Yesterday, I made my exit from corporate America to dive into the abyss of the unknown. I left the familiarity, the stability, the structure, and the predictability of corporate life for the chance to have something remarkable. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision for me. I could no longer continue to partake in the daily grind, mindlessly moving through the motions in a job that was not authentic to me. It was time to cut the cord, to pull the trigger, and pursue my passion which is writing.
The Traditional Path is not for Everyone
Go to school, get a job, go to work, and retire. These are the steps that most of us cycle through, the steps that are shown to us by society as the righteous path. I followed this traditional life path after graduating college. I took a job offer at a company that wanted me and moved to the big city to work alongside other adults like a big girl. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I signed the lease to my new apartment in the city, bought new pencil skirts and dresses, and navigated my way through the new urban country using my GPS. I started that job with the highest hopes that this would be the big gig where I would be a baller raking in the dough.
I couldn’t have been more opposite than a baller at that job; in fact, I was like the biggest sales noob in the office. Cold call after cold call I was snubbed, declined, denied, and hung up on. That is the nature of the sales game; one must be ferociously persistent and relentless in order to succeed. But it’s also discouraging and disheartening, and after failing again and again my confidence was shot. I was rejected so many times that I was beginning to feel like I was trying to sell these people straight up dog s*** instead of an actual service. Happy go lucky me, was not so happy go lucky in sales. The stress, the frustration, and the anxiety posed to be all too much for this 22 year old fresh out of college. So I quit, thinking I could sweep up another job no problem, and waited tables until I found one.
In reality it took a while, in fact it took me 5 long months to get another corporate job. And while I knew the job wasn’t in my then-ideal field of marketing, I was pining to get back on the 8-5 schedule. So, I took the opportunity and re-joined my peers in the corporate work force to give it another try. The job was customer service. I didn’t realize at the time, but customer service is also a very difficult job on the psyche. Stakes are high, things go wrong, and customers need to unleash their frustrations on someone. Unfortunately, most of the time their target tends to be the people who are servicing the customers. I was yelled at, belittled, and even cussed out on several different occasions. It became too difficult to handle as the stress began to take a toll on my body. Stress and negativity affects people in different ways; but for me, angry phone calls were a trigger for panic attacks. I was very lucky to move to another department, where I finally found relief because I was no longer in a customer-facing role.
My next job was without a doubt a better fit for me than the previous two jobs. Being on a non-customer-facing support team, the only stress that emerged from the position was when there was a high volume of work (which arguably exists in any job). While it was comfortable and easy, I didn’t enjoy the work.
Some people argue that work is work and regardless of the job, it will always be cumbersome and unpleasant. But I choose to believe that there is a perfect job for each individual. A job where one can thrive cognitively and grow professionally, feel fulfilled and rewarded, yet also kick back and have some damn fun. I knew this job wasn’t that for me and as time went on, I began to feel more and more restless. Existential anxiety kicked in and I pondered to myself, is this what life is?? Clicking and pasting, mindlessly moving through the motions? I felt suffocated and my heart filled with dread whenever I deliberated over the meaning of my life. That job could very well be a dream job for somebody out there. But that person wasn’t me, and the longer I stayed in it, the more it was tearing down my spirit.
Listen to That Voice
I knew I wanted to write. I started this blog nine months ago and it is hands down the best action I have ever taken for my career. No, I haven’t become rich from it (yet). No, I haven’t become “discovered” from it (yet). And no, I haven’t gotten a job from it (yet). (You have to give me props for my optimism). So while on the surface it doesn’t appear to have brought me any gains, it has. The blog required me to write, which helped me realize that writing is what I love to do. What started just as a hobby, has now gained enough momentum for me to pursue a career. I don’t want to be in a job that I know isn’t me. I would rather be broke, wait tables, and go after what is authentic to me. And while I can assure you, I put in some mighty admirable efforts trying to make it happen the “traditional way” through another corporate job—it just wasn’t happening. Being the idealist that I am, I took that as a sign that it is time to take a break from corporate America for a while.
Sometimes you have to listen to that little voice, and follow your heart. People will not always agree with you, and there will be critics that’ll throw their unwanted opinions your way. But as long as you feel in your soul that you are doing what is best for you, the rest is irrelevant. If this was a movie or a story, it would be undeniably clear that I am making the right decision. But this isn’t a Hallmark movie or a fairytale book, this is real life. I don’t know with certainty that there will be a happy ending at the end of this chapter. It took me many months to muster up the courage to take this leap into the unknown, choosing the road less traveled as Robert Frost put it. And while I’m not sure where this journey will take me, I am incredibly excited to find out.