Getting off that damn hamster wheel


Have you ever had a case of the Sunday Night Scaries?

Trust me, it’s a worldwide epidemic. If you haven’t caught the bug (and honestly, I find this quite unbelievable) let me be your personal WebMD:

  • Overview: It’s 7pm on a Sunday. You are slowly starting to realize that a whole new week is about to begin.
  • Symptoms: Pit in stomach, sweaty palms, inability to breath, excessive drinking, insomnia, sudden urge to flee
  • Cure: Find a better job.

Like any ailment, the Sunday Night Scaries affects people in different ways. Some push off the knot in their stomach by refusing to hit pause on House of Cards. Some self-medicate by finishing their stack of wine — only to replenish it later in the week. And some address it head-on by over-planning their strangely similar weekdays: gym in the morning, or evening? Bring lunch or order Maple?

This is Adulthood.

But, what about acknowledging when the curtain fell down? When you realized that your life is now a continuous cycle of sleep-work-gym-eat-sleep until Saturday, when you can add in “drinking” to the loop? You cannot stop running on the hamster wheel — never fully able to catch your breath.

I am urging you: take one step off.

You will never look back.

Sitting on Rooftops in Manhattan, August 2015

You know things are starting to look up when you can feel a slight breeze on a late August day in Manhattan.

I was sitting on the rooftop of my boyfriend’s Midtown apartment building on a late Thursday evening, overlooking the craziness of New York but far enough away to admire it. The sky was in it’s daily process of metamorphosis: transitioning from blue to pink to red. As I took one sip of my Corona, I was overcome by this pulsating thought — “How did I get Here?

Here meant that I was teetering on the edge of the hamster wheel, about to jump off:

I just decided to quit my job.

I felt like a little kid who took a lick of birthday cake before the guests arrived. Happy disbelief. Like I pulled something off that frankly, I never thought I could without getting caught.

I made It.

“Why do you keep smiling like that, Katina?” My boyfriend looked at me from across the table, a confused smirk creeping across his face.

“Because,” I said as I breathed out all the tension I had been holding. “I finally feel free. Like I made a decision for Me. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever done that.”

And I kept smiling. I took another sip of Corona, and felt like I was floating as high as the wispy clouds right above our heads.

It was random, I must admit. Although I was always looking to escape the humdrum of this drab 9 to 5 lifestyle, I couldn’t ever muster the courage to actually do It.

And, it’s not like I didn’t have a myriad of opportunities to choose from. During my first year of work, I was offered jobs at cool companies located in mysterious places from Williamsburg to London. But nothing ever seemed perfect enough. Something was always a little bit off.

It’s weird to feel so desperate for a change, but then when it finally comes, you aren’t sure if it’s exactly what you wanted.

But, being an adult is realizing that nothing will be Exactly Perfect. There is never the right time to quit your well-paying job for a more satisfying one, or train for a marathon, or fall in love. If I’ve learned anything over the past couple of years as an Adult (living in New York doubles whatever time I’ve had), it’s that to-do lists don’t work in reality. Things and moments are messy and imperfect. And sometimes, you just have to take a chance.

Taking that chance is not always an easy choice. You may have student loans, or little future students to take care of. I get it — I’m in the same boat as you. But, my philosophy has always been if your gut says Yes, take risks now, and figure it out later.

This approach has always worked in my favor.

And yet, when I entered Adulthood I thought my gut instinct broke. How did I choose a job that made me constantly feel like a vagabond; always on the periphery? I was running and running on that hamster wheel, with no end in sight. Every weekday I ached for the weekend, and when it finally came, it seeped like quicksand through my fingers.

That’s because I was making decisions for Them, and not for Me.

I chose a job with a big, brand name company, and a shiny paycheck. I thought I could stick it out for a few years, while I paid off my loans and settled myself into my New York City apartment.

I couldn’t be more wrong. And, I couldn’t even figure out how to get myself out of this mess — because I kept focusing on what everyone else in the world would think was the perfect next step.

Thankfully, I came to that realization early on in my career. I started to evaluate opportunities that came my way based on My Own happiness and learning potential. Not what everyone else would think was cool. And trust me, it took a long time to get there. I struggled. A lot. But, you know what’s even worse than that?

Never coming to that realization.

I want to encourage you that there is something better out there than the Daily Grind. Not every path leaves you yearning for Friday on a Monday morning — and, when you actually make it through the week, wishing people a “Happy Friday” like it’s a holiday or something.

You can define this Daily Grind as whatever you please. Whether you love the hustle and bustle of a large corporation, or backpacking through South America — you’re grinding away when your days feel a messy blur.

So make a choice. Because being a real Adult is making decisions for You. And getting off that damn hamster wheel.

Katina Mountanos