Thursday, November 19, 2015

Worth It

(image via)
Three and a half years ago, I accepted an offer for my first full-time job in my industry post-grad. I came to a small, niche publishing company as an editor, and I was so happy. I would write about my interests and passions (health, wellness, and public education), and I could wear leggings to the office. I could stroll in around 9:15 and I soon realized my coworkers were some of the best people I'd ever met. And for about two years, I liked my job. And then, it was kind of like how John Green described falling in love. I started hating my job slowly, and then all at once.

The first time I applied for a job to leave my last company was April 2014. I was actually approached by a friend who asked me to apply at her company. I honestly hadn't thought about leaving until she suggested it. I was very unhappy but not yet miserable, and the pros still outweighed the cons. I never heard back from the place I applied, but that sparked the fire and from then on, I kept an updated resume at all times and would apply to jobs every now and then when something that looked REALLY GOOD popped up.

Some time after that, the pros weren't outweighing the cons anymore. I came to find my boss a morally bankrupt person, an offensive and misogynistic person, and downright rude and disrespectful to me on a personal level. It's not necessary to walk through all the reasons why, but I spent every day feeling disrespected, degraded, demoralized. But still, I kind of thought that's how everyone felt at their jobs at some point or another.

Around March of this year, I started furiously applying to jobs. For a good few months, I spent half my time on job boards, writing cover letters, sending out resumes, etc. It wasn't easy, and my market is pretty saturated. I broke down in tears more than once out of sheer frustration. What was I doing wrong? I was doing everything by the book: I received feedback on my resume and cover letter. I networked with colleagues. I emailed HR personally and enthusiastically. There was not a job I was qualified for that I didn't apply for—and there were many I was completely unqualified for that I sent my information to anyway. I had one fantastic interview this April, followed the rules and sent a thank you email, we bonded over a shared alma mater. I never heard anything back from the woman who promised me a timely response.

In early June I went on an interview that I was almost positive I was going to get. In the weeks that followed I got so fed up at work that I thought pretty much every single day about just winging it, quitting on the spot, and crossing my fingers that the job offer would come through. I got that offer in the first week of July, accepted, gave two weeks notice, and then rejected the job offer before I started. So I was totally and completely jobless with less than two weeks left to work. I thought for maybe half a second about rescinding my resignation, but I couldn't stand the thought of being shackled to my boss for literally one more day. It just wasn't worth it.

Before I rescinded my acceptance of the job offer at the newspaper, I was contacted by two corporate recruiters in my field and had landed two really promising job interviews on my own. I was still applying to jobs every single day. I was hunting down freelance work, working on my portfolio, and trying to network my way into little gigs that would at least help me keep the lights on. A recruiter landed me a temp assignment—a lot of people only want copywriters/editors on an assignment basis rather than employing one full-time in-house—at a marketing agency and I took it. I told myself it was a stop-gap, as I fully expected a job offer from a company I wanted to work for any day now. The temp assignment pay was great, and I figured it was only temporary.

As you know, I was pretty devastated by a rejection not long after all that.

After a few weeks, the marketing firm loved me and wanted to transition me to a full-time employee. I thought about how much I was annoyed by little things there, and how if I committed to work at this company on a full-time basis, I would hate it there just as much as I grew to hate my last company. That was senseless to me. I didn't leave a miserable job just to end up at an equally miserable job, with a longer commute and not-as-awesome coworkers to boot. So after a few weeks of still nothing coming down the pike except the knowledge that my recruiter's job is to find me work, even if it's temp, I gave two weeks notice with absolutely nothing lined up. Again.

A sidebar here is necessary: I am not of the mindset of a lot of people: I don't believe in living to work. I don't believe in working more than 40 hours a week (in most cases). I don't believe in our jobs being central to our identities, and I completely detest the idea that a person who doesn't want to work their life away is lazy or unambitious or lacks drive. I think that money is bullshit and I hate it, but it's a necessary evil so I control mine intensely so it doesn't control me. I believe work should keep us out of trouble and teach us humility and a job should be something that funds our pursuits of happiness and purpose in life. A lot of people think their purpose and their job are the same. I think maybe 5% of the Western world is so lucky for that to be true.

