When I was 22 years old, I landed a corporate sales gig in New York City. I felt so grown-up and established — I would finally get to be a real-life career woman living it up in the big city of opportunities. I didn’t even understand the job-at-hand. I was too consumed by the posh image in my head and the $40K salary that seemed like a fortune at the time. It wasn’t so fortunate when I realized how taxes work.
As I boxed up my college life, I watched How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days on repeat, gearing up to be just like Kate Hudson’s character — perfectly balanced between businesswoman and socialite. I even imagined myself in a fancy gown wearing diamonds and sipping champagne — jokes on me.
I threw out my ripped jeans and flip flops, which was my entire wardrobe as a California girl. I finally had the perfect excuse to spend my savings at Banana Republic, where I loaded up on formal business attire. I would look and play the fancy career woman part perfectly: pencil skirts, pantyhose, pumps, big accessories, and all.
My fixation on this image of success didn’t align with my reality. I realized within one week of starting the job that I signed up to be a minion.
Within one month, I realized that I couldn’t afford the glam life I envisioned, as my paychecks barely covered rent. I lived on the fifth floor of an ancient walk-up building in the East Village, where I couldn’t walk barefoot without getting a splinter.
It quickly hit me that I was responsible for a very specific job requiring all of my energy, for most of my waking hours. How did I overlook the details as I moved 3,000 miles away for a job I knew nothing about?
What was this so-called “advertising sales job” to which I had signed my life away?
I was responsible for placing client orders for grocery store advertising slots and coupon booklets. You know, those grocery coupons you clip from the booklets found in the junk mail pile? I had to punch in hundreds of orders for A/B/C coupon templates alongside grocery shelf coupon machines. I was using archaic desktop software without the checks and balances in place, which required significant focus and repetition. If I made one small mistake, I would be fired. People were getting fired every week.
I wasn’t creating; I was doing robotic work. I was doing work that no one would ever choose to do, which is why I was recruited straight from college with the promise of climbing straight to the top. Even worse, I placed myself there at my own command.
Someone was always watching me and tracking the exact time I sat at my desk, where I would spend 10–13 hours of my life each day.
This job sucked the life out of me. I dreaded the week while living for the weekends. Sunday Scaries haunted me and caused soul-crushing anxiety.
I often partook in “Sunday-Fundays” to tune out the reality that Monday morning was approaching. I then showed up hungover, which only made my anxiety ten million times worse. It was a vicious cycle.
The energy depletion and unhappiness physically changed me. I gained twenty pounds in the first year from being glued to a seat for most of my life (alongside the weekend binge drinking). No matter how much I worked out, I couldn’t lose the weight because it was stuck to me, just like I was stuck at my job.
I suffered work-induced depression, and my youthful glow started looking dull and tired. I was 22 going on 40.
Listen to Your Intuition
I wanted to quit every day, but all the influential voices told me, “you need to give a job at least two years,” “you can’t give up,” “you’re lucky you have a job,” “toughen up,” “this is the real world,” “no one enjoys work, a job is a job,” “you have to earn your stripes,” and “jobs aren’t meant to be passion-filled.”
But what about purposeful? Our work should always be personally purposeful and gratifying. Now more than ever, I firmly stand by this.
Although my intuition told me to leave, I didn’t want people to think I was a failure or a quitter, so I stayed. I spent over two years of my life battling work-induced depression and pouring my precious energy into a job I hated because I thought I had to prove my worth.
If I could go back and talk to my 22-year-old self, I would have told her to get out of there a lot faster. I would have told her there’s an entire world of limitless possibilities for her, that she didn’t need to spend one more second in a cubicle of misery.
This is an extreme first job out of college scenario — this was also 10 years ago. Times have changed, and most work environments have become friendlier and less aggressive, although corporate America may never change.
You don’t need to accept a job that makes you feel like a depressed robot.
You should never feel like you have to work at a job that you hate, where the work depletes you and makes you dread your existence. Even if you are just getting started and looking for some experience, you shouldn’t settle. You should go after your purpose by finding work that calls your name.
