On the eve of 2018, I decided something in my professional life had to give. I was going to make some changes. It wasn’t really a new year’s resolution. It was more me waving the white flag, admitting to myself I was unhappy, and that it wasn’t too late. It’s never too late, to change things.
Hell, my mom went back to school and completely shifted gears at 55! Why couldn’t I do that now?
Like every good university student, I knew the day I graduated I’d be out in the workforce, trying to start a career. I envisioned it as a life of 9-5 work in an office or a newsroom. I never imagined an alternative. That was just what a traditional path looked like to me and that’s the direction I would go. The safe path. The road more travelled.
It was a comfort zone, going into a traditional workforce. I’d go and do my work and come home and live my life. Then I’d have kids, go on maternity leave and fit that traditional world into my evolving non-work life. I didn’t imagine it would be easy, but I also didn’t imagine it would be so hard.
I realized that I will have co-workers and bosses and that not everyone I’d be surrounded by would be people I’d want to have anything to do with, unless forced. But I didn’t realize the effect that would have on my mental health and my ability to be a functional human being in the hours I wasn’t being paid to be in a certain place.
After months of stress leave, I decided it was time to say “F U” to the traditional world and forge a new path for myself – a path that is maybe less travelled, less predictable and less secure, but a path that I knew would be better for my mental health.
It’s daunting, changing gears well into adult life. I have a young family. I have a house. I have responsibilities. A predictable paycheque is not something you just choose to walk away from.
With each toxic work atmosphere, each bully in the workplace, each office shut down, I may have had more than my fair share of reasons to leave the traditional workforce, but ultimately, the truth remains - Nine to five jobs don’t guarantee stability or comfort. They do for many people. They did not for me.
Deciding to stop sending out resumes or stalking LinkedIn wasn’t easy. Psychologically, it’s a very weird place to be, not going to an office for the first time in 20 years, and that being an okay, conscious, reasonable choice.
I now spend my days networking and working, building a business while at the same time, being kind to myself after too many years of not. I’m taking time to exercise. I’m taking time to hang with my kids after school. I’m taking the time to be gentle with myself.
It’s not a vacation. I am not a lady who lunches (though, wouldn’t that be nice). There is pressure on me to build a business and bring in an income that can help us sustain our life as it is now. But the buck stops with me, now. I have to make efforts to bring in enough money that we don’t feel a significant hit in our household. I have to realize that there won’t be a predictable salary, a reliable income or a steady flow. My life will be less predictable now, and that is scary.
It’s certainly not all roses and rainbows. But I couldn’t continue on the same path that lead me to stress leave.
For me, the career change was to the world of freelance. For my mother, it was from marketing manager to teaching English as a second language to adults. There are so many other things we can do with our professional lives than where we currently are.
Believe it or not, many people love their jobs. Realizing it doesn’t have to be “called work for a reason” was life changing.
It’s easier said than done. If anyone knows that, it’s me. My journey has not been an easy one and it’s certainly not a smooth ride now. But I’m getting there. I’m trying to live my best life, for me, and for my family.
Life is too short to hate how you’re spending 80% of your days.