Across America many individuals want to quit their job and start over, yet few do. Benjamin Mee becomes the exception when he buys a zoo. Undeniably it is an act of bravery, but it is also because he is desperate. For the past six months he and his two children have been grieving the death of his wife, Katherine. While his seven-year-old daughter seems to be coping, his son is not. He is suspended from school for stealing and draws very dark art.
In Benjamin’s mind, buying a zoo offers a way to escape the constant reminders of his wife and end the pain of his grief. As he later realizes, however, he can never get away from it. Although Benjamin’s mourning is personal, the same is true for professional grief. Maybe you weren’t accepted into the first graduate program of your choice or you were suspended from your chosen academic major after you failed to maintain a required grade-point-average. Perhaps you didn’t get an anticipated promotion or lost your job. Whatever it is, it hurts deeply when our dreams become disappointments.
Grief is a process, not an event. While I’d like to say that you can simply dust yourself off, it often is more difficult and painful. Whether we like it or not, our careers are a part of our identity and often provide a sense of purpose for us. Over time, your self-esteem may take a beating. You might question your qualifications for specific positions or find it difficult to describe yourself with confidence during an interview. Your friends and family may not respond the way you hoped, causing you to feel alone. That is grief, messy and complicated. You can’t run from it. Your story and all that it involves – your triumphs, failures and misgivings – will always be a part of you. No matter where you go, your story remains.
Like Benjamin, you must face your pain and pursue a new adventure with boldness. Take some time to remember. Think about an award you received. Read the positive comments in your annual review. Celebrate a personal achievement. Find the special letter that a mentor or customer sent you. Speak with someone who can remind you of your accomplishments. Discover what you have forgotten and remind yourself that your worth as a professional is not defined by one event.
And, like Benjamin, you will probably find that it only takes 20 seconds of courage to start over. Enroll in that college class you’ve always aspired to take. Submit your resume for the leadership position you always considered. Start your own business. Reduce your hours to part-time so you can stay at home with the kids. Introduce yourself to other professionals that you come across on the street or at the coffee shop. Regardless of how trivial it might seem, do it. Why? The answer that the film provides is a simple, but profound one: Why not?