I’ve held a lot of jobs — from barista to bookseller — and, over the years, these jobs eventually led me to a career. I studied hard in college to earn my degree, and when I landed my first job in said career sector, I thought, Aha, I have arrived! But that feeling was fleeting. It felt like a slow careen off a hill, and it lasted for five years. I fought for that career because I was sure it was right for me; after all, I had put in all the work in college.
It turned out that while the actions of that job fed my soul to a degree, there was a heavier weight that pulled me into a little corner where I basically ended up begging for mercy.
Listen to Your Body’s Signals
I didn’t listen to the signals that my body was offering me and it blew up in my face.
I had to leave a career and fall into an even worse hole before I could figure out a path that felt right for me. But something I learned after all the changes is that if you are on the right path, your body will tell you more than your mind.
When I look back to writing that I did during that career transition, I can see that the job was affecting my body even more than my mind.
I wrote the following excerpt the day I decided to leave my career (about seven years ago). Looking back on it now is telling:
When the novelty [of the career] wore off, I soon realized that what was first a career in helping others, quickly turned into a position where I was pulled in a million different directions. I lost any sense of clarity in day-to-day tasks. I was in a job where I was literally doing the work of two people and being paid as one. There were days when I was told to be in three different places at the same time …
I started to suffer because I was given a grueling schedule (turned out that the more you worked, the more work you were given because “you can handle it” aka “you’re screwed”). The hour commute to and from work, a lack of compensation for the hours … doing work outside … really took its toll. I started to sleep a lot after work. In fact, my daily snoozes became a daily ritual that sometimes started to hit me before I even parked my car at the end of the workday. I had a demanding schedule, and I was ‘on’ for most hours of the day … When I conceded to this impossibility, I lost my passion; a fact that a tried to deny for quite some time.
Making the Switch:
Did I try to convince myself that this was normal? Yes.
What was I thinking? This was not normal. So why was I so stuck? Well … the rewarding moments kept pulling me back into the job. It was a tug of war like this for years.
I think it must be this way for anyone who chooses to follow a career path. Think back to your idealistic college self. Maybe you are still idealistic — and if you are, then you’ve made a wonderful decision. And I don’t mean it in the sarcastic sense at all — I am truly happy for everyone that has found a passion that is also a paying gig. But if you find yourself questioning your choice, then really follow your instinct.
As cliché as that sounds, it’s advice I wish I had listened to previously. I became so set on following a plan that I made for myself that I couldn’t face what was staring at me the whole time — my complete unhappiness.
With any job, there will always be difficulties, even if you are your own boss. For I while, I convinced myself that happiness was overrated — that maybe I was making mountains out of molehills.
When I got honest with myself, I knew that there was no “norm” for workplace difficulties, that it’s more about a tolerance level, and whether or not the cons can outweigh the pros of a career (financially and emotionally). In my case, the cons were just too heavily stacked, and I am so glad that I got honest with myself and made the decision that I did.
You can see that full piece here.
It is clear to me now that my body was telling me to slow down.
And I’ve encountered signals like this in other ways when I was working in a role that was once again not the right path for me.
Over the years that followed the above passage, I’ve come to realize that when you are on the right path, your body will send you the signals. Not only will you feel a sense of fulfillment, but you won’t feel that ache of wondering if there’s something out there for you that will better suit your personality.
Now, I feel I am where I am meant to be: My life no longer feels as though I am fulfilling roles — instead, I feel like myself at all times — that is how I know that I am on the right path. My body no longer resists the day-to-day tasks.
I am not one of those folks who say that being happy all the time is a marker of success, but I do believe that when you are on the right path in your life, you will feel less resistance and a general sense of well-being.