If you read the Welcome post, then you know that I left a job at the end of last year…and I want to explain a bit! Making that change is what gave me the push to start this blog, so it feels really relevant. It’s going to be a long post, but its information I want to put out there. Bear with me! So, the reason that this is a big deal is because I didn’t have a new, full time, benefit-paying job lined up to replace the job I left. There are a few reasons I did this, and they are all part of my biggest revelation to date.
Keep reading to find out more about this revelation and how you can apply it to your own life if you so choose!
It really begins with the fact that I have always been super-fascinated by life – by the mere fact that we are here, existing on this planet, floating in a galaxy within a universe and system that is vast and seemingly never ending. Have you ever really taken a second to think about how CRAZY that is?! It makes my head spin. But it also makes me so grateful and appreciative of life and the opportunity to be here and participate in it. This state of mind is also what led me to become very careful about the “big” decisions I made as a young person. Here’s why: My decision-making process began with the idea that since our mere existence is so remarkable, we should be careful not to squander the opportunity we have here. That thought might make you roll your eyes, it might inspire you, or it may send you into a confused paralysis, where the weight of the responsibility you have to make your time here worth it makes you second-guess every move. “Could I be doing something better?” “I better do x,y,z before it’s too late!” For me, my reaction to this idea was a mixture of inspiration and paralysis. And this framed a lot of my decisions – sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways.
– It caused me to choose a good (but very expensive), private university with a great career placement record
– It caused me to choose a college major that seemed to be the safest and that would give me the best chances of landing a job (Interested in psychology? Oh, how cute. How about going with job-landing marketing as a major instead?)
– It caused me to then take the job that offered the highest salary with a well-known, Fortune 100 company when I graduated, even though I was uninspired by it
– Then, a few years later, I decided to switch companies to an even more well-known Fortune 100 organization with an even better salary, although I was working in the exact same role as the one I was unhappy in at my previous company. (But it paid well, so I should have been fine! Right?)
These probably sound like pretty okay decisions. Here’s my point: I made a lot of decisions that were externally smart-sounding, safe and stable at the time. These decisions looked good on paper. All of these were by no means BAD decisions. They were smart; they were what I thought I “should” have been doing, and really I don’t regret a single decision, as I learned valuable things as a result of all of them, and made some amazing friends along the way (HEYYY, guys!). However, I now know some of these weren’t the best choices for me. As I was making these decisions, I wasn’t listening to what I really wanted. I wasn’t paying attention to what I liked or didn’t like. I was just doing things I thought I should do, and the external world nodded along with me. Practicality won for a little while! Cool!
HOWEVER, as I began to make more life and career decisions rooted in practicality and stability rather than what my inner voice was telling me, I also began to counter-act them by compartmentalizing my life more and more. I drew a harsh separation between my work life and my personal life, and I thought that was normal to do. I was actually very purposeful and deliberate about keeping my two lives separated, and any time they crossed over, it made me uncomfortable. For example, I hated if I had to attend a work dinner, because it meant that my work life was seeping into the time I wanted to protect as my personal life. I was irritated and uneasy if I had to travel for work for the same reasons – it disrupted my careful separation of work and life. Why did I feel the need to keep things so detached? The bottom line was: I didn’t see any intrinsic value in the career I had chosen. It didn’t do anything for me besides pay my bills. It didn’t feed any of my other needs. Furthermore, I didn’t feel it did anything to better the world. How could I live a life rooted in respect and awe of the miracle that we are even here, if I didn’t feel that my work – what I did 40+ hours each week – was in line with that? So, I wanted to keep work as small as possible, because it didn’t add to what I felt mattered in my life. It was confusing for me, though, because everyone who learned about what I did for work thought it sounded great, but I never felt like it was. It was hard to explain and I didn’t feel like I had a right to be unhappy about a job that gave me a good salary, nice benefits and was stable. So, I pushed the feelings aside and sort of assumed that this was just how life worked. I assumed that everyone hated their job; I thought it was the way life was, and you had to just deal with it.
After more than seven years of living this way, my inner voice started really screaming at me to make a change. In other words: I began to really fall apart. Even after I made a switch to join a different company (although, in the same exact role) that I felt I believed in and identified with more than my previous company, I still couldn’t connect to what I was doing. It started to affect my life in ways I wasn’t okay with. I felt out of control. When I’d come home from work and my family or friends would ask me how my day was, I’d respond that I didn’t want to talk about it, or I’d just start crying about how much I hated it. I just wanted to push the day away and pretend it didn’t happen – no matter if the day was “good” or “bad” – I didn’t want to even think about my work. I wanted to have my compartmentalized personal time, unmarred by any thoughts of the career I had chosen. However, negative feelings like that are unfortunately not ones we can bury for too long. (Life is so FUN like that!) The anxiety would come bubbling over any time there was another stress in my day or night. My level of unease was so consistently at 99.9%, any little thing to add .2% of pressure onto it, threw me over the edge. That’s how it happens, I guess! It’s all relative. It got so intense, that the family and friends who, in the beginning, would tell me “just stick it out” in my job, started to agree with me that it might be best for me to resign & regroup. I felt that I had made a huge mistake in even starting out in this career, but I had no idea how to begin to fix it.
You might be wondering why I decided to leave before I found a new, full time gig. Why didn’t I just find another job while I was still employed? This is sort of where the plot thickens. The answer is – I tried to. I had been applying for other positions for a few months, without anything sticking. I even went on multiple interviews at a couple of companies, but they didn’t pan out, and I knew they weren’t the right fit, but I went on the interviews because I just wanted an out. After months of this, I realized that I likely wasn’t having success finding a new job because I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what kind of new job to look for, and so my applications were haphazard and arbitrary, just hoping if I threw enough spaghetti on the wall, some would stick. But, none did. So, in October, with the support of my amazing family and friends, I officially made the decision to resign. I view it as taking one step back in order to be able to take a big, deliberate and purposeful next step forward. I decided to give myself three solid months to learn more about myself. I began to work with a wonderful spiritual life coach to guide me through this change, and these months have been some of the calmest and happiest I’ve had in years. I don’t yet know what my next step career-wise will be, but I have a much better grasp on what I want, and I know that what I decide to pursue next will be the right thing for me.
The revelation to apply here is that, in life, it is important to strive to know ourselves to the best of our ability, and always look inward to continually know more, get better and – here’s the important part – adjust accordingly. We need to know ourselves first, so we can adjust when needed. This is the only way we can make decisions and live a life that’s aligned with who we are and what we believe internally. I didn’t know myself, so the decisions I made were based on what I viewed as the external world projecting on me to be the right decisions. You can’t live a happy life that way. You can’t find fulfilling work that way. I believe it is important for all of us to strive to find and do work that we find intrinsic value in. The beautiful thing is: we all find value in a vast array of different things! There are plenty of people in the line of work I was in that love it and thrive in it, and that’s awesome for them. It just wasn’t for me! And that’s okay. I should be clear: by no means am I recommending that anyone leave a job before they have a new one, but it’s what was right for me. I believe that if I had listened to myself and made adjustments little by little over time, I wouldn’t have had to make such a drastic move now.
Here’s the boiled down version: Life is all an experiment! So, relax, enjoy yourself and work on figuring out what will make you happy, instead of what you think is supposed to make you happy.
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