I figured that given that I like to label my blog as a ‘life blog’, I should record the most important thing to happen in my life this year. I mean, really, it’s not all that difficult to take that title given that not much has happened this year thanks to Corona, but it’s still what you might call a big life decision – the decision to leave my job.
I know what you’re thinking!
But hear me out.
I’ve worked in my organisation for almost 8 years, it’s been pretty much my entire adult working life. I’ve worked in various roles, with the last 5 and a half years spent in the field of study abroad. I’ve made so many friendships, connections and had such amazing experiences over the years, and I have genuinely enjoyed it for the most part. I’m thankful for the experiences working there has given me and I’ll fondly look back on this chapter of my life.
So why the hell would I be giving it up?!
To say I no longer enjoy my job would be the understatement of the millennium. I have been trying to cope with my dissatisfaction for some years now, trying my best to get by and living for the weekend. But the truth is that I spend most (most being 99%) of my time at work feeling desperately unhappy. I’ve been telling myself for years that it’s fine to feel miserable, because nobody enjoys their job and I am fortunate to have an income. I’ve been reminding myself that people get a job and spend their lives doing it, it doesn’t matter whether they’re happy or not because it’s about making a living. I’ve been in a never-ending cycle of trying to stamp down my emotions by telling myself an endless concoction of the below statements, as though on some sort of pacification treadmill:
- You’re lucky to be in a job.
- Stable jobs are hard to come by.
- Nobody enjoys their job.
- You’re earning a good salary.
- You’re lucky to be in a job!
- Is it really that bad?
- You don’t quit when the going gets tough.
- What’s so bad about it?
- You’re lucky to be in a job!!
- I’m sure you’re just having a bad time.
- Can’t you just get over it?
- Why do you always need more?
- You’re lucky to be in a job!!!
- There’s no such thing as being happy in a job.
- You can’t quit a job, you’ve never quit anything in your life.
- It’ll get better.
- Sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with it.
- YOU’RE LUCKY TO BE IN A JOB!!!!!
And more recently:
- Everybody feels unsettled during Coronavirus.
- You must be very privileged if you can quit a full-time job during these times.
- You can’t leave a job when the economy is the way it is.
- You deserve to struggle if you’re dumb enough to quit a job during these times.
- Do I need to say it again?! YOU ARE LUCKY TO BE IN A JOB.
So why am I doing it?
By constantly telling myself how lucky I am to have a job and how grateful I should be, I have been minimizing my mental wellbeing and general health. By chastising myself for being miserable and telling myself I don’t have anything to be miserable about, I’ve been pushing myself further into a deep hole that has felt impossible to climb back out of. I preach about kindness and being kind to others, yet to myself I’ve been harsh, narrow-minded and cruel in the things I’ve been telling myself. And quite frankly, I’m not doing it anymore.
I’ve been applying for jobs for some years now. I’ve had four interviews in the last year or so and whilst I didn’t get any of the jobs, I passed the interviews so was placed on a ‘reserve list’. When I requested feedback, I was told ‘there’s nothing more you could have done, it’s just that somebody on the day was better’. Great to hear I performed well, but how can I get the job next time, if I still can’t predict who will be better than me on the day?
I’ve thought for a while now there just has to be more to life than going to a job where you feel like your soul is dying. It’s not just the minimum 8 hours a day you spend there, but the several hours commuting, and then the evenings that become written off because you’re so exhausted and don’t have the energy to do anything. There’s a stark difference between tolerating your job and detesting your job, and my hatred for mine has been impacting my entire life. I know there’s the attitude of ‘that’s life, get on with it, there’s always somebody worse off’ but being fortunate enough to live in a first world country, I don’t think life should feel this desperate and unhappy, and quite frankly I refuse to live like this anymore. Times have changed and not all people seek a career for life, some want a job they feel fulfilled in, and that’s perfectly OK.
Is my job really that bad? No, probably not. Are there worse jobs? Most definitely. But I can’t begin to explain the way it’s made me feel all these years. I am lucky and fortunate enough to have a choice, and nobody is forcing me to stay where I am. It’s time I make use of the fact that I’m young, have a lot of strings to my bow and a willingness to learn and find something I’m more suited to. I want to make a difference in the world, I want to have purpose – not just in work but in my personal life, and only when my head is clearer and I am happier will this become a possibility.
