Leaving home as the price of growth

Four months ago, I changed agencies. I left Mindshare, and moved twenty blocks north to a different company, Merkle. Circumstances were changing at Mindshare, in a way no-one on my team, or at the agency, could control, and I wasn’t sure there was going to be a place for me when the dust settled. I chose to instead go on to a new adventure, at a new agency, one with a heavier focus on data, on ad tech, an agency who focuses on the kind of direct response marketing I have been doing for my entire professional career.

I hadn’t had any significant contact with my Mindshare team since leaving in August, beyond a few short messages in email or LinkedIn, until Friday. That was when the team held a reunion. We were a fairly tight-knit account team, all 100% assigned to work on the same client, all with a strong team spirit as a result. So when a dozen of us met up at a bar downtown, it was hugs and squeals and happiness all around. Many of my old teammates have been reassigned to new accounts at our old agency; some, like me, took it as an impetus to leave Mindshare and move on for new experiences at other agencies.

I hadn’t realized, until that reunion, how much I missed my old team. I have been so focused on this new job for the past four months, on learning my team, the client, the work, that I hadn’t thought much about the job I’d left behind. But being there, with my people, for almost five hours on a Friday, brought me more joy than I had expected. I missed them so much, for so many reasons, and there they were: the people who made coming to work a joy and a pleasure for almost three years.

Saturday, I woke up, and immediately thought, “I want to go home”. Because I do. I want to be able to go back to my old job. The problem is that my old job, and my team, do not exist anymore. The band has broken up, everyone has moved on. This is why I moved on, too, to an agency where my particular skillset would be of more use, and where I believed I would be able to learn so much more than I could have had I stayed. It isn’t that I rationally want to go back to doing the work I did a year ago, but rather, that I had such an emotional attachment to that job that I am thinking of it as a sort of “home” that I had to leave.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple days, the idea of “leaving home”. And I realized I left so I could continue to grow professionally. I left because I wanted to learn more and do more. I left because I wanted to learn to lead in a different context, and because I wanted to learn to work on different accounts. I left for a dozen perfectly good professional reasons, all of which have been proven as I’ve stretched to fit the new role I’ve taken over.

The reason this resonates so much with me is because it isn’t the first time I’ve left home: I left British Columbia a decade ago and have been writing about how much I miss it ever since. I also knew, at the time, that I needed to leave if I ever wanted to move forward with a real, legitimate career path in the agency world. I knew I needed to move to Los Angeles so I could continue to grow as a person. (It just happened that I also needed to leave so I could find my husband less than two years later, but that’s besides the point). I had to leave Vancouver so I could grow up.

A decade later, I am a grown-up, but I’m still growing as a person. I’m still learning things, both big and small. And this week, what I’ve learned is that throughout life, one creates new new places called “home”. And leaving the place you call “home” is sometimes the price you pay to be able to grow.

So I’ve had the opportunity to grow in the last four months, and for that, I’m grateful. And I can hope that someday, I have another team like the one I had at Mindshare. And in the meantime, I can keep leveraging the opportunity for personal and professional growth, and make myself better at what I do.

EDIT: Hilariously enough, WordPress found a few “related posts” below from nine years ago when I left Tribal/DDB to move over to IMS. Also the decision I had to make at the time to move forward, back when I was a senior associate moving on up to manager. Even though it has literally required therapy to recover from IMS, that job made my career.

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