To that end, I despise the idea of working at a job that makes me (or you) feel sad, miserable, degraded, devalued, disrespected, or any of the other things I felt for the last two years of the job I was at for three years, the things I was sure I would come to feel sooner than later here.

That all brings us to the end of this September. While news of my upcoming departure trickled through the marketing firm, I was absolutely shocked by the number of people who seemed to care. The CEO of the entire firm as well as the CEO of one of the brands operated within came to me personally (I had never spoken to either one before) and remarked about my good work there and basically asked me to stay—or come back, if the grass didn't turn out to be any greener wherever it was that I was going. To paint a bit more of a picture, I was brought in to build a brand voice and editorial cadence, tone, and style from the ground up. I quite literally wrote the voice for a global brand, and I had proven myself to be a good and hard worker.

But I was still unhappy and it was getting worse each day, so I leapt off the edge. I was still sending out resumes, still being represented by a recruiter, and now I had a global brand and a whole lot more samples to add to my portfolio. All this while I had a few freelance side gigs and I was plotting how to turn them into steadier work. I was ready to hustle, but it occurred to me one day that I wasn't really hustling toward anything in particular.

After being rejected by Pearson (as in, the publishing company that produced every textbook you ever used in school) after being one of the top two candidates for the position, I was immensely deflated and completely lost direction. After hating my last job so much, Pearson was the only company I could see myself moving to. And they had decided they didn't want me. So what did I want now?

I knew what I didn't want. I didn't want to be instructed on how or when to be creative. I didn't want to be given "creative freedom" in constraints. I wanted to do my best work the best way I knew how, and I wanted enough respect from my employer to be given the trust that I knew better than he or she did what that was. I wanted work to be about work; I didn't want my life to be about my work. I wanted a new job, not a new lifestyle. I didn't want to lose hours per week to commuting. I didn't want to feel like everything I was doing was a step on the treadmill. I won't even run on a treadmill in marathon training; you think I was going to do it in real life?

But I also never wanted self-employment: the taxes, the health insurance, the hustle, the headache. I didn't want it at all. Until I realized that it was the only way I could keep out the shit I didn't want. And again, slowly, and then all at once, I decided to work for myself.

I worked out a deal with the marketing firm to work on a freelance basis, remotely, only attending in-office meetings as necessary. I fired my resume out again, but to different places and people and looked for different things. I write for a few websites now and picked up more work with others I already had relationships with. And then suddenly, one day I turned around and was a self-employed content writer and copywriter.

It was a really weird realization at first: the realization that I had actually become, in a good way, something I never thought I wanted to be. I've read for years about people in my industry who were DYING to be their own bosses, who side-hustled and worked 80 hours per week for a year to build up a client base and earn the freedom to transition to self-employment. I, on the other hand, leaped without looking and fell into what I discovered in an instant was the best thing for me, and what I didn't know before I really wanted to do. I felt at first like I didn't earn it, like I was going to have to pay the Pied Piper, and like I probably couldn't hack it.

But I can, and I am, and I did earn it. I just went a different route than some, I suppose. You know that quote about getting lost on the way to a dream and finding a different one? It's true. It's so, so true, you guys. And another thing I have to say: I went back and read the comments on this post today, and you all were so, so right. Thank you for having my back when I really needed to hear something I totally didn't want to hear: that being rejected was a blessing, and that something better for me was closer than I could have realized.
It isn't always easy, but every single day it has been absolutely worth it. And that's something I've never been able to say about any job I ever had. (Even when I managed a homemade gelato shop.)

