I’m currently sitting in my office for the morning – a local coffee shop, where I’ve claimed a small table and spread my iced latte and ultra-fine-point Sharpie pens and textbook on. I debated writing about my most recent life change because most of the I-quit-my-job-and-never-looked-back-and-am-living-my-dream-life articles I read are from exactly that perfect, ideal perspective. The author reflects back on a moment where they stood up for their self worth and look-how-well-it-turned-out-for-me!
Well, this isn’t exactly one of those. A mere twenty days ago was my last day with a finance firm. A company that, just eight months ago, I was excited to start working with, because I wanted to grow and learn and be that finance professional. Six months after starting, I was offered a promotion at my semi-annual review. I cried on my commute home. I drank 3 glasses of wine while sweating out my dread in a lavender bath. I took anxiety medication to help shut my brain up, because I wanted to sleep and it was frantically heaving “ohmigod your life is overrrrr.” The next day, I counted down the minutes until 5:30pm, walked into the President of the company’s office, thanked him for the opportunity, and told him this would be my notice. Definitely not what anyone expected.
I didn’t have another job offer. I didn’t receive a bad review. I didn’t have a trust fund or an interitence cash out. In June I was given an opportunity to work on a side project with the university where I got my grad degree, and had been eagerly trying to fit in smidges of work in evenings and on weekends. I loved the project, but with my strict office schedule, could hardly find more than a couple of hours a week. I was serving as the President of a housing corporation for a sorority at the local university. And I had just accepted another volunteer position with the sorority’s headquarters, where I’d be coordinating educational programs for sorority chapters across three states. The prospect of a promotion meant that none of those “extra” parts of my life would be possible if I still intended on sleeping and also sometimes occasionally being social. Considering one of the major reasons I even moved back to Florida earlier this year was to be around friends and family, that seemed incredible contradictory. I knew I had to choose between making this career my life, or making my life my career.
Those inspiring articles can make this choice look freeing, liberating, and like a no brainer… and it can certainly seem that way looking back from your CEO-of-your-own-new-niche-company-working-with-the-love-of-your-life view. Those articles don’t always tell you that your friends will say you’re crazy, your family won’t understand, and you will avoid calling your dad because he thought you were kidding when you told him you quit your job and you’re just going to let him think that until you can counter back with “making it big.” You will be able to make money and support yourself, but you need to manage your own time, and figure out what you want to devote your hours to. You will go through a period where your last paycheck from your company came through and you’re waiting on your “passion” to pay out and your check engine light went on in your car and your boyfriend wants to take a spontaneous trip to Chicago to go see Hamlet next week and dammit now that you have the time to work from anywhere, you can’t justify being fiscally irresponsible until you’ve “got it figured out.”
But what those stories get at, and what I will stand by, is that there will come a point in your life where you realize you have to choose between living a life someone else wants, or forging your own life the way you want. It’s not easy. It’s not glamorous. But even from the view of the coffee shop, with lots of uncertainty to come, it’s the best choice I’ve ever made in my entire life. If you’re not going after what you want, who’s want are you going after instead?