I left my job.
I left my permanent job, with benefits and a pension, and the whole shebang.
I’ve heard jobs like this referred to as the “golden handcuffs,” and I suppose I would agree – but not everyone would.
In the organization I left, some people really thrive in that environment.
But I’m not one of them.
I always knew this, deep down, even as I was accepting a position as a master’s student for a degree that was anything but creative.
I didn’t want a desk job, but I didn’t know what else to do – or how. And this linear path (school, more school, job, check!) was so easy to follow.
To be fair, I enjoyed my time as a student, and my program and research really were interesting, but apart from a career as an academic, it doesn’t really serve me today.
So, I always kind of knew that I would leave this job, even as I was interviewing for a permanent position.
I knew it was only a matter of time.
I started in this organization in May 2015, and in December 2017, I bought a new, professional camera.
It took me roughly two years to decide and fully commit to this new career path that, in truth, I’ve been afraid to embrace for over a decade.
Back when I was making those tiny, incremental choices that lead you to a “career”, I didn’t think you could make money from something you loved. I didn’t think you could be creative and have a sustainable income. I didn’t think it was realistic to make it on your own.
I was scared. I thought it was too complicated. I kept denying what my heart was calling me to do.
So, four years after starting in this organization, I’ve officially left.
I’m saying goodbye to the permanent job, with the health and dental, with the pension upon retirement, and the three weeks of vacation.
It helped me fund that start of my new career, and gave me time to figure things out. But now it’s really time.
And I don’t say that lightly.
Mentally and emotionally, this type of work has taken its toll on me. When you stay somewhere you know you don’t want to be, that’s not good for your health.
The second half of 2018 onward was particularly challenging.
I started feeling a sense of dread at the thought of going into work. I had trouble sleeping, knowing that when I woke up it would be another work day. I would feel anxious, inadequate, and a sense of panic.
On a regular basis, my chest would tighten and my throat felt tight. I’d have to deep breathe myself out of it just to get through the day.
In October 2018, I developed a completely inexplicable rash on my chest. My next day off work? It had almost completely disappeared, along with the tightness in my chest.
It was at this point I knew I really had to set a date for leaving. I mean, yeah, I knew earlier too, but the sense of urgency at this point was heightened.
I talked to my manager in early January 2019 and told her my plans, and for a few days, I felt light again.
At the end of January, I lost my sweet, sweet Zoey (my cat), who was 16.5. She was really an incredible cat. Everyone who met her fell in love, and said there was something special about her. And there was. When I lost her, she took a piece of my soul with her (if you’ve read or seen the His Dark Materials series, I always thought of her as my daemon).
Coupling this grief with the anxiety I had been dealing with did not bode well (I was also working 7 days a week, juggling my full-time job, two part-time jobs, and photography).
In February, I had a minor panic attack. It felt like a tight cramp in my neck and I had difficulty breathing – at my desk in my cubicle. It lasted perhaps a minute, but the feeling lingers, and it serves as yet another reminder that this place wasn’t good for me.
Also in February, I discovered a sudden bald patch. This was perhaps the most startling discovery of all.
I kept asking myself, how did this happen? I did I get to this point, of panic attacks, anxiety, and losing my hair?
My job, of course, was not the only culprit. I also haven’t always coped with stress well. As in, I often don’t know I feel stressed until I physically feel it.
This past year has been a major lesson for me in so many ways.
The first of which is to always, always, always, stay true to your heart. Trust yourself and protect your inner child.
Second, you have to take care of yourself. You have to be in touch with your mind and body, so you can nurture them. You have to know what helps you feel light, and free, and happy.
Zoey had helped me cope with a lot of things. We snuggled every day after work, with zero distractions and nothing to do but to be. I think she helped me deal with the stress and anxiety I felt.
After she died, I lost this daily ritual. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until it was gone.
I needed something to help me destress and reset after work, and that’s when I decided to colour every day after work for 10 minutes.
My inner child loves to colour.
After just two days of this new ritual, I started to feel immensely better.
And all of that was just the first two months of the year.
Honestly, anything before June is a bit of a blur. If it happened before then, I probably don’t remember it very well. Now that I feel healthy, happy, and whole again, I can look back and realize that I know what actual burnout feels like.
It’s been months of recovery, and sometimes I’m not even sure I’m totally free of burnout, but I can safely say, I feel so much better. Giving myself the time and space to expand and explore this new lifestyle has been such a big part of that.
Now, in November, the beginning of my third, full-time month in business, I couldn’t be more excited to be able to fully devote myself to a life that feeds my soul.