Why (and how the heck) I quit my corporate job
This blog post is part of a series, #oneblogpostaday.
The first part of this series is focused on purpose + career.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
Multiple computer screens and that blinding blue light, staring back at me for hours. Rage (confusion? sadness?) building up in my chest every time I walked through the front doors.
Everything in Adulthood felt different - and not in a good way. Not in the way that I imagined.
It’s interesting; going through high school and college I was told to work hard, to sacrifice experiences, to take on student loans, to keep looking ahead…and everything would work out. That once I made it past the SATs and college applications and freshman year (and sophomore, junior and senior) life would really start.
I would be “successful.” I would have It all. Everything would make sense.
But, when reality hit and I started that first job post-college I realized that nothing changed. People around me were still settling for the status quo. They were waiting for that next thing - that promotion, new apartment, significant other - to make them feel good.
I realized quite early on that if I continued to push off my happiness; if I continued to live my life based on other’s definitions of success - I would never find “it.” I would never access that thing I was searching for: fulfillment, happiness, purpose.
Most importantly, I would have to figure out how to find it myself.
The Back Story
My perspective on “success” changed when I went on a 4-month backpacking trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Instead of enjoying my last semester of college like a normal kid, I decided to graduate a semester early and travel (I have to give myself credit for that foresight). It ended up being the most transformative period of my life so far.
Because, even though I didn’t know anyone and had my trip planned down to the minute - it completely shifted my view of Who I Wanted To Be when I grew up.
I was surrounded by people who defined success differently than those Investment Bankers back in New York. To my new backpacker friends, it didn’t matter how old you were or where you came from - if you were connecting with other human beings, seeing beautiful sights and most importantly, enjoying all that life had to offer…it didn’t matter where you slept.
This mindset was completely new to me. As a self-admitted Type A, high achiever - I couldn’t believe that people were just…living. They weren’t striving for that next job, or Gold Star on their resume. They had never even heard of Goldman Sachs (my soon-to-be-employer), which shocked and humbled me.
To say the least, their casual nature woke me the fuck up.
And I arrived back in New York to start that shiny new job a completely different person.
What Happened Next
Even though I had interned at Goldman the summer before and was actually really excited about my job - I started getting quite nervous about this whole “adulthood” thing. I was just starting to figure out who I really was, what I cared about and what values I stood for.
And then, I was thrown into a job where the word “purpose” wasn’t said all too often (to say the least).
Looking back on it now, I can’t believe how quickly this awakening happened for me. I was literally one week (WEEK!) into my new Adult Life and was already miserable. I was sure that this job, this “successful” life wasn’t right for me.
But, I didn’t know what was right.
I knew I was meant to Do Something - what was it?
That time in my life was really dark. I’ll try to describe it in as much detail as I can, because that’s the whole damn reason why I started this blog. I started writing about those feelings in little notebooks on the subway, at my desk, on my lunch breaks, on my NYC apartment stoop.
And I promised myself I’d never stop.
Because, during that dark time all I wanted was to know that it was possible. That there were other people who were feeling confused and weird and unsure of their “purpose” too. That these jobs felt soul-sucking and running to the printer wasn’t “fun”.
But, no one would say it. No one would admit that these things we worked so hard for didn’t seem quite right.
And so, I was left to my own devices. And, my own devices meant: writing about what the heck I liked and what I didn’t. Why this job was so terrible. What I was really good at. What actually lit me up inside.
I was doing all that work that “coaches” and books and “influencers” tell you about but I didn’t know it then. Because, I think when you’re desperate to Figure It Out…you find a way. You keep reflecting and searching and wondering about yourself, about the world.
And all that hard work helps you formulate a picture of a life you didn’t even know could exist.
To get nitty gritty - I would give myself space to FEEL. If I was frustrated after spending a long day staring at a computer, feeling unaccomplished, I wrote about it. I asked myself why I felt that way. I pondered what would make me feel really good.
This questioning went on for over a year. There were some good days and (many) bad ones.
And, don’t get me wrong - I wasn’t reflecting ALL the time (like, not even half the time). If I look back on the first two years of Adulthood I just see confusion. A blur. Zero direction. I was going out all the time. Having wine on my couch or at a bar or at an apartment in the random depths of Brooklyn.
I was half pretending to be an Adult (going food shopping on Sundays, working out, starting a 401k), and half acting like a freakin’ 18 year old. I bought plants and killed them (not purposely). I met random guys for drinks after work. I “raised my hand” for every possible extra project at work.
