What Happens When You Quit Your Corporate Job
I was in New York for business. Mina was with me. I brought her along on these work trips sometimes because, why not? Free hotel in downtown Manhattan? Duh.
Yet, something didn't feel right.
It happened gradually, like a frog being slowly boiled alive. I worked my cushy corporate job for over three years. Three promotions. Comfortable salary. Awesome benefits. Work travel all across North America and an office in downtown Toronto. Why wouldn't I be happy?
Then it hit me.
After a Friday full of meetings, I woke up the next day, my 27th birthday, with an aching pain in my stomach. I physically felt ill.
Somehow I knew exactly why. I remember telling Mina everything that day.
I wasn't happy. I didn't like the monotony of my job. I didn't like chasing clients to sell a product I didn't love. I didn't like the corporate politics. The unnecessary pressure. I didn't like the life I was living. I wasn't feeling like myself anymore. I wanted that back. Or, more so, I wanted to find out who that was. I knew it wasn't this.
So, that Monday, I went back into the office and handed in my notice.
That was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I was up for another promotion, and I felt like I just walked away from one of the best opportunities of my life. I felt like my future was over and I was ungrateful and I was going to end up homeless and dead in three months.
Yet, here I am, eight months later, alive to talk about it. And, honestly? It was probably one of the best decisions I could have made for myself at this point in my life.
Here is what I've learned:
1. the world doesn't end
The sun still found a way to rise every morning. I envisioned my entire network crumbling around me. People telling me I was insane, stupid and ungrateful. I thought that I wouldn't know what to do with my time and my bank accounts would empty and Mina would leave me. Of course, none of those things happen. The world is a big place, ripe with opportunity and support and love. If anything, leaving my job gave me the ability to appreciate it.
2. you spend a lot less money
This one surprised me. I took for granted how much money I spent every single day during the work day. Commuting to the office? $$. Morning breakfast and coffee? $$. Lunch? $$. Coffee number 2? $$. Commuting home? You get the picture. Add in the social activities (more like self medicating) like after work drinks, and you're easily looking at thousands of dollars a month. At least I was. Nowadays, I make most of my food and coffee at home, walk everywhere (usually within a 500m radius) and have completely quit drinking. Having a lower monthly burn rate is a nice bonus for planning finances, especially now that they're not as predictable.
3. you learn how to work on your terms
My whole perception of what work is has changed. Before, work was this thing that was directed to me by my superiors or clients. "This is our product, go sell it." "These are your colleagues, be nice to them." "This is your client, don't call them an asshole." I was running around, trying to please everyone and hope to get a promotion or a raise. Nowadays, I have complete control. I work with clients that I like, I pick up projects I want to do, I work when it's convenient to me. Today I slept until 11:00 am and watched Silicon Valley on Crave TV until 4 pm. Then I started working.
4. people start offering you opportunities
At first, this kind of bothered me. I former colleagues and people in my network reaching out telling me about opportunities they knew about. I felt that they thought I was struggling for a job and needed help, which wasn't necessarily true. I was doing well with freelancing and was going to be okay, damn it! Now, I realize how amazing it is to have a network of people who are willing to help you out. These same people have introduced me to new opportunities and projects I wouldn't have otherwise been privy to, and it's a beautiful thing.
5. time. oh my god, so much more time
This alone is worth it. We don't realize how much time we trade away for our jobs. 40-60 hours a week, we just give away for the security of a job. I still spend a ton of my time working, but it's on my terms, and this flexibility gives me the time I didn't have before to dive into the things that are really important, like my mental health (I spend three hours every Thursday morning in therapy), the gym (an hour in the steam room? Fuck yes) and, most importantly, spending time with my pregnant fiancé and making it to every ultrasound, midwife appointment and emergency pizza run. When this baby pops out, I truly couldn't imagine leaving it behind for 8-10 hours everyday and not being able to watch it grow.
I've learned that there's so much more to life than counting your annual salary. Yes, I still worry like crazy and wake up some nights in sheer panic of where my next dollar might come from, but it's all completely worth it in the end. I've realized that the only currency we have in life is time, and that every minute you have needs to be spent towards fulfillment. That's it.
Leaving your job may not be the answer for you, but if it's something you've considered, please understand that it's not the end of the world. It's a big world out there, with plenty of options and opportunities, and taking a step towards it can truly lead you closer to who you want to be.
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