In March of 2013 I quit my corporate job to follow my heart into the unknown ...
I had a 10k loan with no plan, no clients, and no vision of what I was going to build.
All I knew is that I had to get out.
My husband, Alex, and I wanted to buy a house but my freelance magazine design business wasn't pulling in enough money so I decided to find a "real job."
I was offered a position with the California State Assembly as a graphic designer. It was a 180 from what I had been doing but I was desperate and the people were nice. I told myself it was temporary and I'd only be there long enough for us to buy a house and get on our feet.
It was all the things a "real job" should be. A steady pay check, better than average benefits, a private DMV in our building and a cafeteria I could use anytime I wanted. I was making good money and life was comfortable.
So why did I feel so alone and depressed?
During that time I craved anything creative so I started a blog called Life Of Steph. The content was all over the board. From my emotional ups and downs to making green juices to what we did on the weekends. I had also kept my Case Western Reserve University magazine job on the side and I started making more of tiny flicks.
At lunch time I'd escape the uninspiring design work, gray cubicles, dreaded meetings, and blinking florescent lights and walk to "my" deli.
I'd order a bagel sandwich with a bag of chips and take it to the park across the street. There I'd sit on the bleachers envious of the sweaty people playing soccer in the sun. I spent countless hours on those bleachers. Reading post apocalyptic sci-fi books, sleeping in the sun and listening to music all the while thinking about my escape plan.
Below is a journal entry I wrote two years into the job and feeling totally hopeless:
I've been at this job for 2 years. Two years filled with mixed emotions, mostly negative. After many discussions with Alex we decided that it would be best for me to try and go part-time so that I could focus on other financial pursuits that might even feed my soul.
Well, I finally mustered the courage to talk to my boss on Monday and I told him what I wanted to do. I think I knew as soon as I asked what the answer would be.
It took them three days to respond to my request and as I suspected the answer was NO. Without any explanation other than "if we give it to you everyone else will want it too." I felt like a child being slapped on the hand and being sent to my room.
So, yeah, I'm very disappointed and I realize that I have figure out what my plan B will be? The tone of this song by First Aid Kit is exactly how I feel.
It took a year after that journal entry to find the courage to quit because I was scared.
Scared of not know what I would do next? Scared of not making any money and not being able to pay bills. Scared of what my family would think? Scared of throwing away a "good paying job" just because I wasn't happy?
But here's what I realized: life is too short to be miserable and dread the day in front of you.
That job, the environment, the work - it changed me and not in a good way.
I felt a darkness I had never felt before - a desperate sadness deep inside. Everyday I felt like a fake and a liar because I wasn't being true to myself and my beliefs. I was settling for subpar work that was killing the creative fire inside of me.
And when I tried to ignore or shove those feelings down my body fought back. I was so stressed out I started getting cystic acne on a regular basis. The cysts were big and painful and each one would have to be injected with a steroid shot. Working a 9 - 5 schedule I had to go on my lunch hour but my dermatologist was a half hour away. So I would rush to my car, drive as fast as possible, get the shot, and rush back. It was emotionally painful and exhausting.
It was about this time I had had enough. I was finally ready to ditch my blazers for vintage dashiki dresses. All I had was a 10k loan + the support of Alex and it was all I needed.
The day I walked out I felt as though a 5000 lb weight had been lifted from my head and heart. I was so excited I literally ran to my unknown future.
Looking back now, almost 5 years later, I have few regrets. I have a business that feeds my creativity and I wake up excited because there are endless possibilities. I have the power to make it be whatever I want it to be.
The best part is that I get to work with women who are as passionate about their businesses as I am.
Was it all smooth sailing? Hell no. It wasn't then and it isn't now! Would I recommend you up and quit with no plan and just a loan? No. But here's what I do recommend:
- Read this book Escape From Cubicle Nation it helped me.
- Find a life coach to help you make a tactical plan about what you want to do moving forward with action steps.
- Save as much money as you can (enough to survive for at least a year) and avoid taking out loans or credit cards. Both of which I did and I'm still paying back that money. #regrets
- Trust your MIGHTY within - only you know what is best for you.