There was a line on repeat in my head towards my last days at my dream workplace: “A million girls would kill for this job.” But it wasn’t at all like an Andy Sachs situation, where I hated every minute I was there, or belittled the work, or found my personal relationships in jeopardy — the parallels ended with my job’s desirableness. I loved my job and everything that came with it. My situation was different. Every so often, a now-or-never moment presents itself and you have to decide: do I take the leap or do I go on with my life as if the opportunity never came?
I couldn’t imagine living with that big of a “what if?”
So I left, without a plan, to start my own company. Here’s what I learned:
At first you will feel free, and then you will feel lost
I felt unbridled, unburdened of routine and duty. I woke up each day so completely aware that I literally could do anything, or do nothing. The drive to get the wheels turning were high. I read and studied. I went to all the yoga classes I had to miss to go to work. I traveled to four countries within the first month of being job-free.
But feeling completely in charge of your day gets tricky once you realize that you have to do it every single day. As it turns out, being alive itself is work. One can only live like a carefree child for so long. Eventually, you will have to feed yourself. Pay bills. Take care of yourself when you get sick. Living is a full-time job and you don’t get to quit.
By the third month, I was feeling overwhelmed. Option paralysis is real. The possibilities felt endless, but with that came a dangerous feeling of uselessness, a lack of purpose, and a suffering sense of identity. My job was who I was for 15 years. Who am I now?
“The possibilities felt endless, but with that came a dangerous feeling of uselessness, a lack of purpose, and a suffering sense of identity. My job was who I was for 15 years. Who am I now?”
It was a struggle to stay focused on the reason I quit in the first place, with all the living that had to be done. On days when the universe gifted me with a super-surge of motivation, tiny inconveniences would come along. The internet would stop working. My laundromat would not do deliveries. My landlord would sell my apartment. Surprise, I have a tax backlog of 11 years. Things like that. Shit like that.
How many times have I felt derailed from my dream? Too many to count. I’ve found myself completely lost and questioning my decision to take a risk for a risk.
Working for yourself means being the manager, the roadie, and the band
I have made a molehill of a mountain.
It wasn’t until I started getting down to business that I realized what I had gotten myself into and exactly how much work had to be done. There would be days when I would just stare at the computer, tempted to spiral into a binge-fest I would not be able to get out of.
I grasped for answers from everyone I met, and of course, everyone had an opinion. Google has offered several. At that point, I took everything in. All information was information I could one day use, but are, until then, haphazardly archived in my brain.
It has been and continues to be a humbling experience to, as they say, be my own boss. I should have taken heed from success stories. Heck, maybe I should have read Girlboss. None of it is as fancy or as easy at it seems. As I got more work done, more work kept coming in. I was starting to worry that my back would start acting up again from, as my pedometer app put bluntly, being sedentary. With my Aries-slash-Libra-moon self-esteem on a pendulum, I wondered, “When will it all be worth it?”
“How dare I think I was hardworking before? That’s the kind of audacity that builds inside you, like an insidious pet, when you have a safety net, an accountable boss, and a regular salary for years.”
It was during a business trip abroad that I felt the complete weight of working for myself on my shoulders. On a single day, I had to cover an event, finish a side article for a magazine, edit stories by contributors, write my own stories for the website, edit my own stories, find illustrators, have calling cards designed, post the stories on social media, caption photos, check the stats, answer email invites, coordinate with the lobby guard back at home about deliveries, look for more side hustles, wonder if I had left the fridge door ajar…. Being employed was being pampered, I realized. It meant having resources — people and money — to get things done.
While I don’t regret leaving, it was clear that having a job was a privilege that I sometimes took for granted. Now, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to make sure I get everything done and still have time for myself. How dare I think I was hardworking before? That’s the kind of audacity that builds inside you, like an insidious pet, when you have a safety net, an accountable boss, and a regular salary for years.
The risk was the reward all along
With all the craziness, however, came a propensity for gratitude that was alien to me. I became so aware of people who have stayed, who have given me advice, who tolerate my existential rants, who are making me laugh, or who simply remember to stay in touch. I savored the moments I got to slow down and cook a meal for myself. I found myself celebrating small milestones, such as getting a client, or a simple invitation, or getting an article published. I even appreciate the ones I have self-published. (Like I said, self-esteem was on a pendulum.)
In the middle of the breakdowns and self-doubt, the long days in bed wondering if I had managed to single-handedly ruin my life and the longer nights spent rectifying my idleness, purpose always returned. I have grown up immensely since I risked everything for a dream. Now, most of the time, I feel like I’m in a purgatorial space, doing the same things over and over again, cursed to pursue this dream for eternity.
Is it really a curse, though, if you’re having the time of your life?