I will never forget that question, because I couldn’t quite find a good answer. In the spring of 2007, I was driving back to the office with a coworker after an absurd meeting with a client. She had recently started at our small Michigan agency and I was explaining my background, which included having an internship in London for 6 months. She asked me a bit about it because she loved to travel as well.
I’m sure my eyes lit up when speaking for my love of London or all things British. I still swoon for those rolling English hills and I was just there 2 years ago. Or maybe I started mumbling about how I was supposed to meet Prince William then but it never worked out. Either way, I must have left an impression because she caught me quite off-guard.
“Why are you here, Caroline?”
I couldn’t give a good enough answer. I couldn’t think of a solitary reason…why I was here. Not even my now ex-boyfriend was a reason for me to stay and deep down I knew that.
I stumbled over my words and ended up just saying, “I don’t know.”
I kind of wanted to punch the bright-eyed newbie in her pretty face for making me question my life so much in the blink of an eye.
I just didn’t know why.
The project management job I had at that marketing agency didn’t provide a viable path for advancement (obviously) and ultimately, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Sure I had ideas of what I wanted to do, but more often than not, I knew what I didn’t like…and I was doing just that.
I accepted a job offer about a year after that innocent gal dared to asked me why I was still in Michigan. It seemed a step in the right direction, but I quickly saw it wasn’t a good fit.
Like most people though, I didn’t do much about it. I was being paid well enough. The now hubster and I were looking into various countries to visit and dreaming of adventures. Egypt was at the top of our list. I was keeping myself busy by imagining what else was out there.
Instead of seeking out what would really fulfill me and not just what was comfortable, you know what really made me reevaluate my life?
I got laid-off.
Me and 20% of the company. (And a huge part of Metro-Detroit.)
BAM! An entire auto-industry, in the shitter. Here’s your severance package. Here’s your office stuff. Thanks for playing.
You aren’t supposed to feel a mixture of relief and bitterness as you walk back to your car and swipe your parking pass through the gate one last time. But I did.
My heart couldn’t let me go back to that dynamic. It’s hard to describe to people who so fervently dismiss exploring your dreams for something more consistent and comfortable. But I knew it wasn’t for me. Sure the paycheck was, but that sort of grind wasn’t. Not one that sucked my soul and creativity.
At a crossroads, I chose to be perpetually poor for years and decided to go back to school for broadcast and media arts, something I always wanted to explore more. If I’m being honest, I still debate to this day as I pay back my student loans if it was worth it, as I’m sure many of you do. Sure I gained great skills, but nothing tangible besides my freelance work was panning out afterwards.
I was in a holding pattern of part time jobs, school and freelance work that weren’t career paths while the hubster applied for medical schools. I kept writing here, in retrospect, probably as an outlet. I knew there was an end. I held onto that little fleck of life until I squeezed every last bit of hope out of it I could.
When we moved down to Fort Lauderdale 2.5 years ago, much to the husband’s chagrin and our bank accounts, I stuck to my guns about jobs I would apply for. With a decade of marketing experience, I could mold myself into a lot of positions that were similar to what I had done before. But I knew I would be miserable, eventually. I had to trust my gut, even at the behest of more arguments.
When I applied for my current job as a copywriter that involved enough writing to make my heart swell, I knew I had found a solid direction and I was right where I needed to be. All my marketing experience and each track I’ve taken in between had conspired to get me here. I also work with people who say fuck a lot. So, basically, I’m right where I need to be.
Today, I’m happy at my job (more often than not) and I’ve worked really hard to set up a life that allows for traveling around the world just for funzies. Something my heart desperately, desperately needs. And also something that the former “comfortable” life didn’t leave much room for.
Now if I can write about my travels, we’d be set. Oh wait, that’s what this here blog is.
What is my point in this little, cushy feel-good story?
Don’t let some pretty, fresh-faced college grad make you question your life. Take the reigns and ask yourself now, “Why are you here?” If you can’t find a good answer, get crackin’!
Even if that means you stumble along the way, you take jobs that are below your pay grade, you volunteer in something that’s interested you for years, take a class you’ve been meaning to try or even if you are left looking back wondering if you should have tried something different. Who cares? Try it. I’m a prime example of trying it and it working out.
I questioned myself nearly every step of the way. The tauntings of the comfortable life while we were flat broke left me wondering if this direction I was going was right or justified. I looked at the hubster and felt pure and utter guilt. I kept the easy way at bay when some days I just wanted the easy answer. Sure there are aspect of my every day job that are quite “normal”, but I set it up on my terms and waited for something that felt right, not just comfortable.
I’m not just a bumbling mess when having to explain why I’m here.
I did it. I dug my fake leopard heels in and did it. That’s why.
Why are you here if not to experience this wonderful life as you see fit?
Anna | slightly astray says
I loved reading this, Caroline, and getting to know your story more! I can totally relate to not being happy at work and yet not doing anything about it because the pay was good and I was afraid to do something that actually would make me happy. I used to daydream about getting laid off (I was too scared to quit on my own, heh). Obviously in the end, I man’ed up and quit and I’m so much happier now, though also unsure about my future. I’m so happy for you that you’re now at a job you like and one that allows you to travel too! The fact that you went fought for it and went through years of struggles to get here makes it all the more satisfying!
Thank you, Anna! That’s so true, the years of struggle make it that much more satisfying. I think lots of us daydream about what we’d do “if” things happened and I’m glad it kicked me into gear and made me do it. Quitting your job to do what you knew would make you happier even if you don’t know what the future holds (which I find so exciting!) is incredibly courageous and something I admire greatly.