Gwen told me she keeps her seat belt fastened tight these days as she explained how she has gone from giddy heights to holding onto life by her fingernails.
For years, she was on the ascent. She established a reputation in the world of print advertising as someone who could balance a creative perspective with an understanding of technology and process, preserving the vision while cutting costs. She was in demand. Leo Burnett brought Gwen in to help with a major account, she worked on New York City’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and she managed print campaigns for companies as diverse as Tiffany’s, Terex and Target.
Life couldn’t be better. Her work was fulfilling, and she enjoyed the lifestyle it provided. Most importantly, Gwen deeply loved her two children and was unabashedly proud of them.
She never saw it coming. Seven years ago Gwen’s teenage son, Morgan, whom she described as larger than life, tragically passed. She was deeply touched by the bewildered reactions of his schoolmates and resolved to help them heal by remaining a visible presence in their lives.
And she worked. Her work has always given Gwen a sense of purpose, and it was never more important. No wonder it felt like the rug was being pulled out from under her when the companies she worked for over the next few years began to fall apart.
Three years after Morgan’s passing, Gwen found herself unemployed for the first time since she started working at the age of 12. Her company’s mass downsizing was closely followed by its demise. Then two more jobs came and went with companies downsizing because of economic pressures. The last ended after only four months. That was one year ago.
Gwen is passionate about her desire to contribute creatively. She knows the advertising industry and its workflow and technical processes and has demonstrated her ability to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Her professional network is strong and actively supportive. In spite of these credentials and champions, she is still looking for her next job.
As Gwen continues her search, she is intentional in seeking purpose in her life outside of career. She knows it is not related to possessions. She is convinced that honest relationships and caring for each other at the community level are critical to a world without anger and is committed to influencing that change. She spends more time on her spirituality, stays active physically, and she seeks out things that enrich her—friendships, art, classes, reading, learning.
But as always, she finds her greatest sense of purpose and joy in her role as Mom. She adores her daughter and spends as much time as possible pampering and supporting her and relishing her transition into adulthood.
“We are all magical,” Gwen told me as she explained her outlook. “There’s always something to learn: listen, be mindful, and you can choose to be happy. It’s a choice.” She embraces life with wisdom, courage, and grace. She brings a vibrant energy into a room, and she is still a person who makes things happen.
Gwen feels she is “on the brink of soaring,” and I believe it. Because she is resilient and smart and focused. And she still believes in magic.