The Job Offer That Saved My Life

I thought the cure to my stress was in California. So why was I called to St. Louis?

by - Posted on Mar 26, 2017

The Job Offer That Saved My Life

I was deep into a recurring fantasy—me, basking on a beach in southern California. Tan, relaxed, happy. Not a care in the world. I’d give up my five-coffees-a-day habit for strawberry smoothies. Replace my boring gray business suits and sensible heels for cutoffs and flip-flops. I’d still be a patent lawyer, but I’d work in-house for some nice company with flexible hours and a generous vacation policy. My family would be far away. But sunshine was the only support system I’d need. Ah, yes, I could almost hear the pounding of the surf and—

Sirens wailing outside my office jolted me back to reality. I sat up straight. There was little time for daydreaming at the law firm where I worked in Kansas City, Missouri. Billable hours were king. My days were a blur of client meetings, paperwork and coffee for lunch. I was 37, but lately it felt like 97. I was always tired, a classic case of “lawyer stress,” my doctor said. I was determined to move to San Diego, where I’d lived for a spell after law school. The West Coast was the perfect antidote for what was ailing me.

Right now, though, the annoying blinking light on my desk phone demanded that I check my voice mail.

“Hi, Holly,” the message said. “I’m a recruiter and I came across your résumé.” Résumé? I hadn’t updated my CV in four years, not since I joined the firm. “I’m calling about a job I think you’d be absolutely perfect for,” the recruiter continued. “Patent law, in-house, Fortune 500 company . . .”

My heart beat faster. Who knew that I wanted a new job? Lord, was this California calling?

“Call me back ASAP! They’d like to interview you next week. The job’s in St. Louis.”

St. Louis? No, no, and no thank you. I’d grown up in St. Louis. My dad was a doctor there, my mom was a nurse. Whenever I went back home, Mom hassled me about my health. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” she’d ask. If I lived there, my parents would want to take care of me. I didn’t need taking care of. I needed the beach! St. Louis was the wrong direction.

I was about to delete the voice mail when my cell phone rang. “Hello?”

It was Veo, my former boss and mentor—from St. Louis. I hadn’t talked to him in ages. “Think you can get yourself to St. Louis next week?” he asked. “I’ve got an extra ticket to Game Four of the World Series, and I thought of you.”

What was with all the phone calls from St. Louis? I had no idea why Veo picked me, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I accepted the invitation. “I just got another call from St. Louis,” I told him. I recapped the recruiter’s message. “Isn’t that funny?”

Veo didn’t think so. “Do the interview,” he said. “You have nothing to lose—you’ll be in St. Louis anyway!”

He did have a point. My interview skills were rusty and I’d need to be prepared to land my dream job in California. Good thing I hadn’t deleted the voice mail.

The day after the game, I headed for the interview. The whole company seemed eager to bring me on board. I could actually picture myself there. If only everyone was wearing beach hats and passing around the sunscreen. God, why is it in St. Louis?

On my way out of the city, I got a call from the recruiter. I’d gotten the job. Something was just plain strange about all of this. It was happening so quickly, so smoothly. Like I was being pulled to St. Louis.

My mother was Irish Catholic, my dad Iranian Muslim. Both stressed one thing—listen to your intuition, even when it doesn’t make sense. This definitely didn’t make any sense. But maybe California could wait.

I moved to St. Louis just in time for Christmas. I loved my new job and I got to see my family. There was no escaping them now that I lived so close. Just like I thought she would, my mom badgered me about my health. Finally I made a doctor’s appointment and underwent some tests. Three days later, I got the news—I had a heart defect and needed open-heart surgery, immediately. Staying at my old job a moment longer might actually have killed me.

It was a long road to recovery. But I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to take care of myself or get to physical therapy. My family was by my side. I still have California dreams, but for right now, I’m exactly where I need to be.

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