Why I Quit My 9-5 Job Last Year
Monday, May 19th, 2014: It was just two weeks after graduating with my bachelor's degree from Michigan State University. It was about 7pm and I was just getting home from my first day in the "real world". I silently walked into my parent's kitchen, kicked my uncomfortable flats off (I never really was a high-heels person anyway), sat down at the kitchen counter while my mom was cooking dinner, and balled my damn eyes out.
I'm not really a crier. In fact - sitting here, writing this...I couldn't tell you the last time that I cried. But this cry...on May 19th, 2014 - is one that I'll never forget. I know that sounds dramatic - but it was a conversation, a moment, and a feeling that became a defining moment for me. I'll never forget it.
"I just don't understand!" I cried to my mom.
"You don't understand what?"
"How I am expected to sit at a desk, 40+ hours a week, for the next 50 years of my life, putting all of my time & energy into a company that I don't even care about or believe in?! It's not right. It's backwards!" (I think I was starting to sob at this point)
My mom had a look on her face that read, "I knew this was coming."
But, like any good mom, she empathized with me and asked, "What do you mean, backwards?"
"I'm young! This is the time of my life when I should be adventuring and accomplishing the things that I love and believe in, and not what some stupid company tells me to do. But right now, I don't have the money to do the things I want to do...OR the time - because I'm sitting in a damn cubicle all day! And when I finally DO have the time & money, I'll be too old!" (aaaand now I have reached a full-on toddler tantrum state)
My mom then responded with some version of "welcome to the real world" - and explained to me that this is unfortunately how life works, and that I would get used to it eventually.
But I never did.
Now trust me, I know this is a moment that a lot of us face, especially as twenty-something millennials. We think we're entitled, we're never satisfied, we always want more, and we think that the world revolves around us. Blah blah blah, I've heard it all. But all of that is bullsh*t.
However, there is one part of that statement that is true: I do always want more. Which is why being restricted to a corporate environment from 9-5 wasn't going to work for me. This wasn't what I was made for. This wasn't where I was going to make things happen. I felt it in my heart, I felt it in my bones. (lol, literally. my neck & back hurt like a b*tch!)
From there, I faced a mental battle. There was a part of me that was like, "Come on, Stef. Grow up. No one enjoys sitting at a desk all day, being told what to do. But this is life, and you have to "pay your dues" to get to where you want to be." But the other part of me, truly believed that this wasn't for me, and that maybe not all people are fit for the head down, hands-on-the-keyboard, tired-by-2pm desk life.
Real quick...just for a second, let's go back to the whole "pay your dues" concept. Whoever created this concept, deserves one big middle finger to the face. It is hands down the most restricting, self-destroying concept of all time.
Now before you label me as "entitled" - I am a fond believer in the fact that sometimes in life you have to do things you don't like to do, to get to where you ultimately want to be. But calling this "paying your dues" puts this terrible, straight-jacket spin on it. The fact that we are told that we have to spend the first few years of our career doing passionless work that a damn monkey could do, in order to prove our worth...is INSANE. It's insane! Don't let anyone put you in a box. If you want more, ask for more. If you don't want more, move on.
Once that I decided I couldn't (and wouldn't) be a lifelong 9-5'er...I knew it was up to me to actually make that a reality.
For the next 4 years - I was happy with what I had, while working my a** off for what I actually wanted. I moved out of an intern position, got to work for an amazing brand with amazing people, got to travel, and experienced some pretty once-in-a-lifetime things that I am BEYOND grateful for. One year ago, I even moved away from home to a new city where I knew no one, because once again...I wanted more.
My entire life, I've been really independent. Almost too independent. I never really liked working in teams, I never really felt the need for a boyfriend (lol, things have since changed!), and I always enjoyed my alone time. It was my comfort zone. But moving to a new city alone...that was a lot. Even for me.
While my new life in Nashville was filled with many (almost too many) changes - one thing that didn't change was the desk....the damn, desk.
I knew going into my new position that it would be a desk job. That expectation was set - and I was okay with it...partially because I was in a brand new city and I figured that it would give me enough of that new found freedom I was searching for. But somehow, it didn't.
Nashville was amazing. I loved my new co-workers. The gig was sweet. But somehow, I still had that May 19th, 2014 feeling lingering in my heart. I felt restricted. I knew what I was passionate about, and I was trying to find time to pursue it...but the 9-5 life strapped me to my rollerchair and held me hostage from the things I loved the most. It taught me that the things you are passionate about are not random, and they are not to be put on the back burner. They are your calling. And you must go after them.
So, that's what I'm doing. I'm finally going after them. 100%, all-in. And if you ever find yourself feeling that May 19th, 2014 feeling in your heart, I encourage you to do the same.
But hey listen, I'm also here to tell you: don't be stupid. I'm sure you've heard that "the key to success is to start before you're ready" - and to me, that's only half true. Yes, you should do things that scare you. But just make sure that it will be worth it. And also make sure that you are still able to pay for groceries, rent, a nice bottle of wine (once in a while), and your phone bill...so you can call your parents and tell them you love them. That's important.
It may take you one year, or it may take you 20 years. But one of the most important things that I have learned after these past 4 years, is that what you allow, is what will continue. YOU are in the drivers seat of your own life. Go where you want to go. It doesn't matter if it's a relationship, a lifestyle, or a job. If it doesn't make you happy, let that sh*t go.
And then one day..at the right time, when you least expect it: the right job, the right person, the right opportunity...will come along and take your damn breath away. You'll be scared. It will feel right, and then 30 seconds later, it will feel wrong. Some people will think you're crazy. That's okay. You'll feel like you don't deserve it.
But I promise, you do.