My last trip to the local Landmark Center was many months after I had left the ILP and underwent treatment for major depression. I was well on my way to recovery, but I felt I had to do one more thing, if for no other reason than to prove my courage.
There was a new center manager, though many of the old staff were still around. One of them greeted me and said, “Are you still mad at us?”
Really. He actually said that to me. (Fortunately, the center manager later assured me that she told this guy how inappropriate his question was.)
The center manager welcomed me gently into her office. There was nothing fake about her warmth. She was remarkably human, with a great love for Starbucks coffee and a smoking habit that she sometimes got the better of. She was the right person for this conversation.
We talked a bit. She knew a little of my history with Landmark, but I was able to give her a more complete account of what happened from my point of view, especially in those last weeks of the ILP when it was clear I had to leave. And she listened, saying nothing.
“I want my life back,” I said.
I was remembering a time that was more creative, spunky, and simple for me; when I had a passion for life. That was gone. But my life wasn’t taken from me; it was more like I had given it away before I realized that my life was truly mine.
The center manager got this. She shared about a time when she was in hot pursuit of leadership roles in Landmark Education and there was a ton of pressure around her to always give more time, more effort, more energy, more blood-sweat-and-tears to Landmark than any other aspect of life. And it took a toll; she felt it suffocating her life and she got physically ill.
When she woke up to what was going on, she shifted. “From then on, I was going to have life go the way I say…” and with that, it did go that way. If she said she wanted more off-duty time in her life, she simply took it. If she said she needed rest, or a family play-date, she took it. And her ability to have life go the way she said got noticed…as trait of leadership.
Because that’s what it’s all about, really.
It’s not about how much life you can devote to self-transformation, it’s how much self-transformation you can devote to your life.
Finally, I was talking to someone who got it.
So then I dropped the motherload on her:
“I have an unreasonable request to make.” I swallowed. “I want Landmark Education to refund all the money I paid for every program I’ve registered for.”
She was quiet for a moment, looking gently at me. Then she said, “Sure,” and turned toward a file cabinet to grab a bit of paperwork. She didn’t flinch. She was actually going to forward my request.
She asked no further questions of me; just said we’d be in touch in a couple of weeks to see what headquarters had to say. I thanked her for her time and consideration before leaving the center for the last time.
I thought, I hope this girl remains the center manager for a good long time.
A couple of weeks passed and I got the call from her; LE headquarters would only refund my ILP tuition, but it was better than nothing. The check came in the mail, and that was that.
Even if I never see that woman again, I hope she’s still there. Or, at least, that she still has life going the way she says.