I have been telling myself to stay where I am because of the perks and stability. But in the current climate, what I perceived to be a forever stable job is actually no longer the case, and in my area of work, there are tonnes of external factors already affecting it. Obviously the pandemic is causing havoc, but Brexit (once we finally go) will cause a plethora of issues for my role. All this time I’ve been sticking it out because I’m lucky to be in a stable job, but when the job becomes less stable, where does that leave me?
The Effects of Lockdown
So, as you can see, I’ve been struggling for a while now, but I’ve just been getting on with it and have never truly felt the feeling ‘I honestly can’t do this anymore’.
Instinctively, in the first month of lockdown I was having sneaking feelings that I could never go back to my old life. I was sleeping better than I had in years, I felt mentally clearer, I felt calmer and I haven’t had a single IBS flare up in months. Even though I was still doing my job, I had been lifted from the rat race and shown what it could be like to work from home, something I’ve wanted to do for so long.
Forgive me for the cliche, but during lockdown I found myself with a renewed sense of vigour and enthusiasm for life. Like everybody else, I’ve been given an opportunity to slow down and really consider the way I live my life. This enforced pause has meant that I’ve reevaluated my entire life and assessed what is and isn’t serving me. I realised how lucky we are to be alive and well and that life is just too short to be spending it this miserable. I realised I am blessed to be alive and I owe it to myself to be happy, or at least not desperately unhappy!
Throughout this period, I have been working full-time from home and have used the time I would have been commuting to work part-time writing for a podcast production company. I write copy for a range of life and business coaches and I’ve found myself feeling alive, inspired and engaged again. That old me that used to feel energetic and enthusiastic at work has reawakened and I remember what it feels like to do a good job.
Of course, it wasn’t as straightforward as ‘I just woke up and decided to quit my job’. There were so many more things going on behind the scenes, but this post is long enough without me delving into those! The biggest takeaway is that I refuse to live like this any longer.
So What’s Next?
Working on my part-time job through lockdown has showed me that I absolutely love to write (I mean, how did it take lockdown to show me that?!). I’m taking on more and more work and realised that if I work hard enough, I could do this professionally and make a living from writing for other people. People in business need all sorts of copy and some of them just aren’t good at writing themselves. All this time I’ve been trying to find a job where I could work from home and it’s been right under my nose waiting for me to muster the courage to have a go!
So I’ve set up a new business as a Freelance Copywriter. Sure, I’ll need to cut back on a lot of things right now and money will be tight, and I’ll need to take up some other part-time work in the beginning to keep money coming in, but even though I’m terrified, it’s exhilarating. Being so scared is already giving me a push to make it work because if I don’t, I can’t pay my bills – simple as. Nothing like being thrown into the deep end. Of the ocean. With no life jacket and nobody around to get me out. Yikes.
And shameless plug – because I’m in that camp now – if you know anybody who needs help communicating their story – small businesses who need website content, ‘About Me’ pages, blog posts, articles, any form of written anything, I’d very much appreciate if you keep my name in mind. I can be reached here on my blog, or via my new Instagram and Twitter accounts at @HoltOffThePress – the website will follow.
Paying Homage to this Chapter of my Life…
I’ve done some incredible things during my time in my roles that I’ll be forever grateful for. I’ve worked in Spain for a week via the Erasmus+ programme, I’ve travelled to LA and Philadelphia for the NAFSA conferences (which were absolutely the highlight of my career – so much fun!) and I’ve met amazing people from across the world.
I’ve made life-long friendships from my job and had experiences with people I’ll never forget. I could never have anticipated the responses I’d receive from colleagues when I shared my news. There were even tears! The compliments, encouragement and messages of support I’ve received from people I’ve worked with, both at the university and partner institutions across the world, have been so wonderful and I feel truly, truly humbled. With a little over two weeks to go, I’m feeling quite emotional about closing this chapter of my life.
Of course it’s not entirely sensible leaving a job in the middle of a global pandemic. Of course there’s endless risk involved. Of course I must be so fortunate to be in a position where I can quit my job and try my best to make something else work. I’m making use of that fortune and placing my mental health above all else. I’m terrified, excited, hopeful and apprehensive all at once. I know it won’t be plain sailing, but as the quote that I’ve pinned to my wall in front of my desk to help me when I panic I’ve made a mistake says:
Sometimes taking a leap faith requires an imaginative mind that can create the ending you are unable to see.Shannon L. Alder
Here’s to the next chapter of my life!