At the end of last year, I quit my job. Many people thought I was crazy, especially in this economy, but I did it anyway. I’m often asked why and how. It was not a decision I or my husband made lightly. It took a lot of soul-searching, financial planning, and a huge leap of faith. It has come with some sacrifices (mainly financial) and some incredible rewards (time, happiness and job satisfaction.)

After seeing a slew of “I hate my job,” “fml,” “it’s only Wednesday?!” Facebook posts recently, I feel inspired to share my story. I just want to shake these unhappy, unsatisfied people and tell them life can be so much better than that. If you can’t change your attitude, change your situation. And yes, a change for the better is always possible. Maybe it’s just an attitude adjustment or maybe it’s a whole career change like me, either way, those consistent negative feelings are not good for your health or overall wellness.  I hope in sharing my personal journey to happiness, even just one person will be inspired to look inward and consider a change.

1. Is your job negatively impacting your outlook on life?

I used to censor myself on Facebook all the time. I would write a status, think twice about it and delete it. Occasionally I would indulge my “I hate my job” rants but even those were a much watered down version of what I was really feeling everyday. Everyone probably would have unfriended me for being too negative if I posted what I was really thinking, and I would risk a fellow colleague telling my boss. I did have a period of time where I had a job that I absolutely loved to hate. I worked with some awesome people, had impressive accounts, and quite honestly, I was fantastic at my job. I was glued to my Blackberry and expected to be on-call 24/7. That was stressful enough as a newlywed, but then I had a baby. And, as many other moms will attest, your perspective on what’s important completely changes.

I knew I had to make a change when my unhappiness with work was seeping into my family life. I always thought that being happy at home would override any unhappiness at work but unfortunately it’s the other way around. I switched jobs about 10 months after my son was born thinking that my employers were the issue, but finally, after leaving for a slower-paced job, I came to terms that it was just my industry. No matter where I was, being an advertising account manager was sucking the life out of me. I got that sick, dreaded feeling every Sunday afternoon. I even would cry some nights just because. Depression is probably too strong of a word, but my discontent with my career was negatively impacting my personality–I was tightly wound, irritable and exhausted. I didn’t even want to be around myself half the time. But the money was good and we had a house to support so I sort of resigned myself to thinking this was just the way life is.

2. What do you dream about?

Contemplating a different career wasn’t a new thought once my son was born. In fact, I  daydreamed for years about what else I could possibly do. In 2006 (just one year after graduatng college) I was accepted to West Chester University and took one nutrition class while working full time in marketing, to work towards becoming a registered dietitian. That’s how early on I flagged that a marketing career was not for me! But then we came to a point where we could either buy a house or I could go back to school full time and I chose house thinking I hadn’t given my advertising career much of a shot.

3. What color IS your parachute?

Finally when I hit my breaking point last year, I did some very deep soul searching. I took the silly online tests like “what color is my parachute” and perused Barnes & Noble for career changing books. I made a list of everything I wanted in my next career even though that career wasn’t identified yet. Even the far-fetched desires I wrote down. I went through the list and considered what career or job would fulfill those desires.

For example, I wrote “I want to help people,” which made me think of becoming a nurse. But I knew that I didn’t want to deal with bodily fluids so nursing was out of the question. I also wrote that I wanted to be in the health and wellness industry since part of me still wished I had completed the registered dietitian program. So I thought RD, yoga instructor, Pilates teacher, or personal trainer (and honestly, I still want to do all those things!) The list also included, “I want to incorporate some form of movement.” I used to be a dancer from age 3 through early college and have missed it so much, but I knew that the ship had sailed on doing it professionally long ago. I also wanted something flexible that I could potentially do freelance if I needed extra money. I wanted more time with my son but not too low of a salary. I let all these questions swirl around in my head for a few weeks. I’m not even sure exactly when the light bulb went off but I realized that massage therapy met the criteria for all these desires. I then started researching schools and learned that one of the best schools in the country is within 20 minutes of my house.

4. What do Microsoft Excel + bank account + you, have in common?

The next step was making a spreadsheet of slating our existing income against our current bills  and flagging where we were over-spending money. I broke out the figures to daily, weekly, monthly and yearly costs–accounting for incidentals, fun money, clothing, vacation, gifts, etc. I then made a new budget of how we could afford to live on just my husband’s salary for a period of time. I called all our utility companies and tried to whittle down our monthly bills. This included getting rid of HD cable TV, no land line phone, refinancing the mortgage to get a lower rate, reducing grocery bills, reducing daycare days, no new clothes for me, etc. Side note: regardless of if you want to change careers, I think this is a great exercise for everyone. The biggest lesson I learned is we were wasting a lot of money on groceries and unnecessary utilities. But I’ll write another blog post about this another day!

The End Result

Fortunately I was able to complete an accelerated program that crammed the 650 required credit hours into 6 months so we didn’t have to go too long on one salary, but I just started my job in July so we still have a long way to go before we’re even closely back to normal financially. Even then our income will be much lower than when I was working full-time in advertising. However, my husband and I agreed that my happiness and our family’s happiness, is SO much more important than having more money.  Life is way too short to be miserable with your job. So even if your journey means much more schooling than mine or never going back to a paying job (e.g. stay at home mom), if it brings you happiness without landing you in a cardboard box on the street, I say plan carefully and take a leap of faith. It can be done.

To the one person I may have inspired…

Good luck on your career search! You should be proud of yourself just for identifying your unhappiness and for beginning to look into ways to change that. I think so many people go through life with the mentality that life sucks and they just need to deal with it, but they’re doing themselves a huge disservice. I’ve gotten some weird reactions to my change. The vast majority is supportive, but there have been a lot of skeptics too. I think it scares people to dream big, make life-altering changes and to do something other than what is expected of them.

2 Comments

  1. liz

    Hi Meridith! It’s Liz from Netplus. I love reading your story! I left my position and agency life about 3 months ago and while the transition has been hard, my current job is much less stress. I leave at 5! And eat lunch away from my desk! And disconnect on the weekends without feeling guilty!

    Glad all is well with you 🙂

    Reply
  2. meridith

    Thanks Liz! 🙂 I was so thrilled to hear that you moved to Colorado–just like you said you wanted to last summer!

    Reply

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