Where do I start?
My study abroad to an Ivy League college in America in 2007. I knew I wanted to get away from everything I knew up-close-and-personal as a means of finding my independence. So I packed my bags and embarked on what I believe was the second phase of my Journey of Self Discovery, the first being another story for another time.
2007. The year of the onset of the financial crisis. Perhaps it was the desperation of graduates around me who’d dropped over USD40K a year on their education (way more than the public school education my parents’ careful budgeting had afforded me in Australia) to get that “perfect first job”, or perhaps it was the competitive, Type-A personality of most of the kids who made it into this school… something propelled me towards the mindset of attaining a job in management consulting or investment banking.
Random, vague terms we needn’t discuss – key point: the brands of both are (still) coveted by most business graduates, which I was (I believe in recent times, “start-ups” have joined the ranks).
I pushed myself, banked all my time and energy on getting that job and fortunately enough, I did, with a top consulting firm to boot. And of course, like most people, once I had what I wanted, I found that it wasn’t really what I wanted after all. The idea was desirable more so than the reality itself, and this was even after I’d gotten an internship under my belt.
The question then starts to kick in – WHAT DO I WANT?
To be honest, I don’t think any of us really know. Most of us know what we think we want. And that’s sufficient. But please, I implore you not to rip that fine head of hair out if you don’t have any of that figured out by now.
One day, I woke up in my hotel room; the exhaustion had kicked so far in that I no longer remembered where I was… and I started to cry because I knew then more than ever before that that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to be in a job that held no meaning for me, other than a paycheck. Let me pause right here for a small digression – EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT PRIORITIES.
I had always prioritised my career and that “perfect job” but my unhappiness despite my successes suggested that those priorities were really messed up.
So here’s what I did, and what I suggest you do if you find yourself in a rut like I did that morning.
1. Breathe. The world is not going to end. It’s not over till it’s over.
(As a tip, find something that calms you down. If you don’t know what this is yet, start to think about it. Music works for most people, a friend of mine likes lying on the ground and just watching the fan spin. This might seem like something really small but it’ll serve you really well as a Goosfraba)
Here on out, you’re going to start to get to know you.
2. Think about what is most important to you in life. For me, this is my loved ones – my family, my significant other. Simple. These relationships are things I absolutely could not do without. Even if my whole world collapsed, these are the people who would hold me up. Imperative. Maybe for you, your priority is winning. Fair enough. Write that down. Next.
3. Ask yourself what is currently making you unhappy. Some questions to consider:
- Is there an imbalance in that priority list you created in #2? Ideal vs. reality?
- If your priorities are in order, then what is it about your Number 1 that is upsetting you? Are they factors you can or can’t control?
4. Game plan. Start to strategise a way to change your situation from what it is to what you’d like it to be. If you’re calling out “It’s impossible!!” then perhaps we need to start with your mindset. Cue incense and new age music because I did really just say that.
5. Deliver. Most people plan and don’t do anything about it. The first time I considered leaving my job once I discovered that my priorities needed a massive overhaul, I convinced myself that the paycheck would serve me well (which it has), and that life would (have to) get better.
The next time, I got so swamped with work that I didn’t even have the time to trawl job boards. And so the pattern continued and I stayed put. Do yourself a favour and if you need to, take some time off now to really think about it.
It’s not going to be an easy decision and no one is going to tell you it’s the right one. But hey, we’ve only got one life – we’ll never know what an alternative may look like, so why not learn as much as we can with every opportunity we get?
Over and out,
Next time: What I did after I left my job and how I started planning for the life I wanted.