Usually when we read about the messy, sh*tty parts between the painful ending disguised as a new, awesome beginning, it’s after the fact. When the person was able to reflect and affirm the guts were, indeed, worth the glory. Yay!
Instead, I’m sharing to enlighten realtime on the raw awfulness of the creative and transformation process, prior to whatever greatness lies ahead. Because I have no f*cking clue what it will even resemble.
After months of uphill struggle, massive burnout, and complete lack of inspiration surrounding my day job of over six years, I decided to quit. Without a plan, a map, or any semblance of a next move in mind, aside from the dire necessity of a shift.
I’m calling it my “professional recalibration” or adult version of a compressed “gap year.” However, at times—most times—when people ask anything in relation to what I do, my initial feeling is a sharp pang of shame.
I’m jobless for the first time since entering the workforce at 14.
Charming guests while waiting tables through high school and college. Sweating profusely under the beating sun, roadside for the county highway department every summer through my college years. Committing to an incredible internship opportunity while studying abroad in New Zealand, versus simply studying and traveling in arguably the most beautiful place on Earth.
I’ve had my eyes on success and the next step for as long as I can remember.
Graduating in 2008 with a degree in City Planning and my fancy internship from the Sustainable Development Team at Environment Canterbury Regional Council of Christchurch, New Zealand was basically worthless in landing a career in local government amidst the Great Recession.
Settling for a job mapping properties and providing FEMA flood determinations for insurance purposes got old quickly. As did denial letter, after denial letter, without interview for the overwhelmingly competitive field of urban, city, and rural planning job opportunities.
Going back to school for massage therapy was my solution. Again, investing in expensive education and going above and beyond in advanced trainings to create a unique niche, setting my private practice apart from fellow practitioners in the area. Success was on my mind, paired with ambition to help others in my heart. This small business was cultivated with love, also for my growing family.
When my son, Leo, was born with an abundance of unexpected medical issues, due to an ultra-rare genetic disorder, I clung to my practice as my fingernails ripped away from the flesh. Eventually putting it on the shelf of “I’ll be back for this one day,” and settling into a position I could do part time and virtually instead.
These jobs—part time, flexible, work from home, within a field I cared about—were not easy to come by in 2014, so I was sincerely grateful for the opportunity, given my new life circumstances. I was able to work around Leo’s therapies and appointments while contributing financially. I was able to keep a piece of myself who genuinely loved working. I was eventually able to seamlessly move across the country without the stress of looking for something new.
2020 hit my family hard. We were experiencing the social unrest and global pandemic—same as everyone else—but in a new location where we had zero community. We experienced the loss of two of our three beloved pets to cancer within a couple months of each other—Dotti, our sweet calico kitty in April and then Kaya, our rescue pup with a newfound love for Colorado trail-hiking in July. All on top of the obvious that our son could easily die from the virus plaguing the world.
I was a complete disaster but chose to reframe by channeling my energy and extra time into up-leveling my career. What could go wrong?
My eyes were laser set on an unrealistic opportunity within the company, masterminded in a haze of unwavering diligence and unlimited availability—12 months later ultimately revealing self-sabotaged, mental-physical-emotional burnout.
A favorite quote highlighted in my well-worn copy of Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed, echoed through my mind as I inched closer to my eventual resignation:
“Feeling discontent is exciting. Discontent is the nagging of the imagination. Discontent is evidence that your imagination has not given up on you. It is still pressing, swelling, trying to get your attention by whispering: Not this.”
When everything went wrong, I surrendered to knowing it was so everything could eventually fall into place another way. Not this. This job is no longer serving—I quit.
With the wholehearted, slightly arm-twisting encouragement from my husband, I took my leap into what some days presents as a selfish hole of nothingness and others an abundance of possibility.
Like many of us in the Millennial and Gen Z category, I’ve become a part of the Great Resignation. The pandemic has caused us to genuinely reconsider what matters most in life and how we want to spend our days going forward.
I’m 100 days or so into this experiment of treating myself like I’m back in school without actually going into debt tens of thousands of dollars. While my massage practice was placed delicately on the shelf to be picked up again, I decided years ago it was no longer a path I wanted to pursue. And after the past 10+ years of working from home or my studio, there is zero interest in the 180 degree change of going back to local government.
Friends, it’s been a mind-tripping challenge. Shoulding myself to death. Judgmentally cringing when I check the “unemployed” box on forms. The constant worrying and FOMOs that I’m wasting the most precious thing in life—time.
As the weeks go by, however, I’m finding it less painful. I’m becoming grounded in openness to possibilities of the unconventional variety—working smarter versus harder. Following my not this, but maybe this intuitive feeling.
While most days I feel lost, it’s a new kind of lost—as though I’m in a forest but can see the sun at the horizon through the towering pine trees. I’m lost, but at least following my heart and imagination toward a new path.
In the meantime, I’ll be here focusing my time on classes, practicing, and feeding my imagination with writing (shout out to the Elephant Academy Write Your Heart Out class), tapestry weaving, woodworking, photography, and who knows what else.