24 comments:

  1. Sometimes you end up doing something you never imagined would work for you - but at the end of the day if it works for you that is ALL that matters! I'm happy YOU'RE happy! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  2. I am so very proud of the journey you've been on and going from a hard decision to where you are right now! I love that you're really owning it and rocking it out!

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  3. Wow, you have an incredible journey and story and I'm proud of you for finding what makes you happy. I 100% agree with you, work is a necessary evil and I DON'T live to work. My personal life is way more important than my work life and I refuse to let my job rule me.

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  4. I'm completely with you... no one should ever be at a job that makes them completely miserable. Are there going to be bad days everywhere? Of course. BUT the good ones should outweigh the bad and when they don't... it's just not worth it anymore. We spend so much of our time at work (even the standard 40 hours is a lot in my opinion!) that it should at least bring us some kind of joy/satisfaction/etc.
    You have balls. I like it. :)

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  5. Hooray!!! I'm so glad it all worked out and you not only realized freelancing is what you want to do but that you've made it sustainable. I think a lot of people do what you were saying - try to build up their freelance clients and projects on the side while working, but one thing they don't realize is that you simply cannot build work and connections as fast that way as if you had all those extra work hours free to pursue the same thing. Plus those people you're supposed to be networking and connecting with? They're not necessarily going to want to only work with you after your regular work hours and on weekends. Taking the plunge is risky, but it lets you get to where you want to go SOO much faster. And you found that out by accident, but I'm so glad and I don't think you should feel like you went about it "wrong" or it's invalid just because it's not what most people do.

    I've been so much happier since deciding to freelance. I'm not even there yet but it's already making things better! And I went the opposite route that you did - I planned the heck out of it, BUT I also didn't have a full client base to sustain me. I just decided to go for it and hope I found the clients when I was ready. And you know? Things are falling into place.

    I never thought I'd be live to work, but now I feel like I lean more in that direction with my design projects. If I just have chores or craft projects to do, I'm quite likely to sit on the couch and waste time, but if a client needs something? I am on it!!! But I don't completely ignore life stuff if it's actually important. So maybe live to live and work to work? I don't work just for the money and I don't live just to keep working.

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  6. Some of this post looked very familiar to me ;) I'm so happy that everything is working out for you! Its so inspiring to read how it all played out and worked out for you. I'm still plotting my future and taking notes on how you've done it. I don't want my job to control or define my life. I want to do something I'm interested in and on my own time.

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  7. Despite the difficulties, and mental anguish, I'm super happy that 2015 didn't turn out to be a horrible year for you and that you overcame your own fears and expectations!

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  8. Such a great journey you've been on-I'm so glad the decisions you made were worth it and worked out!

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  9. I'm really glad you shared so much detail about your career/journey and how its all working out for you. I'm in a slightly different, but still similar situation where I know I don't want to be at my job forever- but not sure what direction to take, etc. I appreciate your insight and how encouraging this post was too me :)

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  10. I am continually impressed by your strength. I'm not sure that I would have been able to make the same leaps and keep going the way you have this year. Actually, I'm 100% sure that I would have freaked out and taken the next job offered. Kudos to you for following your dream!

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  11. Truly truly wonderful. I am so glad you found your way to where you're supposed to be. Too often we don't trust our guts and it's really amazing to see someone take a leap and do so. Several leaps, in fact.

    Your sidebar about work is my total philosophy. I want to go to my job to earn the money for the kind of life I want to lead, do good work, and leave at 5. Will I go the extra mile outside of hours when necessary? Absolutely. But it is the exception, not the rule. I don't live to work and I don't think my job has anything to do with my identity.

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  12. I'm glad you've been able to find a direction that makes you happy. Self-employment is hard, and I'm sure you'll find weeks when you work way more than 40 hours, but when you're doing something you love and can balance it in between hours that work for you, it's worth it.

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  13. I love that you shared all of this because it is something I truly struggle with. I am thankful for my current job and I work for a great company with great people. But I dont really see myself going anywhere further than what I do now and it isn't the most exciting work ever. I would love love love to do my own thing but I dont even know how or where or what to get that started with.