You should follow more than an “image” of success, which was my mistake. I moved across the country with a precise vision of how I would look the part, instead of understanding if I would even like the work. Our egos can get in our way. The sooner you figure this out, the faster you will find fulfillment.
Despite what some say, work is a huge piece of our identity. We spend most of our days working, so our work should have purpose and meaning. You should be proud to say, “this is what I do,” and it should energize you.
Find Work That Aligns With Who You Are
Fast forward to a new me. I’m 25 years old, and I landed my “dream job” at Google.
Okay, it wasn’t a dream job, but it was my dream company. Who doesn’t want to work for Google? The office is a giant playground where you can drink unlimited lattes and double up on buffet lunches. It also felt like a huge stamp of approval, like I had finally “made it” to the big leagues.
Then the Koolaid wore off, and the Sunday Scaries crept back in. I still had that feeling of dread going into the workweek. It’s because the work itself served me no purpose outside of a paycheck. I was selling Google’s version of Groupon, and it was a grind. I somehow found myself selling coupons again. Oh, the irony.
I was repeating the same old patterns over and over — and over — again. I was chasing the dollar signs, pursuing the textbook image of success, and conforming to the corporate mold, even though my intuition was telling me to pursue a completely different type of work.
I was suppressing my creator-self, and the work-induced depression was always lingering. When we’re meant to be creating, but we’re preoccupied with busy work instead, we will eventually reach a breaking point that leads us into enlightenment.
It took me a decade of working — and working at Google two separate times — to finally learn my lessons and awaken to the fact that I didn’t belong in a corporate environment. My vibe didn’t align with the corporate vibe. When I was identified as a Googler or a sales rep, I felt empty inside. I wanted to be a business owner where I could create something of my own, help others in a more personalized way, and establish a unique identity.
Some of us thrive in corporate environments. Some people started in corporate America alongside me that are still there climbing the ladder and joyfully working in their glass-walled offices. I have friends who will be Googlers-for-life. It works for them because that type of structured work and environment align with who they are. Since they are in energetic alignment, they have found fulfillment and success.
For me, this working environment was not a natural fit, but I tried extremely hard to make it work because I thought it was where I was supposed to be. I played the part and ignored the signs until I couldn’t ignore them anymore.
We’re Not Here to Be Dreading Our Week — We’re Here to Create Joyfully
We’re not robots. The universe didn’t create humans to work robotically, doing busy work we resent. We’re all here to create. We’re here to spread joy, inspire, and make a bigger impact on others and the world. We’re here to move mountains and prove anything is possible.
We’re not supposed to be hiding from ourselves and ignoring what we’re born to do. We need to find work that we love; when we spend our energy on work that brings us joy, we will excel, and the money will follow.
“A job is just a job” or “a paycheck is a paycheck” no longer stands true nor serves anyone a purpose. This might have been the reality thirty years ago when technology wasn’t as advanced, but this is not the case anymore.
It’s 2023 — so many people are starting their businesses with just their passion, wifi, and a laptop. There are so many digital tools at our fingertips that allow us to share our ideas and collaborate with others all around the world. Entrepreneurs are coming up with business ideas, creating business plans, and sending those ideas into the universe. Others are traveling to new countries and making money online as digital nomads. It’s happening all around us every single day.
All these people have learned that they can do what they love, and do it on their own terms. When you are creating something that aligns with your purpose, you will find your state of joyful flow. It takes self-awareness, courage, and drive. You have to be willing to invest in yourself and bet on yourself. You will realize it’s possible to love what you do.
You just need to shift your perspective.
No, you don’t need to work a cubicle job right out of college to prove your worth. No, you don’t need to handcuff yourself to a job you hate. No, you don’t need to live for the weekends. No, your job isn’t supposed to suck the life out of you.
No, Sunday Scaries are not the norm.
Photo by Eric Ward/Unsplash
Originally published on Medium