For a while, it was pretty easy to convince myself that I ended up there out of ambition and excitement. But with a few months under my belt, and a lot of time spent reflecting, I now know more accurately what drove me to take that massive leap: misery. I had been absolutely miserable at work last year, and getting rid of the boss/office format was the only way I knew to break out of that misery.
My misery came, surprisingly, mostly from one place: excessive, unrelenting, soul-sucking fatigue. I have had insomniac tendencies my entire life, and particularly when facing extreme stress. And insomnia feeds extreme stress, and round and round we go.
Last summer, I received my first job offer in more than three years. It appeared the only possible way out of the publishing company I'd worked at for that whole length of time. By July 2015, I despised my job. And, for reasons still unbeknownst to me, my boss despised me as well. He could put on a decent act, but during a happy hour this week with previous coworkers, it became perfectly clear that I am the single most hated employee in that company history. Even moreso than a person who actually defrauded the company out of thousands of dollars. And I have no idea why. I showed up every single day, did my job, did other people's jobs, filled in gaps, was nice and kind to my colleagues...and yet I was disrespected and demeaned daily. When the receptionist was getting a bonus for, I dunno, lasting 6 months on the job, I repeatedly worked late, took on double or triple the work I should have, dropped everything for a new project and met obscene deadlines, and it all went by without even a high-five in acknowledgement. You can't blame me for being miserable there.
The offer came, I gave my notice, I left. I then explored the offer a bit more, and said no. Not fully impulsively, mind you: I had interviews lined up and a meeting with a recruiter that went well. I had some cushion and plenty of faith.
I ended up on assignment on a cool job, but the environment, again, made me miserable. And not in your regular old, "Ugh, commuting is annoying! Ugh, the coffee here is gross!" kind of way. In the "I'm averaging two hours of sleep per night, and the minute I leave this office daily I want to cry at the very thought of coming back tomorrow" kind of way. I don't believe that life is meant to be lived that way. It can't be. And at 25, 26, I'd battled too much horrible shit in my life already to be okay with self-inflicting misery like this on myself.
Have you ever operated at full capacity on 2% battery? That's what insomnia does, and it can ruin a life. It was coming close to ruining mine. Nothing was enjoyable outside of work, because every move I made and breath I took was overshadowed by the knowledge that I'd have to go back and spend the majority of my day in a place that made me feel so bad. And I was beyond exhausted all the while. Fighting for your happiness when you haven't slept in weeks is not an easy thing to do.
I leaped because I felt like if I didn't, I would decay from the inside out. I didn't decide to go freelance because I was seeking a specific kind of job freedom, or early retirement like so many others who choose that path. I just wanted to sleep, and have my creative process respected, and work efficiently when I was able to rather than stare at blank computer screens for hours before my mind was awake and whirring, or while my very career was being slandered and regarded as unimportant. I wanted to be able to work and to do my job well, and no full-time employer was letting me do that.
And now after 4 months of freelancing, of being screwed by clients, of having payment delayed by U.S. mail and payroll departments who for some reason need 30 or 90 days to write a check, of hustling up to 60 hours a week pitching and emailing and getting paid for a quarter of it, if that, I'm done. I didn't want to do it in the first place, but I figured it would be fine. But while it's been doable, and was almost even worth it for a few weeks, it's still not giving me the life I want. Or the security I need. I'm still not fulfilled or satisfied and I'm still being treated like a floor mat. I'm envious of friends who leave work at 5 p.m. and actually leave work behind, mentally clock out. I'm envious of people who actually know when to expect their next paycheck.
It's been a complicated 8 months. I don't think I regret taking the leaps I did or the choices I made that led me here. If I hadn't, I would still be unhappy at work, but I would be unhappy in life too. At least today, everything else feels good and the only thing I would change is my job. Last year, I couldn't see the forest through the trees and everything just sucked and felt bad because work made me feel so bad. At least I'm not there anymore. But I'm in a different place I don't want to be—and a place that deep down, I always knew would not be permanent.
Now, on this side of the forest, I'm ready to be done with this phase of life. I know I'll never be the type of person who just works one 9-5 job, because I'll never stop being the person who's passionate about side projects and loves being on the ground floor of amazing things. I'll teach yoga classes for as long as they let me. I'll edit and manage the Bad Yogi Blog for as long as they'll have me. I'll edit Feather Magazine as long as it exists. And I'll stay with two side writing projects as long as it continues to make sense.
You were hoping this would be exciting and climatic, right? That I would announce a new job I'm excited about, a new position that's going to help me have my life back? Nah, no such luck. But I do have irons in the fire and I'm hustling just like I did last year—maybe harder—and trying to find the next best place for me. Who knows how long this search will take or where it will lead? Definitely not me. But I'm desperately ready to find out what's next. And hopefully, what's best.