Commuting isn’t good for much, but it is good for thinking. I started a new job last week which coincided with my move to the ‘burbs. For the first few days I was a mess of tears when travelling in either direction. At first, I really thought it was a reaction to wasting time on the highway, to the infuriating stop-and-go that I couldn’t seem to avoid no matter how early I left or how late I came home. Even after just a few days of sitting in my car in a silent rage, tears streaming down my face, I realized my emotional meltdowns had little to do with the commute. The commute was just the (heinous, awful, time-sucking) straw that broke the camel’s back.
The real issue: I took the easy way out and I’m mad as hell at myself.
I was lazy. I had a job handed to me that was something I knew I could do even though I was never excited by it. But I took it anyway and, in doing so, I took a five-year step back in my career. At the heart of my rush-hour emotional meltdowns was the sobering realization that I was incredibly angry at myself for taking the path of least resistance, for putting myself in this position, and for not having the slightest clue how to get myself out of it.
I had eight weeks off between these two jobs, eight weeks during which I could have done some serious soul-searching, intense networking, and focused job search to get myself into a more suitable role. But I didn’t. I frittered my time away. I avoided pursuing alternatives because they were scary or hard (or both), and because I started down a lot of roads I thought would lead to exciting things only to reach a dead end. It was discouraging and stressful and, in the wake of that discomfort, I gave up.
In the end, I took the gig that was offered to me on a platter. It was easier, and required less work, but all along I had that sinking feeling that I was making the wrong decision. You know that feeling. It’s the one that comes with a constant low-grade anxiety and dissatisfaction that whispers, instead of screams, that something is awry. If you listen carefully to it, you can heed it’s warning…but I didn’t.
Objectively, it all seemed too good to pass up for ‘something better’. On the surface, it’s a great job. I get paid very well. I work for one of those companies that people apparently are dying to work for, I know my boss from a past role which always makes for a smoother transition, and I was told I would get to work on innovative approaches in my field. It all sounds great, right? Right. Still, I felt constant dread in the pit of my stomach since the moment I accepted.
I realize I probably sound like a champion whiner. All of those objectively great things that make people look at me like I’m crazy when I say I’m unhappy, none of those outweigh the big kicker: I’ve essentially taken a five-year step back in my career. I’m not working with a more complex client group, nor in a broader role, nor on bigger projects. I am doing the exact same stuff I was doing years ago, only now with the skills and expertise to be tasked with much, much more. Daily, it feels like a massive step backwards. These are the things that weigh heavily on me despite the money and so-called prestige and “it” factor of my gig.
Where does this leave me? For now I am not sure. I know that I am tired of coming home every day feeling like I’m moving backwards, taking out my frustrations on the people I love most. I know that I need to seriously contemplate my alternatives. I know that I’m terrified of letting go of something that everyone else tells me is great. The ‘what if’ of not finding something better is almost paralyzing. And yet, in my heart, I know (and have known since the day the option first came up) that this is not the right thing for me.
Lessons learned: trust your gut, do the work even when it’s hard, and don’t settle for less than you’re capable of. And a special thanks to the universe for making sure lessons are never easily learned.