Some people never have a chance to grab onto real happiness, and far fewer of us ever have a second chance to do things over. How many get a third?
I awaited the phone call for days with great
anticipation. I knew I was a perfect match for the job, but would my potential
employer feel the same way about me? It was a long and emotionally arduous interview
process as I leapt one hurdle after another, passed each “deal-breaker” with ease,
each time the inquiry into my experience, skills, and character growing increasingly complex. I knew – or rather, felt – that I had successfully met management's expectations, yet the
anxiety and excitement that grew in my mind replaced practically every other thought as the days spent waiting seemingly dragged
on. I wanted this job. I wanted
I was at home in my apartment when the call
finally came. It was Dora, the Regional Manager.
“Hello!” I cheerfully answered,
hoping that the long distance number appearing on my cell phone's display bore good tidings.
My congenial tone covered my inner turmoil.
“Yes, may I speak to James please?” It was a woman's voice. This was a
This is Dora with Godiva Chocolatier. Do you have a moment to talk?”
“Good,” she replied, taking a brief
pause. My heart felt as though it was about to burst. “Well, I just wanted to call to offer you the position of Store Manager for our Westroads location
with a starting salary of $29,000 a year plus bonuses.”
Stunned, I met her words with momentary silence. Although I had been certain that the company would hire me – how could they
not want a great guy like me - the reality of it struck me like a wave. A tsunami. I could hardly get the next
words out of my mouth. “I accept!”
It wasn't just the money that made this job
so appealing for me, although it was a huge raise compared to the $8.25 per hour I was earning with my current employer. No, it was more than that. Much more. It was, in fact, the idea of working for one of the premier employers in the
country, a company known not only for its excellent product and treatment of customers but also for its reputation, elite
and exclusive. I was going to be a part of a prestigious organization. I was going to work for Godiva.
Within two weeks, my tumultuous career was underway. I gingerly handled the “official” offer letter with great care, examining
and reexamining its text, hoping that the reality of my new-found path was not an illusion.
The bold font, gold-embossed envelope, and heavy, fine-grade, ivory-colored paper was concrete proof that I was indeed
wanted by something very special. Intoxicated with satisfaction, I felt I had
found all for which I had been looking. I had found joy.
* * *
I am not quite certain when the first crack
of disenchantment appeared in the foundation of my enthusiasm. The experience
of managing my own retail store was overwhelming, and I was plagued by a growing doubt that although this – my career
– was exactly what I wanted, perhaps it was not meant for me. It was quite
a long step to move from a position of rather mundane responsibility to one that required so much more, and, month after month,
our store's performance could best be described as a roller coaster. In fact,
every month's sales alternated from high to low, and that anxiety in sales translated directly into emotional anxiety for
me, regardless of what I did to forestall its onset. Within a matter of months,
I knew that the position of store manager was too good to be true, that remaining with Godiva was just not meant to be. It was as though I had aspired to a level of happiness that was out of my grasp and
may be for a long time. So, I did what any respectable person might do in my
position. I resigned. Walked away
from what I would later realize was the best thing to come into my life in a long
Now, maybe it was chance. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was the one great opportunity
for me that I was meant to have. I can never be certain, but I do know that
within a couple of weeks after leaving Godiva, I learned that my new employer was a fraud.
They had hired me knowing full well that they had just filed for bankruptcy.
When the news first broke, I could not believe
my ears. Oddly, none of us in either the store or the company at large seemed
to know what was going on until several customers began calling, inquiring as to whether or not their product's warranty would
still be valid after our company “went out of business.” The frequent
calls and the number of customers coming into the store with similar concerns grew by the hour, and it was then that I logged
onto the internet to read the dismal news: NordicTrak had indeed filed bankruptcy
and would be closing nearly every one of their retail locations nationwide. I
would soon be out of a job.
I felt dismayed, confused, and betrayed. How could this be happening? I had
just begun a new – if considerably less satisfying – career path, and now my future was less certain. Within minutes, it dawned on me that I had somehow made a terrible mistake in judgment, a marked miscalculation
in discarding a chance for lasting career happiness with a wonderful company – all for nothing. I felt tremendous regret. Moreover, I had betrayed my own
heart in not sticking to what I knew to be right for me.
Yet, unwilling to return to that which I had
left so unceremoniously, I began to look around for other jobs, other opportunities.
The market was dismal. Everywhere I turned, I could not help but judge
each potential new employer through the lens of Godiva. Every store fell short
of my desire. Every company paled in comparison to what I had in my grasp and
what I had let go.
Days later, I found myself passing through the
mall when something akin to an omen – a message from some higher power – suddenly appeared before my eyes: the
black and gold Godiva Chocolatier sign above my old store. It was then that
I knew what I had to do. I wanted back in its life. I needed it.
Swallowing my pride, I held my breath and turned
to enter the store, wondering what the ensuing reception would be. Would they
greet me? Would they reject me? Or,
worse yet, would they simply act complacent, appearing ambivalent, neither particularly enthused nor particularly upset to
see me? My heart was filled with trepidation.
What was to follow exceeded even my greatest hope. They took me back.
* * *
In the time that followed, I have never had
an experience either before or after that quite fulfilled me like that with Godiva.
Awards followed accolades as the success and fulfillment grew. I
felt connected, wanted, desired. It was all I had ever imagined it to be and
more. Still, as I have once been reminded, nothing seems to be constant but
change, and change eventually came. Charles Dickens wrote in his famous novel
A Tale of Two Cities that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” And indeed, Godiva stands as an emblem for such dichotomy in my life.
When the first significant issue arose, I wasn't
quite sure how to handle it. I was scared, apprehensive, leery of what my future
with this company would be. I suddenly found myself on unsure footing, and in
my inability – and, ultimately, my unwillingness – to confront the problem directly, face-to-face with the person
involved, I chose again to walk away while there was still time. I walked away
before my involvement and emotional investment with Godiva became so dear that I would be vulnerable to being hurt, regardless
of whether or not my fears were valid, of whether or not I would have been betrayed by the company.
For a second time, I resigned.
To this day, my attempts to regain my old relationship
with my former employer fall upon deaf ears. Like the fabled prodigal son, I
was once accepted back into the arms of the company I dearly loved. Second chances
were real. But having departed a second time simply because things became too
complicated for me to deal with, there is no third chance. There is no going
back. And, though I deeply regret having walked away from the best job that
ever came into my life, I know that I am not the only one who will live with similar regret for having given up – having
walked out – on the best thing that ever entered their life, too.