I sat on this post because Lauren LBC/HOTR/mom-to-be went and announced the tiny human growing inside her, and I thought it’d be rude to not give her at least a few days of Big Life News spotlight before coming in with my own. Haha just kidding, I actually just didn’t want to compete for attention. Plus my news is way less exciting. SPOILER : No gestation countdowns here.
(dear parents and in-laws, please return to normal cardiac rhythms. promise you won’t find out about any Baby Limes from the internet…)
Before I explain though, lets back up and start from the sensible place.
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The Cali Backgrounder
We came out to California three years ago because of my job. The small company I worked for was opening a satellite office and needed two reps to lay down the roots. I interviewed in January (winter in Ohio? yes, can I leave RIGHT NOW PLEASE?) and just barely a year into my first post-collegiate job, accepted a promotion and put “move to CA” on my calendar for April 1.
Brian was finishing up graduate school, so the timing was perfect. He didn’t have to leave a job, was able to take his boards in CA, and found a job pretty easily. We didn’t own a home (uhh we were 23/25) and had nothing really tying us down to Ohio. Friends and family, yes, but we knew we wouldn’t have to twist arms too hard to convince someone to come visit if we got too homesick.
Our logic was, simply, “why not?!” We were presented an opportunity to do something we’d always wanted to, essentially risk-free. Plus, HELLO, Southern California. We literally had no excuse to say no.
Anyway, that’s all old news. We’re used to the 7-lane highways, legal U-turns, have learned how to pronounce “pho”, and find ourselves almost-sorta calling SoCal “home” now. With no regrets.
But as our time in California, and life in general progressed, I found myself gradually growing more and more restless. Life in Cali was all (and more) I imagined, yet I found myself feeling very unfulfilled. On paper I had no reason to be unhappy – a supportive and loving husband, strong family, full health, and great friends, all enveloped in palm tree paradise – but I wasn’t as happy as I felt I should be.
Does that make sense? Not being unhappy necessarily, but not being happy either?
Finding the Source
Eventually I found the root of my not-unhappy-but-not-happy predicament – it popped up every Monday-Friday from 8-5. I knew what I did wasn’t my “dream job”, but I adored the people I worked with and sought value in the potential of the company and my position within it. The tedium of the daily work was always trumped by the perks, and I told myself I was lucky to have a comfortable and stable career.
But I grew less and less interested in what I was doing, which turned into unproductivity, which eventually (once fully metastasized) turned into an almost remorse towards everything related to the job and company. A really ugly place for everyone involved.
This path, as I’ve now discovered, was sprung into motion and quickly jet-fueled by a few factors :
- I was FUCKING BORED
- I had no passion towards what I was doing
- The strengths that drew me in initially (people, ethics, company vision, etc) began deteriorating, creating a new, unfavorable work environment and a culture I no longer supported
I woke up every morning for MONTHS dreading going into the office. And to top it off, this disdain followed me everywhere – I was “taking my work home with me” and never completely tuned out to this business that was eating me alive.
But it was comfortable! I made good money, with great benefits, and had a mostly flexible schedule. Everything safe and “responsible” told me to gut it out, that maybe things would take a turn. People had it much harder than I did, after all…
“But some people actually LOVE what they do…”
the other shoulder voice said.
I’d already spent so much of my life doing what I felt I SHOULD do, following the rules, staying between the lines. For what? Hum drum lackluster answers when someone asks what you’re up to lately? What you’ve done with your life? What you want to be when you grow up?
For something taking up 1/3rd of my day, five days a week, I had very little to be proud of, and even less to be excited for. How could I look forward at my career’s future when I didn’t even want to look ahead to the next morning? The next task, phone call, email?
Suddenly “comfortable and responsible” felt like a vice, strangling me and holding me back.
Closing the Door
It finally hit me one day – that I really didn’t have to be there anymore. Nothing was holding me to my job, the same way that nothing was holding us to Ohio when I originally accepted it. Any of my “excuses” had easy answers – Insurance? we could switch to Brian’s. Money? I’d find a side job if necessary until something new came up. What would everyone think? Who gives a fuck? It’s not their life.
Brian and I sat down to look at finances and what changes we’d need to make to get by while I soul job searched. Cancel cable, freeze my “fun shopping” (clothes, shoes, etc), downgrade our cell phone plan, eat out less, etc. We have a decent nest egg built up, and calculated we could float on one income for a few months before having to dip into it. And if the “dream job” search was slow going, I’d put my pride in my pocket and pony up a part-time at Starbucks or something.
We’d be fine. And if we weren’t, well, we’d just figure something else out.
So, after four years and two months, I left my first post-collegiate job. Where I learned about (and started) my 401k, guerilla’d my way through the sales ropes, made a few “omg my life is over!” mistakes amongst (luckily a few more) “cha-ching I’m the SHIT!” deals, and built a career. I packed up my desk, said goodbye to my coworkers, and on the drive home it slowly dawned on me :
‘I’m finally out. … Now what??’
Searching for that “Window Opening” Everyone Talks About
It’s always sad closing a chapter, and quite scary when you don’t know exactly what the next one holds. That proverbial door slamming shut behind you can be a real wake-the-fuck-up call. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of quiet alone time to mull it over. Questioning whether it was the right thing to do. Wondering where to go/what to do next. Stressing over whether Brian resents me being at home all day while he’s pulling in the only paycheck (he swears he doesn’t). But the main piece that I keep rounding back to is that life is short, and singular. We’ve got one life to live, and I am refusing to make a soap opera joke out of that.
(Bear with me while I get a little philosophical here…)
We don’t know what our purpose is here, and the only thing I’ve come up with is to live the fullest life possible. Instead of beating our heads against the wall looking for an answer to a rhetorical question (“what am I SUPPOSED to be doing here??!”) maybe our job is to just blaze the fullest, wildest path on our way to whatever our final chapter winds up being. It could be tomorrow. It could be a hundred years from now. You could be living the Fast and the Furious saga of lifetimes and just keep freaking going despite everyone thinking “for sure this must be the LAST ONE how old is the Rock anyway?!”
I’m a realist in that I know I’m likely not meant to totally change the world – I didn’t leave my paltry desk job to tackle the cure for cancer or poverty in third world countries. My career change will likely affect nobody but myself, Brian, and the guy who does our taxes and has an extra W2 to enter. But I have talents and skills that were being wasted, and a pretty well-functioning brain that hasn’t been challenged in far some time. I know I can contribute to something- someone- somewhere, in a much more beneficial way than I had been, and I’ll be a happier person when I get to do that.
I don’t know where I’ll wind up or what I’ll end up doing, all I hope is that it’s something that wakes me each day with a sense of passion and purpose. To spring out of bed ready to tackle the day’s hurdles, and go to sleep at night eager to do it again the next.
In the meantime, rather than stressing the process, I’ve vowed to enjoy this adult summer vacation of sorts. Do things I’ve always wanted to but haven’t had time (volunteer! sit at a coffee shop all day! take the train somewhere!) Attempt to make sense of all the moments that have lined, barricaded, and carried me through this trail I’ve started, and prepare to blaze the path ahead. To use my time and energy towards things that might in some small way add a little good in the world.
And who knows – maybe my one-in-seven-billion drop in the bucket will make a difference somehow.
Sarah OUaL, unemployed