    I love that you wont settle for less than what you know you deserve. You are not a corporate sell out. Not even a little. I have mad MAD respect for that. You work so hard for your work just like you do for your physical goals and never give up. Such an inspiration! And I am so happy that you found something that works and makes you happy friend. You deserve it!!!

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  14. happy girls are the prettiest! :)
    Linds @ Not A Mom

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  15. I'm so proud of you for following your heart and pushing through until you found what worked for you. You are such an inspiration, friend and I am so glad to know you! I know you're always going to do amazing things! xo

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  16. I am SO immensely proud of you my girl. you're a serious inspiration for me. get it girrrrrl :)

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  17. YESSSS! This is the post I've been waiting for. I'm so proud of you!!! You are amazing. I knew you could do it. Now I just need to make the leap too so we can have weekly writing pep talks on Facetime while everyone else is in an office. :)

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  18. YES for this post coming to life and out from the shadows of my unread and starred gmails. I love how brave and true to yourself you've always remained. Keep reaching and remember to brag about how amazing your boss is ;)

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  19. Such an awesome journey you've been through, and so glad it all worked out for you. I went through a lot of "jobs" before I found my career :)

    Green Fashionista

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  20. YES! All of this is the best and I'm so happy you've found a way to make your job work for you and not the other way around. You know I completely share your work-to-live philosophy. I think sometimes things can be too overwhelming to plan out all at once, especially career things and especially self-employment, so they just have to happen slowly and then all at once. Just like the marathon, right? It was like one day you were trying to make it through two whole miles and then all of a sudden you were running a marathon! Lots of steps in between, obviously, but not ones you could have necessarily mapped out from the beginning. I feel that way about my career now, especially since I'm super gun shy and noncommittal after throwing myself into one career and then backing out. I keep getting asked in interviews where I see myself in 5 years and what I really want to say is, "I don't know and that's amazing and wherever it is, I want you to help me get there!" which I don't think is the right answer but it's the honest one.

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  21. Amazing post! So inspiring! So glad you found something to make yourself happy!

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  22. love this post so much girl! so happy for you and proud of you for being such a badass. i can't imagine how hard, stressful, deflating this journey was, but i'm so happy you came out on top and are happy where you are. i am of the same mind as you, one should enjoy where they work. i do not have something i am passionate about, or good at (that sounds like a cop out, i don't mean it like that) like you, but if i did, i feel like it would be even harder to find that perfect job, you know? i like admin, i like tasks, i don't like sales. i can work in any industry, as long as i have data entry / admin type tasks and i don't have to sell something i don't believe in (when i worked at the bank and i had to sell credit cards to people who had less than $10 in their account. not cool). ANYWAY rambles. i can't imagine how hard it is to do something you love and are good at, and have a crappy boss that doesn't trust you and ruins that love, you know? anywho. so i'm super happy you've done this, and you're just all around a badass awesome self employed person, aren't you?!

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  23. This might be a really long answer.

    First off I am soo soo happy and proud of you. If it makes sense, I always knew you would figure it out and Im really glad you did. I could tell it was a struggle for you while you were going through it but the zen and peace that you exude (even with me being a million miles away) made me believe that you would be ok anyway. And you were. I couldnt imagine having to deal with the struggles you faced earlier this year and doing so with the grace that you did. You rock. You will always rock. The end.

    Also I fully agree with the point about not living to work. Except ... with the addendum - "unless you're passionate about it". Since I could speak I knew what I wanted to do and now even with the long hours and some sleepless nights, I still love it. I'm passionate about it. I genuinely have a heart for it. When I have kids I know that will change, so for now its my passion so I don't mind spending most of my days doing it.

    That said... if I wasn't so passionate I could not and would not devote the energy and time to it.

    Annnnd now that I fully took over you comment section hehe ... on to the next post

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