I like to think I have an alter ego, like Clark Kent but without the superpowers. One side to my personality resides on this site, the more creative, inspirational, and frankly more open side. The other lives in the “real world”. By that I mean the side of my personality responsible for paying the bills, taking care of family obligations, and just dealing with the daily tasks of adulthood.
My Clark Kent side was once a high-level marketing professional within the health care sector (aside: perhaps that should be my Superman side?). While I loved the job itself, I most definitely did not enjoy the lifestyle it demanded. Long hours, overseas travel, nannies needed to help with child care, and a general feeling that my life analogous to a little hamster trapped in a cage and running endlessly – while getting no where – on a spinning wheel.
When your life consists of waking up every morning thinking “I just need to get through this day” then changes need to be made.
And I come to the point of this post. There are times in life where we may find ourselves in a difficult situation. I am speaking specifically about professional life but it also can apply to relationships, friendships, lifestyle, etc. How any of us land in this prickly place is as diverse as people themselves. Often times, it may simply be the result of our life goals no longer being congruent with our lifestyle. In any case, we’re seemingly stuck in an unpleasant situation with no obvious relief in sight. As far as I was concerned, the piece of advice I often got from well-meaning colleagues was this –
“Don’t run away from something, run to something.”
The short hand of which is don’t quit you job until you have another. I understand the logic and practicality of this advice and followed it initially. But while I was waiting for that elusive “something new” to present itself I was being relentlessly driven into the ground by unrealistic professional goals and expectations, family demands, no time to plan for another job, and emotional and physical exhaustion.
What I learned the hard way is that sometimes it’s not possible to run to something new until you allow yourself the space for that new opportunity to manifest.
I was in the fortunate position of being able to leave my job without immediately needing to go to another. Since leaving, I’ve tried to create a new professional lifestyle that is more in sync with my life goals and overall well-being. This has not been a particularly easy road. There have been many fits and starts along the way, some failures along with minor successes, and I have yet to figure out that magic formula. But my head is still above water and I’m getting closer to my goal, with unique opportunities presenting themselves, opportunities that I would never have uncovered if I had continued my admittedly exciting, yet highly stressful and all-consuming, professional career.
My alter ego would tell you that the lesson is all of this is always assume you will find yourself in a prickly place at some point. Don’t fear it, plan for it. Regardless of what you do or where you are in life, sock away enough money to allow yourself to maintain your current lifestyle without a job for a year. Don’t rely on others for this money (e.g. parents or spouses). This is about you providing for yourself. This will give you power and flexibility to make choices based on what you want versus what you need.
Hopefully you never find yourself in that prickly place as I did. If you do, of course first look for “something new” to run to. But if that something new proves as elusive for you as it did to me use your emergency fund to remove yourself from an impossible situation as soon as possible. Your mental and physical well-being will thank you for it.
PS: As soon as you find yourself another job start replenishing that emergency fund! Think of it as happiness insurance :).