And then, I cried into my pillow. Then, I wrote in my journal: “What the fuck have I done?” Then, I called my mom 100 times a day, wondering when it would get better.
But, I do remember this one moment that I hope will stick with me forever. I was a couple of months into my first job, utterly confused, standing with some of my close girl friends outside of our office. I pleaded out loud: “I WISH I could just write and think and talk and help people all day.” It was so far from what my day-to-day looked like I didn’t even think this “job” existed no matter if I tried my hardest to find it.
But, I wasn’t afraid to dream. And now, that’s what I do all freakin’ day. Crazy how things work, right?
I think that’s a really important piece that a lot of us are afraid of. We know that our current situation really sucks and we desperately want to change it. We feel all the feels. We do all The Work.
And then we forget to Dream Big. We forget to put our intentions out there - again and again - even if we have no clue how it’s possible - which is the most important part.
So, I think the first step to figuring out what your passion is, is to do The Work. To sit with yourself and all those uncomfortable, shitty feelings. To let them pour out of you - whether it’s into a journal or into a drawing or out of your muscles on a run. Live in the confusion and allow yourself to feel it.
Then (and this step is just as important), breathe. Dream. Look up and imagine something that might not feel possible at all. What makes you feel alive? What are you doing when you feel like you’re in The Flow? What things don’t actually feel like work? Allow yourself to dream them - even if you have no clue how that will happen at all.
This process takes a while. It took me over two years (and it’s STILL HAPPENING!). So, my biggest piece of advice would be to release the need for everything to happen Right Now. It will - I promise. Keep showing up and it will.
…And then, I quit
Ha, just kidding.
As I said, things happen so slowly but so quickly at the same time. Because, when you do The Work and you’re open to new experiences - sometimes (always) things just fall into place.
When I was about a year and a half into working, I finally felt like I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do next: learn more about the nonprofit space. I knew that I wanted to make an impact on the world, but I didn’t know how. And, that was the only way that I thought I could (On Adulting wasn’t even an idea yet!).
So, I told as many people as I could. I met with old classmates and mentors. I set up lots of coffee chats and shared my passion. It just so happened that during a meeting with one of my old professors, I was offered the perfect next step.
So, I quit my job at Goldman and moved on to a role at a small philanthropic venture fund to learn how the heck nonprofits worked. I didn’t know where it would lead me, but I knew that it was going in the right direction.
Sometimes, it’s okay to take a step - not a leap. We can plan and plot all we want, but Being Open and Taking Tiny Steps towards our ultimate goal is extremely important.
At first, that role was perfect. It taught me everything that I needed to know about thinking big, working with high level executives, and doing good in the world. But soon, I got restless - I knew that I wanted to make an impact now…not changing the education system 20 years down the line.
So, I went back to my O.G. passion: writing.
I started On Adulting as a little blog post on Medium (highly recommend this site if you’re interested in entering the blogging space). I just wanted to test the waters. And, interestingly - more people felt similar to me than I thought.
I won’t go into all the details here, but just know that I spent a loooong time writing for like 3 people (my mom, cousins and a few random Facebook friends) while working a full-time job. I had loans to pay, things to do - and most importantly I had no clue that “blogging” was a career.
So, for a long time I kept doing the thing. I kept up my side-hustle passion for fun, and moved forward in my career during the day. It was hard work for sure, but I was channeling all of my creative energy into something that I LOVED - so it didn’t feel like work at all.
This went on for over a year. And then, another unplanned life occurrence happened: I moved across the country.
This Big Life Shift gave me the perspective to change many things about my life: my environment, my career path, my definition of success. And so, I made another shift that seemed REALLY scary to me while in New York - I commited to On Adulting full-time.
I say all of this for you to see that the path is winding and weird and confusing. There are no right or wrong answers; no such thing as a misstep.
I often get asked how I quit my corporate job and went full-time into blogging - as if it happened in a split second. There are SO many minor choices that I made, or things that I did without thinking “strategically” about it that led me to where I am today.
The bottom line is: it’s okay if you’re confused. If you’re not sure what your “passion” is. If you feel stuck in a job Right Now. You’re not alone
The first step? Start doing The Work. Start letting yourself feel all the feels. Start dreaming big. Start talking about it + being open. And then, let the world do it’s side of the bargain.
And remember - I’m here for you, too.