It was a cold day in March. The feeble late-winter sun had sent crusts of snow retreating to the edges of things. I remember staring out my office window at a fly on the ledge. Gusting drafts buffeted the poor bugger as it struggled to hang on, its ephemeral wings flickered by a force that couldn’t touch me behind the industrial glass. It moved periodically in what seemed like an affirmation that it still held the spark of life.
I paused, sipped some green tea, and turned back to my monitors as a warm, dull ache suffused my organs. I wanted to laugh, but the shockingly obvious allegory had me closer to tears.
In this strangely unremarkable moment, some dark, recessed part of me knew that my job satisfaction had permanently drifted beyond grasp. It was lost in a tea-inflected sigh. But I am literally of two minds and the bright, crackling, conscious part of my brain continued on as if that little earthquake had never happened. I continued to work through the seasons, into spring and through summer, around to autumn and back toward winter. And life was good. There was nothing that I could legitimately complain about, especially in the scope of worldwide livelihood, but humans are terrible at acting according to that type of comparison.
One of my great flaws is my inability to compartmentalize. If something is off the rails in one part of my life it affects all other aspects. For example, I could be on vacation in Disney World or immersed in the cultural jewels of some far-off place, and if there was a particular thorny project at work traveling with me would be akin to traveling with a ghost. My mind continuously drifts back to the problem – despite the beauty or fun about me – even though I have no power to act on it. This is an awful neurosis, as it usually means I need to have everything in order before I can fully enjoy my surroundings.
In the dark recesses of my mind, the realization I’d had pushed against the boundaries of my willfully oblivious lobes. And it was seeping into the rest of my life.
The First 6.5 Years
Coming out of school with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and psychology, it was a great job, a lucky job, to land. Technical writer was by no means my definition of a dream career, but I still can’t define that to this day. I didn’t need to relocate and the people, corporate philosophy, and campus hit on all cylinders. I ascended the corporate ladder fairly quickly, managing a team of more than 20 writers by my three year anniversary. There were moments when I was on top of the world. Looking back today, my first workday after leaving the job, I see that it was an accomplishment high. It was never from the work.
As the years went by Sarah and I traveled more. Each return to the office was harder. I started to feel malaise, lifeless, dull. The rungs on the ladder ran out. I was conscious of the difference in myself from when I started at the job: eyes gleaming, loquacious, wrestling challenges with ease born from a curious confidence. Those things had blown away with the March wind.
I opted for a role change within the company, hoping that a change of scenery and duties would inject me with some life. Leaving would be harder. The new position was higher stress, higher pressure, and closer to the sun. I swiftly realized that far from locking away that pesky realization, the role change threw open the doors to its cell. A larger change would be required, one that would shoot fault lines beneath our comfortable, happy suburban life.
I vividly recall the feeling of being trapped. I wanted something else, but it was an undefined sensation more than an actionable plan. I shot down every idea Sarah or I came up with. Not realistic, not feasible, I don’t have the skills, too risky, etc. I laboriously built my own cell. Finally, one night over Belgian beers, an idea stuck. Sarah said, “What about travel writing?” It wasn’t the first time I’d considered it, but in the midst of a buzz the idea bloomed. She lavished my writing with praise, and it is her belief in my talents that ultimately resulted in my belief in them too.
A week later I started Traveling Savage. I knew nothing about running a blog, but I’m the type of person who just needs to jump into things to get it going. We hashed out travel ideas, forecasted budgets, crafted savings plans, and changed our lifestyle. The rest is documented here on this blog.
This past Friday, I quit my job. The great, lucky job to land. Many people would scoff at the irresponsibility, the thanklessness of my decision. Many would kill for the job I gave up. But I am neither thankless nor irresponsible. I owe the opportunity to pursue the Traveling Savage project to my previous job, but also to my own planning, determination, and talents. My irresponsibility ended when I stopped ignoring that realization hanging on like a half-frozen fly in the dark, recessed part of my mind.
This is a requiem for a wonderful job at a wonderful company. This is just my story, a small tale of self-actualization and dream catching.
Listening to: Emancipator
Original photo by macloo via Flickr under Creative Commons