I'm sitting on an airplane on my way to Florida. I didn't have to ask anyone's permission. I didn't have to take time off. I was just able to go. And when I got an email alert saying that I should change my travel plans to a day earlier to avoid bad weather, I could do that without thinking twice. I started to think about a quote from the HBO Series Six Feet Under. Nate said, “I work at a job which was also supposed to be temporary, until I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life, which apparently is nothing.” Throughout my 20’s and even early 30’s, I felt like that quote summed up my career situation because I had a constant feeling of being lost. It wasn’t until I lost my job in April that I started to really figure out what it is I want to do with my life.
There are so many things we do because “we should.” We follow certain paths, because that’s the way it’s always been done and it’s what is expected of us (broadly speaking). For a lot of people the journey from school into adulthood means landing that coveted 9-5 job when you end up sitting under fluorescent lights 40 hours a week, in most cases more, collecting a paycheck, and your life passes you by. But hey, at least you had stability.
I can’t count how many times over the past decade I would sit at my desk feeling lost and empty thinking that there had to be more than this. There had to be more than getting up, sitting in traffic, spending my entire day at a desk, doing a job I never liked because I couldn’t figure out something else—was too scared to figure out something else—and then I’d have a few hours in the evening to myself. There was yearning, it was deep, and it seemed unfixable.
I felt trapped, but I think the worst part was, I didn’t know how to fix it. Each year I got older and felt further away from ever figuring out what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. Because I had grown up, and I was starting to feel like I missed it. So I justified it. This job that made me miserable let me travel; it gave me health insurance; it gave me a comfortable living situation. And though I managed to get everywhere from Hong Kong to Honolulu, and loved every second of every experience, I was still missing something. I was traveling the world searching for…something.
But then things started to change. I remember clearly sitting at a friend’s kitchen table this past March feeling like I was being pushed out of my life. Nothing felt like it fit anymore and I felt that something big was coming. I just didn’t know what. Things were changing at work, as they generally did that time of year, my boyfriend was about to leave the country for three months, and my yoga teacher training would be coming to an end soon. I was nervous but interested to see what the end result of my gut feeling would be.
When I lost my job shortly thereafter, I thought about it and laughed. I knew things were going to change, but that’s certainly not the way I thought things were going to happen. My favorite reaction to telling someone I had gotten laid off was, “Congratulations!” I hadn’t been happy at my job for a long time. I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until it was gone. Everyone kept saying, “Now you can do what you really love.” But I was terrified because as far as I knew, I didn’t know what it was that I loved. Eventually the magic started to happen.
It took a long time to get past the strange emotions that came with unemployment. It took even longer to settle in to the new transitional period of my life. The more I started to think about what my options were, the most I started to remember how free I used to be feel in my early 20’s, before corporate life, when I still had dreams about being a professional photographer—when I still had passion for creativity and self expression. I wanted that passion back, that freedom, that sense of actually owning my life and time.
I realized that I love writing—and that I always have. I used to write long stories, short stories, songs and poems as a child. I also realized that I could earn money doing what I love. Maybe not enough yet to really pay the bills, but I’ve had a handful of freelance jobs since that fateful day in April, and not one second of it has felt like work. That’s the dream right? My perspective on so much of my life has so drastically changed over the past 60 days. I’m more in touch with myself than I have been in over a decade. I’m happier. I’m calmer. And hey, I’m a little poorer, but I’m figuring it out.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to have this time to explore pieces of myself that have been dormant for way too long, for the friends that have supported me from day one through every emotion—good and bad, for happiness and for opportunity.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe I will end up back in a corporate job to make ends meet. But at least this time around it would be with a clear head and direction. For the moment I’m excited to have the opportunity to try the alternative. I’m excited to remember that getting a “real job” doesn’t have to mean feeling my soul die a little each day in a tiny cube in business garb at a job I can’t stand. It’s okay to want different things. It’s okay to wear jeans. It’s okay to work in my underwear at my kitchen table. It’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to be me.
I’ve missed me. I’m glad I’m on my way back.