Death, Birth and Arthur Andersen

10 years ago this month, Arthur Andersen, then my employer, died in vain. Three years later, the indictment that killed it was overturned. You can’t reverse a death sentence.On my last day, April 4, 2002, my dad called to congratulate me on receiving a promotion. I was confused (and pretty irritated, actually). “What promotion?” I asked. “To motherhood!” I was 9 months pregnant with my first child. I knew he meant well, but it took more than half of this decade to truly own that he was right.

The famous Andersen doors, now closed.

I placed much of my value on my earning power. I judged the success of my days by the checks on my to-do lists. I spent too much time daydreaming about the accomplishments of my days in business casual attire.

Had the cavalier shredders not done their evil deeds, I’ve often wondered how long I would have waited to do the entrepreneurial things I dreamed about in my air conditioned, coffee-and-yellow-banana-providing, impeccably technically supported, ergonomically-equipped cage at Andersen.

Would I have begun one-on-one coaching full-time, written a book on habits, and a children’s story or two or made a video of myself speaking to a group if I had stayed after the birth of my first child? Would I have had a second? Would they have let me telecommute more than two days a week? Would my daughter have been reading at age 3? Would she have called someone else, “mommy”? Would I live on a tree farm today? Would we live in the burbs or, Lord forbid, own a minivan?

But mostly I wonder… would I be as grateful for what I have?

As much as I lament AA’s death, I am grateful for being pushed from a comfortable cliff and being forced to bounce and roll, while reaching and clutching for something solid to hold tight. The view from halfway down the cliff wasn’t bad and the climb back up from the bottom gave me skills and insights and confidence that the cage may never have provided. No matter how great it felt to walk down the hallway in grown-up clothes and know that my check would be greater each year, I’m sure, in retrospect, that I would not be as grateful or fulfilled as I am today.

I’m grateful to have seen and recorded my kids’ milestones. I can tell them the stories first hand and in vast, personal detail.

I’m grateful for being able to weed my flowerbeds without yanking the good stuff, to know how long it takes to thoroughly clean my own house and to be able to neatly fold a fitted sheet even in a stiff breeze while taking it from the line. I appreciate the job of others when, on occasion, I’m fortunate enough to choose to have help.

I’m grateful for my gift of thrift and turnip-squeezing. Making it isn’t the largest part of the battle. Stretching it takes real talent. I still shop at Aldi and buy a great deal of our wardrobes at Goodies. I’m grateful for the thrill of good value.

I’m grateful for lunch with my husband several times a week in our own kitchen or helping him drive a Bobcat out of a field.

I’m grateful for attending the 2:00pm pre-lims for 2nd grade forensics, performances of Johnny Appleseed, and popping in unannounced to be the star grown-up in the lunchroom. No one can compensate the feeling that follows the words, “Mommy, you came! I’m so glad you’re here.”

I’m still grateful for the ground laid by Arthur. His integrity, “Think straight. Talk straight” philosophy, and the priority he placed on continuously and deliberately educating his people are all values I refused to leave in the empty metal drawer when I said goodbye and waddled out.

Today, I’ve found opportunities that wouldn’t have been likely without having been part of that organization and the great people who made it so. I’m grateful for not losing sight of what the death of it also gave me so that I may keep my new opportunities in perspective.

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