I had it all: A six figure income, a flashy new car, full health benefits, company travel, expense accounts and other perks.
I was good at my job and was moving up in the company.
On the outside, everything was picture perfect. But on the inside I was dying a slow, miserable death.
Colleagues who visited my office noticed I didn’t decorate or display any personal memorabilia or pictures. The only item that held any value was a tiny yellow Post-It note attached to my monitor.
On it I had written,
“Nothing is really work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”
~ J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
This tiny yellow piece of paper served as my motivation to stop doing meaningless work.
I was tired of my body breaking down from being sick. I was tired of always being stressed and I was tired of acting like a faithless coward.
Here are the reasons why I finally quit:
1. Limited freedom of expression
Despite my title and position, I felt like a company lackey. I was working hard to fulfill someone else’s mission, which meant, I wasn’t on my mission. I was working to make someone else wealthier than I was making myself. I felt oppressed.
I thought if I could dedicate this much energy to a corporation, why couldn’t I do it for myself? Clearly, I could succeed at something if I dedicated the same amount of time to my dream.
2. Too exhausted to focus on my goals
The more effective I was at work, the more that was expected of me. I felt like I was being penalized for being efficient. My initial 40-hour workweek increased to 60 hours in a very short time. Working 12-hour days left me exhausted with no energy to do anything else. I was stressed and worried about the work that was piling up at the office.
3. Uncomfortable pantyhose
In my climb up the corporate ladder, I dressed for the position I wanted: I carried Hermes handbags and briefcases, I wore Mikimoto pearls, St. John Knits, Ferragamo shoes and my suits, coats and blouses were Burberry.
My credibility was solid, and I was promoted several times. But no amount of money was worth the pain of wearing panty hose everyday.
4. Selling my soul
I felt like I was trading my life for money. I had to quit quickly. I knew that the longer I stayed, the more money I'd make and the harder it would be to leave.
5. Stupid, time-wasting meetings
The upside to meetings was the food. I was more interested in the menu then the agenda. Most meetings were a waste of time. I only enjoyed the desserts - especially the dark chocolate ones.
6. Water cooler small talk
So much time was spent socializing with colleagues about weekend getaways and other stuff I didn't care about. If we had been paid for results and not time spent at the office, we would have all been more productive. I'm convinced that some jobs are major “time dumps.”
7. Limited dance time in elevators
The highlight of my day was entering an empty elevator. Instinctively, I would tap dance until the doors opened. How invigorating those precious seconds were. I wanted more of that feeling.
8. Felt like a coward
Time is one of our most valuable assets and I was wasting a lot of it. I was afraid to quit. I continually asked myself, " What's the worst that could happen?” The answer was always, “I’d have to find another job.”
Then I'd ask myself, “Do you believe you can find another job?” The answer was always, “Yes.” I went back and forth for months before I had the courage to finally announce my resignation.
9. I would never have forgiven myself
To convince myself to quit, I imagined talking to my 80-year-old self. I didn’t want to turn 80 and have to admit that I had been a coward; that I didn’t take more risks; that I didn’t use my gifts.
I knew I would not be able to forgive myself if I didn’t try to do something courageous with my life.
When I finally quit, I did not know I was going to tap dance for a living. I only knew that happiness in life resulted from doing something you love to do and something you do well. Only one thing met that criteria for me: tap dancing.
In a world where we’re judged by what we do, I was hard to say, “I’m going to be a tap dancer.” My ego was challenged.
I ignored those feelings along with the opinions of those who doubted my decision to leave my corporate job.
I knew myself better than they did and I had done the mental work of dealing with my fears, doubts and the what-ifs. I believed I could handle whatever happened after I quit.
Since then, I’ve had my share of failures and challenges: I depleted my savings, borrowed against credit cards and endured major out-of pocket medical expenses. But the peace I have every day is priceless.
I am a boot-strapper and I’ve learned to live within my means. De-cluttering my mental and physical space also helped.
I no longer watch television. However, I'm still inundated by meaningless sound bites from billboards, magazine, radio, internet and advertisers - but I don’t let any of this noise dictate how I live my life.
I have days when I’m overwhelmed, days when fear and doubt set in. On these occasions, I recall the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr:
“Take the first step in faith.
You don’t have to see the whole staircase,
just take the first step.”
These words remind me what to do:
- continue to trust myself,
- believe that I'll be ok, and
- accept that everything will not always be perfect before I take another step.