This is Part 1 of a six-part blog series entitled From Corporate to Community - A Tale of Two Realities

It was September 2016. I sat at my cubicle, staring at my computer, the cursor blinking back at me. I woke up that morning, in complete dread of my routine: the commute, a hundred unread emails and looming deadlines.

After fifteen years, my heart wasn’t in it any more. The ambition for climbing the corporate ladder had diminished many years ago when our small family-like business was acquired by a conglomerate organization. I was a small fish in a big pond, suddenly bobbing up for air.

We were now directly reporting to Corporate.

Everything had changed. My job, managers, team and even the place where I used to sit for over six years. Back then, I had a window, even though it faced another concrete building. After the sun went down and I was working late, I looked through my reflection, straining to see if someone like me, was slowly burning out in the Corporate rat race to the top.

I went home every night, utterly exhausted, scarfing down a fast food meal I’d pick up on the way home, only to open up my laptop again and burn the midnight oil. And then to start all over again the next day, without reprieve.

I looked up that proverbial ladder and realized the further I stepped up, the more I felt suffocated, like climbing a mountain where the air got thinner the higher you climbed. Politics, bureaucracy, gossip. Sure. It existed everywhere. The culture became one that when you reached one accolade, the bar was raised higher and higher, with no recognition to the work and hours I was putting in.

Was this my lot in life?

I fell into the business world by accident. Married young, with three small children and armed with a degree in English literature, I entered the job market without a clue of a career or ambition. All I knew was that I wanted to write. My marketing positions afforded me the opportunity to write business content. But this was not my passion.

In high school, I wrote creative stories in my leisure time, culminating into the decision of switching majors from Sociology to English in University. The seed was planted then – to somehow help people. I kind of knew the ‘why’ …but not the ‘how.’

A few years back, I was encouraged by my manager to start blogging personal stories which helped unleash my creative side, amidst writing content for my company. My blog posts morphed into long chapters and then, upon advice from my followers, I started writing my first fiction novel. That’s another story in itself.

Fast forward to January 2017. After coming back from a business trip in Asia, I remember our plane sitting on the tarmac in Hong Kong, watching the ground workers load our luggage while there was a downpour. As I sat in my window seat watching, my own tears competed with the rain as I contemplated my work life when I went back home to Toronto.

Upon my return and after two weeks, I was spiraling. I fell off the corporate mountain and nose-dived into an abyss of the unknown. I took a leave of absence that was riddled with angst, deep dissatisfaction and anxiety.

I would spend the next two years in complete mental anguish, trying to find – me. I began to write daily in my journal which proved to be a cathartic method of releasing years of pent up stress. I lost track of my identity, what my purpose in life was and how I would find my way back up the mountain.

But this time, it needed to be a mountain of my own making.

I woke up one morning and the memory of sitting at my cubicle, with the cursor blinking on my computer gnawed away at me. And then I had an epiphany. The cursor was in fact ‘winking’ at me. It was the clichéd example of writer’s block. Where an author would sit in front of blank screen or white piece of paper, pen in hand, waiting to write the story of their life and not knowing where to start.

It was then I realized that I could become the creator of my own story. A new life. One where I found purpose. Meaning. Who was I servicing up until now? In a moment of true unhappiness, I understood why I started my blog.

To share a story, a message that could resonate with my audience and perhaps, help one person.

When I fell off the corporate mountain, a community of people banded together to help pick me up. After years of servicing shareholders, I wanted to give back to the community that held me and my family together for so many years. But how could I get to this point?

I chose not to return to work after my leave and effectively pushed myself off the cliff, instead of falling from it. And this is when I began to soar to a new mountain and magnificent heights.

It was a mountain that was built, hand-in-hand, with the community.

Finally, I found my calling where I could use my words to empower those who have no voice. To help lift them up by ensuring they have access to basic human needs: shelter, food, medicine and most of all – love and support.

That’s when I decided to leave Corporate for Community …to experience a new reality. To unearth what was buried deep, those turned away with a blind eye. To bring their struggles to the surface, in plain sight.

It’s easy to leave them behind in our own worldly pursuits.

The homeless. The mentally ill. The forgotten ones.

My next blog talks about how I gazed from the peak of this new mountain,

#housing #mentalhealth #supportiveliving #transformation


Written by Shama Chaudhry, Director of Communications,

You can access the audio version of this blog here.