|Erin Callan climbed to the highest echelons of Wall Street, serving as chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers at just 41 years of age. She smashed through the glass ceiling as her brains, her personality and her good looks fueled a superstar career.
But that life came crashing down in 2008, when she resigned weeks before Lehman declared bankruptcy. She spent a few months working at Credit Suisse (CS), Fortune reports, but then just seemed to vanish.
But this month, Callan published a moving essay in The New York Times explaining just what happened to her, and how her intense focus on work ruined so much of her personal life.
She didn't start out as a slave to work, she writes. "It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal." She started doing a little email organizing on Sundays. That turned into a few hours on Sundays, and eventually all day.
She never had children -- perhaps because there was just no time. Her marriage ended. Work was her top priority above anything and anyone else.
"I did have relationships -- a spouse, friends and family -- and none of them got the best version of me," she wrote. "They got what was left over."
Now, at age 47, Callan has finally found the rest of her life. She remarried, and has tried for years to have a child with her husband through in vitro fertilization.
She said she would never wish her grueling, unbalanced approach to her career on anyone.
"I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short," she writes. "I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didnít have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor."
Her life story is a great lesson. Do we have to jump on email as soon as we wake up? Do we need to eat lunch at the desk? Callan said she was even flying to meetings in Europe on her birthday.
The financial crisis was exactly the wakeup Callan needed to discover what was missing in her life. Without that crisis, she writes, she might never have stepped off the gas pedal. "Perhaps I needed what felt at the time like some of the worst experiences in my life to come to a place where I could be grateful for the life I had," she said. "I had to learn to begin to appreciate what was left."