Kaitlin Coghill
August 03, 2014 6:51 am

Earlier this year I did the craziest thing a 25-year-old could do: I quit my full-time-with-benefits office job without having another official job lined up.

“But, don’t you have, like, a ton of student loan debt?” Yes, indeed I do.

“And don’t you have, like, a child to support?” Um, yes, yes I do.

“Don’t you, like, need money?” Yes, to a certain extent I do.

“So why in the world would you quit your job?”

The short answer? I felt that I was wasting my life at a job I hated. I was truly unhappy and found myself to be suffering from a mix of anxiety and depression brought on by low morale at the office and lack of time with my daughter and husband. On top of that, HR neglected to tell me that I was entitled to another 12 weeks of time off to spend with my baby, and I was pretty pissed off about it. I decided to take some time off to work through my anxiety, and once that time period was up, I simply couldn’t go back. So, I quit.

I learned so much from my own personal experience of falling out of love with a job within a career path I thought I wanted, and I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned with others (in other words, get ready for the long answer). Many people in my age group feel as though they have to take the first job offered to them, no matter how little it pays (sometimes nothing if it’s an internship) or how different it is from what they actually want to do with their lives. We feel this way because the economy has been a hot topic since we started college, and instead of being excited to graduate, we were terrified because we knew there wasn’t much out there waiting for us when it came to jobs.

When I graduated, I called myself “funemployed,” and wrote all about my new post-grad life as a means of coming to terms with it. I mean, I worked my ass off in college and it seemed to get me nowhere (unless you consider my mountain of student loan debt a destination), so the only thing I could really do to get through it was make light of it until things turned around. But, let’s be honest, the stress that comes with the lack of success in finding a job to support yourself is really, really hard to live with, especially when people start calling you a “lazy millennial” despite the fact that they know nothing about you and how hard you’ve worked to get where you are.

When I found out I was pregnant a little over two years ago, I did what anyone would do and accepted a job offer (the first in a little less than a year after graduation, truly perfect timing) that was better than nothing. I convinced myself it was going to be awesome and that I was going to be a badass working mom and would receive every promotion I vied for and would have the coolest nanny who I would bring with us on family vacations. . . I was dreaming big, but it’s what I had to do to fully accept that I was about to be working as an overqualified paid intern (which turned into an editorial assistant position) for a textbook publishing company.

I was proud of myself for doing the right thing, which it was at the time, but I didn’t realize how fully motherhood would take over my heart, my mind, and my drive. All my life I had been focused on hard work and being a career woman, but my daughter, Lorelei, made me see my life in a different light, and that’s when I realized that the job I had wasn’t the job I needed anymore.

In order for me to be a happy mom for Lorelei, I needed to work less than 40 hours per week, I needed a work environment that didn’t confine me to a little gray cubicle and I needed to feel like I was making a difference in the lives of others. After I quit, I was able to help out a family friend by working as an aide in her first grade classroom, and I quickly fell in love with the job. But if it weren’t for my soul-sucking entry-level office job, I’m not sure I would have found my true calling as quickly.

It was being pulled away from momma life that made me miss it; it was being stuck in a cubicle that made me crave movement; it was being around office politics that made me realize I’d rather be around six-year-olds; and it was needing help as a mother that made me want to help other mothers. So I decided that in addition to working as a teacher’s aide, I want to be a childbirth educator and postpartum doula (someone who helps moms after the birth of their babies by making their lives easier). I’m working toward my certification and should be running my own business of sorts in about two years. It’s all very exciting and I feel so much better about the way I’m living my life.

Thanks to taking a big risk and really searching within myself to figure out what I wanted to do with my life as opposed to what society was telling me I should do with my life, I figured out the career path I wanted to follow, one that worked for me and my family, and one that made me feel passionate about life in its entirety.

So I guess the gist of what I learned is this. If you have a job, and it makes you really sad, and you know without a doubt that you’d rather be doing something else with your time (even if you’ll be making less money), you should definitely quit that job. Help yourself out by having another job lined up first or at least saving money to buy yourself some time to find another job if you just can’t bear to step foot in that office another day. Forget what everyone else is going to think and forget about what it’s going to look like on your resume. Life is more than other people’s opinions and a piece of paper that is actually supposed to look boring if you want to get a job. It’s about how you spend your time and how well you listen to your intuition and give yourself what you need to stay sane, motivated and healthy. Life is short (we’ve all heard this before), but you don’t realize that until you start to be a little less carefree and feel like you have more to lose.

I realized this the moment I gave birth. The world felt a lot heavier and scarier, and I felt like I had wasted a lot of time sleeping in and drinking too much and eating bad food and buying uncomfortable shoes because I was bored and, well, working jobs that made me very unhappy. It was time to change things, so I did.

If you find yourself in a similar slump (whether or not you’re a mom) but have no idea what you’d rather do instead of your day job, think about what you’re passionate about. What do you read about all the time? What gets you fired up in the news? What are you “liking” these days on social media? Think about what you dislike about your current job, and look for jobs that provide the opposite. Though nobody should expect an entry-level job to be all that enjoyable, if the company environment itself is what’s making you hate your job, it’s worth moving on to something else.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid of new things, and don’t feel obligated to stick to your college major. Expand upon it, or simply take pride in the fact that you have a lot of knowledge about a certain subject and then move on to something else. Do whatever you want, because it’s your life, and your time, and you owe it to yourself to enjoy the heck out of it. Work shouldn’t be the bane of your existence; it should be something you are proud of and something that truly enhances your day-to-day life.

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