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An Allegory

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           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 it badly.

            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 good sign.

            “Speaking.”

            “Hi, Jim.  This is Dora with Godiva Chocolatier.  Do you have a moment to talk?”

            “Yes!”

            “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 time. 

            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. 

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