My Escape From Cubicle Nation

me, very unhappy on the job.

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. 

Me on my path to work everyday Song: Baby Drugs by Tristen

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.

PLOTTING my escape plan on the bleachers.

PLOTTING my escape plan on the bleachers.

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. 

Ghost Town by First Aid Kit

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.