long experienced PTSD. I needed to be diagnosed with ADHD and unpack it. I needed to work in a more positive culture and on a different team. None of this happened the twelve years I was at Apple, and there are few signs it would have if I had stayed.
Finally, I needed to take some intentional time off, which I was able to begin three months ago. That time off is how I got to today, where I can sit, write this, and be honest with myself and you about what happened.
I’m sorry to the team and people I left at Apple unexpectedly, and without any guidance about the problems I had navigated there before leaving. I’m sorry most to myself for not taking the time during my career to explore and address the issues I had, so my personal growth could match my professional life.
As for the HR Director, whether he’s current or former, I have mixed feelings about him. I hope he has never said anything to others like what he said to me, even though leaving Apple has worked out for me. Those at Apple who come from Retail do not deserve to be treated like a different class, or unworthy of being in roles they’ve earned, especially since demographics from Retail also intersect with greater diversity, culture, and economic backgrounds. There’s an issue there, not just with him, and I hope Apple works to address it.
I have more time off ahead. I’m writing a book, along with a few other personal projects. I’m relocating. I’m enjoying art, poetry, people, and places. I’m also figuring out what a return to work will look like. I don’t think it will be like before. It may not even be in tech.
Whatever it is, it will be something I can put my heart, spirit, and mind into, and magical things happen when those are in alignment.