“I’m choosing door number four if they’re offering me three.” -J. Nettles
Exactly one week ago today, I officially uprooted my life. I quit my job, packed everything I owned into boxes, shoved as many of them as I could in my car, and drove nearly 500 miles from Washington DC to the backwoods of New Hampshire.
Anymore, this narrative seems like one of the calling card of millennials, the hallmark of my generation almost to the point of cliché, but despite what you see in the media, a transition like this wasn’t (and shouldn’t be) a knee-jerk, split-second decision. I didn’t quit my salaried job with all its benefits on a whim. The final call took months to make, though the execution only took a couple of weeks.
I realized something was off back in February when I began wrestling with my anxiety and losing. I was diagnosed with panic/anxiety disorder in my sophomore year of college, and learned to manage it through two of my favorite things, exercise and writing. Everything had been going pretty well post-graduation and I was busy balancing a new corporate job that paid my bills, writing, climbing, my relationship, and the rest of my life. But that “balance” was short-lived. I started having panic attacks weekly, and then daily. I tried to rework my commitments every way I could think of, but I quickly spiraled into a very dark, very scary place. I finally sought professional help for the first time since school, and was prescribed medication. This was something I had sworn I would never accept and it bothered me.
I finally drew the line after a particularly bad, hours-long attack. After I had woken up from the meds (they knock me out) and was sitting on the couch with my boyfriend, it occurred to me that if one of my friends were in this situation, I would be screaming at her to move, make change, do something. So why shouldn’t I do the same for myself?
I started examining what had changed to throw things so off kilter. I knew it had something to do with work. Was it the stress of the job? The corporate culture? To some degree, yes, but there was an even deeper reason. I realized that I was unhappy to my core. My career was advancing, but not in the direction I really wanted it to, and, to make matters worse, I had stopped doing the things that I love the most. Time and experience had reworked my definition of success and the status quo didn’t line up with that anymore. Sure, I could be complacent and stick with the “safe” option, but that financial security came with a price tag – namely, a big bottle of narcotics.
The next day, I opened up my email, where a drafted resignation had been sitting for weeks, and hit ‘Send’.
Like the initial decision, the transition itself took some time. I spent almost a month preparing my (now former) colleagues. I stayed up late doing long-distance job hunting. I also fielded a LOT of questions. When you make a big, seemingly sudden move, you can count on getting even more questions than well-meaning advice. For me, there were two in particular that kept cropping up over and over again – “What’s the plan?” and “Aren’t you scared?”
To the first one, my answer will always be this – there isn’t one. I know I want to do something with writing for a living, and there are a series of steps I know I need to take to get there, many of which I’ll be sharing here. But the danger of having “The Plan” is that you can end up with tunnel vision and miss out on wonderful opportunities.
As for the second question – I stopped being scared when I realized I’ve done this before. We all have. This is just another life change. And life is full of changes. It’s unavoidable. Yes, in some ways, I’ve taken some steps back; I took a massive pay cut, I have to make new friends and adjust to a new job in a strange place, and I moved back in with my parents. But there have been steps forward too. My (incredibly supportive and wonderful) boyfriend moved with me and he’s discovering a whole host of new opportunities for himself. I’ve been reconnecting with my family in a way I haven’t been able to for the past three years. I haven’t had to take my meds for weeks. And, on top of it all, I now have the freedom to pursue my writing with the intensity it deserves. This is not the first time I’ve had to reset, nor will it be the last, and there’s nothing wrong with starting over. Hell, I may fail spectacularly, but looking at where I was, I’m much happier where I am – closer to where I want to be.
Live free or die,