“Oh, shit!” Caryssa wailed, causing more than a few heads to turn. “My briefcase!”
Her emotions on fire with the biggest move of a lifetime, Caryssa Flynn had not slept a wink, then rushed off to the airport. She had worked in zombie mode for weeks of twelve-hour days on that presentation. And there it sat. In the front seat of her friend’s car as it departed Logan Airport.
Standing in line, she studied the people. A scattering of families with young children . . . professionals on business trips. Business people wearing their professionalism like good corporate citizens. No use of profanity, no forgetting their briefcases.
Caryssa reminded herself PowerPoints could be emailed. Her line began moving. She looked down to grab her carry-on. Double shit! She had on two different shoes. One black pump, one brown. A commercial clown.
She entered the first class cabin and stowed her carry-on, stretching out in the contoured two-tone butter-soft leather seat.
A forty-something woman sporting a Kate Spade bag and designer sunglasses sat next to her. She had a simple elegance and a polite smile. “Hello!”
Great. This lady wants to talk, and I want to sleep. Caryssa simply smiled.
They were served an award-winning pre-departure champagne, creamy smooth with almond and orange notes. Maybe if I just put my earphones on, Caryssa hoped, my seatmate will get the message.
“So… I’m Catherine. Where are you going, or coming from?”
Over the next hour their conversation touched on careers, family, belief in God, and much more. It was wonderful and exhausting, all starting with a simple question travelers ask each other. She did not mention her one-way ticket to San Jose.
Eventually, Caryssa fell asleep, too drained for further airplane talk. When she awoke, she was startled to find it was two hours later. Her champagne flute appeared on the table, looking as refreshed as she did after a much needed nap.
A news headline was flashing on the inflight entertainment screen. The words were a blur to her. Meaningless words. “Operation Desert Storm”—with its deep moral failures and long-term plan to destroy Middle Eastern nationalism—were worlds away. This flight was taking her to the main headquarters of the much-heralded super-information highway. There, she would help to create a global virtual reality.
She took another sip of the sparkling wine, placing the long-stemmed flute back on the table. The jet was gliding like a swan on an unruffled lake. She chuckled at having been moved to first class on her employer’s request. Life is good!
The aircraft dipped, pitched, and dropped several feet, the champagne flute toppling onto her lap. I’ll never make it! The thought quickly vanished as she remembered this was the norm flying over the Rockies. Nothing could squash her excitement anyway, despite the sensation she wet her pants as the bubbly soaked into her clothes.
As soon as the flight was calm, the attendant gave her a refill, and her excitement increased with the buzz of the bubbly. Another promotion! Her second in the three years she had been with Unabridged Networks.
This particular promotion was more than a step up, it was a job security move. She could still hear the warning in her manager’s voice: “You can either accept the transfer across the country or be part of the layoffs in the reorganization.” His face had contorted into a sneer.
Unabridged Networks was the fastest growing high tech company in America. And it was in a position to become the number one computer networking company in the world. If an employee were willing to be as flexible as possible—perhaps change everything about her current life, go completely out on a limb, give away her first born child—she just might make it to the top.
For Caryssa, it was worth it. She’d do whatever it took to be successful, including play the corporate game. This time she had been moved clear across the chess board—across the continent. An instant promotion to a queen, working closely with the king, among the knights, bishops, and big rooks. And she was sure the game would go on with her moving into ever more strategic positions, checkmate after checkmate.
She sipped and basked in the glow of her promising future. Her career was the essence of who she was becoming. Her identity. And she liked it this way. “This is who I am,” she reflected with deep satisfaction.
The excitement was mixed with trepidation. The job promotion was not what frightened her. What frightened her was the immense change involved. It would lift her out of her comfort zone. It would drop her three thousand miles from home, far from everyone and everything she knew and loved. It would drop her in Silicon Valley—home of the super-wealthy, land of technology toys, where she knew nobody. Techy geeks lurking behind palm trees.
Caryssa was terrified and excited at the same time. It felt like riding a rollercoaster. When two managers from Unabridged Networks in California flew into Boston to scope her out…it was flattering. It was stimulating. It was the scariest thing she had ever embarked on in all her thirty-four years.
Her employer made it all so inviting. A sexy red convertible to use while her car was being shipped to California. Flying her out first class. Big raise. Shipping all her belongings. Throwing in an extra five grand for incidentals. Putting her in a fancy hotel until her furniture and car arrived. All on the corporate coin.
So there she sat in first-class splendor, heading across America. Then, another memory: “We are not getting any younger Caryssa, remember your roots.” Her mom’s words sent a chill through her. She did not even realize tears were spilling from her eyes.
Catherine leaned over and spoke softly. “Is there something you hadn’t shared with me? Did you just lose a loved one, dear? Or did the turbulence scare you?”
Caryssa realized she was visibly trembling. “Oh, neither, I got a job promotion and I’m moving my entire life out West with it.”
Her seatmate looked into Caryssa’s eyes knowingly. She nodded. “Well, that’s sort of like losing many loved ones, isn’t it, dear? That can cause internal turbulence! I know, been there, done that. My company has moved me across the globe a few times. But it works out in the end.”
Encouraged by these words, Caryssa responded to her mother on the inside: I need to do this. It’s my career! And it’s my life! It’s all good! She was climbing the corporate ladder. She was fighting her own personal fight. She was determined to succeed and her reward would be lots and lots of money. She was doing the right thing.
Reassured, Caryssa let her worries drain away. From that moment until they landed in San Jose, whenever the flight attendant brought her something, she took it. Every single salted nut. Every cookie. The throwaway slippers, the dark chocolates, the steaming washcloth. I deserve this. I earned it. And there will be more where this came from.
Her seatmate sensed Caryssa’s new resolve, smiled, and lifted her own flute. “Well, here’s a toast to your promotion and a new adventure!”
As the plane began to descend and the captain came on the intercom with instructions to prepare for landing, the two women in first-class clinked glasses and sipped.
Caryssa fell in love with the festive, foodie culture of the San Francisco Bay Area. Every day her passion for experiencing all things beautiful and pleasing was satisfied in some way.
One of the first things she observed about California was the therapeutic, cleansing, fresh scent of the eucalyptus trees. Silicon Valley culture combined high ambition with mellowness—something she had never encountered.
If she didn’t stay in the office way past five, she would inevitably turn her laptop on at home. She kept her cell phone on at all times in case sales reps called her. Technology was grand! Enabling us to remain perpetually connected to where the coin comes from!
She thrived on this fast-paced energy--- It didn’t take her long to be promoted again, and yet again--- to Senior Marketing Analyst. This was promotion number four within seven years with Unabridged Networks. And the money, prestige, and perks were well worth it.
Six years after moving to California, Caryssa left the big corporate world and tried out a few tech-startups. She moved to the East Bay and married her best friend and love, George.
Caryssa loved high tech despite the moral issues she was discovering as she opened herself to new ways of seeing. It was in her blood, this business of digital revolution. But she longed to incorporate a culture of care rather than a mere culture of coin.
When the third tech startup she worked for failed to get Venture Capital funding the entire marketing department was laid off. She and George traveled to London, South of France, and Paris. They went through Monaco to see Monte Carlo, to Antibes, and to Nice.
While in Paris, they conceived a child. Caryssa had no idea bringing a child into the world in her forties was about to change her life…forever.
But she would soon find out.