Today is my birthday and, to be honest, I’m starting out 25 in a bit of weird place: I recently left my job after a year and a half and am moving back to Chicago. I’m still in Madison until I find someone to sublet my apartment and am going back and forth in a kind of limbo in the meantime.
I’m pretty nervous about the future right now because to be totally honest I don’t really have a plan. I have a few smaller projects in social media and writing that I’m working on, but I don’t have a full-time job lined up. I’m not positive about what I want to do and want to give myself some time to explore and I really knew that what I was doing wasn’t working
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes or think that I’m stupid for leaving a good job for essentially nothing (and trust me, I get you), but despite my misgivings I know that leaving my job was the best decision for me. It was so much more than “I’m not happy” or “I don’t like the work”. I became jumpy and had trouble sleeping. I wound up in therapy. I had my first panic attack. I couldn’t understand how I was so miserable because I was doing “the right thing”, but my anxiety and depression were turning my life upside down.
I think I would have run into some of these challenges no matter what – going from the cushy liberal arts life into the real world is always going to be a rude awakening – but I knew that something was really wrong. The things I loved most about myself were shutting down – my curiosity, my creativity, my love for travel and meeting new people – and I was becoming a numb version of myself. I was coping and pushing through the stress, but I could see myself slipping away.
Eventually I knew I had to get out. Doing what I was “supposed” to do wasn’t worth it anymore because it was obviously not what I was supposed to do. But it was so hard to leave, so much harder than I thought it would be. I felt like an idiot for leaving. I felt like I couldn’t hack it. I felt like a failure. But I eventually I realized that I was more of a failure if I continued to let a stupid job suck the life out of me. It’s just a job. I can start over.
So here I am, turning 25, starting over.
It doesn’t feel good yet, but I know it will. I can feel my muscles starting to relax a little bit. I’ve stopped having dreams about spreadsheets and customer calls. I read a book. I still feel guilty and untethered, but I’m moving forward. I’m learning how to structure my time. I’m channeling my energy into writing and running and cooking. I’m learning how to feel productive on my own terms.
Because, at the end of the day, I love working. And I think that’s what surprised and confused me the most. I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic. Sleeping 5 hours a night in high school, double majoring in college, doing my masters degree in one year. I have always pushed myself and chosen the hardest path. So what made this experience different?
Honestly, I’m not sure and perhaps I’ll never really be sure. I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself and what I’m looking for in a job – I love working with a small team of friends, I need a balance of creative and business work, I want to feel connected to the real world, I want to help empower women – but I think it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made me feel so helpless and awful during this last year and a half.
I think what matters now is looking ahead. I didn’t really plan to do a whole sob-story post about this, especially for my birthday, but part of looking ahead for me is just being honest about my life. I’ve found it really exhausting hiding this from everyone. The next several months are going to be unpredictable and could end up being even worse than this job – who knows – but I’d rather lean into it than shy away from it.
Long story short: I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I’m (sort of) okay with that. I think I want to travel. I definitely want to write more. I’ll definitely be writing more on this blog. I’m kicking around the idea of writing a book. I’m taking each day as it comes and am trying to be kind to myself. It’s been a hell of year and I can’t say that I’m sad to see 24 go.
I know 25 will bring its own challenges, but I’m ready.