Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith, roll the dice, and bet on yourself. And that’s exactly what I did when I quit my well-paying, 9–5 job. Without having a backup plan. It was something that had been a long time coming. It was weighing on my mind, and I had been struggling internally with it for months, and it just came down to a now-or-never moment. And once the words actually left my mouth, “I can’t do this anymore,” there was no going back. As terrifying as you can only imagine, it was okay because, for some reason, in that moment, it felt that somehow everything would work itself out.
I liked my job. Yes, it was stressful at times, and it had its share of bad days (like all jobs do), but, for the most part, I enjoyed my work. And I was good at it—very good—and that’s part of what started the downward spiral. I was so good that my skills were taken for granted. I was doing the work of three people, and I made it look easy. But it was taking a lot out of me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was drained and underappreciated. I’d come home crying or wake up in the middle of the night with migraines, more often than not. It was assumed that because I could do it all, and do it well, that I should do it. And being the “Type A” personality that I am, I took it on, I rarely complained, and I was always on top of my game. Not to say that I never made a mistake, but they were few and far between, and when mistakes did happen, someone was more than happy to point it out to my boss.
For 15 years, I spent 5 days a week, 8 hours a day committed to my work. I was the head of my department, the owner of the business was the only superior I answered to. It was a position that I had earned and held with regard, but as other aspects of the business began to unravel, my patience with the lack of support I felt began to take its toll. I would wake up in the morning dreading the day ahead of me and go to sleep anxious about what stress and drama the following day would bring. There were constant meetings to address company issues that were never mentioned again once the meeting concluded, and I began to feel jaded and depressed. A place that I had devoted so much of my time and energy into was slowly sucking the life out of me. I knew something had to change.
Then one Saturday morning, I fell. Really badly. As I lay on the floor crying in pain, watching my boyfriend panic and imagining how bad my ankle was injured, the strangest thought came over me, and I started laughing through my tears. “At least I won’t be able to go to work for a few days.” I knew in that moment how truly unhappy I was and how unhealthy it was to even think that I would rather hurt myself and be in physical pain than go to work. And that was it. I wasn’t going to waste any more of my heart and well-being, struggling through a job that had become so depleting, even if it meant that I didn’t have a backup plan or another job to fall into at the time. I couldn’t do it anymore, and I owed it to myself to be in a better environment. I had to allow myself to realize that I wasn’t giving up—I was letting go.
When I returned to work a week later, I cried on my drive there. Having been able to have a break from the toxicity of my office, I had no desire to submerge myself in it again. I needed to see my commitment to my work through, however, in order to have closure and a clean slate for my exit. My boss wasn’t that surprised when we finally sat down and had “the talk” about my desire and need to move on. Unfortunately, he had seen it coming, he said. And with that I finished out my time at work, having given a reasonable amount of notice. I helped train the woman that was hired to replace me and brought two additional people up to speed to assist her in my absence. It took three people to fill my one position—a fact that secretly makes me smirk to myself sometimes when I think about it. On my last day there, I wished them luck. I turned in my keys, turned off the lights, closed the door, and never looked back.
In the time since, it hasn’t been the easiest emotionally or financially. So much of who I was and what I did focused around where I worked, and I had to disconnect from that. After leaving my job, I did take some time off just to catch my breath and figure things out. I think knowing what you don’t want is sometimes more important than knowing exactly what you do want. As I learn both along the way, I’m closer to where I know, in the depths of my being, that I’m supposed to be. I’ve become resourceful in ways I never imagined. Learning to live with less has become a consistent theme for me—less mess, less clutter, less stuff, less money—has all lead to less stress and surprisingly more freedom, which has been a welcome change. I never thought I’d be someone who left a job without having a fall-back, I would have been the first person to tell you how ridiculous that is, but sometimes it’s better to take your chances than waste any more time being unfulfilled. Life is short, and time should be spent doing things that enrich your life. It’s worth the risk–you might fall, but you’ll dust yourself and get back up. You’ll be okay. You have family and friends that love and value and support you. If you bet on yourself, you’ll never lose.
Have you ever had a flash of insight telling you to change your life in a major way?
Also by Danielle: How I Left the City and Moved into a House in the Woods
Related: How to Better Advocate for Yourself
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Photo: Christopher Sardegna via Unsplash