For a very long time now, I have worked. Work work work. I started in my mid-teens as a McDonald’s cashier, eventually rising to manager for a while, then branching out into the worlds of retail, customer service, tech call center, office administration, event planning, even physical therapy and manufacturing. Wherever I could find a job with a steady paycheck, that’s where you’d find me.
Very quickly it became apparent that working hard for 40 hours a week just wasn’t enough. Most of my jobs, especially over the past decade, became huge time commitments, including on-call 24/7 positions. The paychecks from these jobs were (usually) enough to cover my bills, but when you sat down to do the math, I was only making a few dollars per hour over the time I was putting into the work.
When I finally ended up having to leave Chicago during my divorce, I decided to try something new. For the rest of the year, I traveled with the Dirty Girl Mud Run as their starting line announcer at race events all over the country. It wasn’t a sustainable long-term opportunity, but it helped me get my foot in the door back home in Cleveland to finally get a job that I believed could be an actual career path: I became a race director, planning running events all over Ohio (and across the country, for some clients).
That was about three years ago. After having a horrible experience with misogyny and other tensions at once office, I moved on to another company in the industry hoping to finally have a long-term work experience that didn’t go sour. Such things are too much to ask, I suppose, and in less than a year I found myself once again overworked, severely underpaid, and not very well treated when I voiced my concerns. My health hit a downward spiral and, after losing 20 pounds in just a few weeks amid some other serious concerns, I finally decided that enough was enough.
In the past, I had always done the best I could to leave a job on good terms. It didn’t always work out that way, but generally I prioritized putting in my two weeks, wrapping up all my projects as best I could, communicating to my coworkers who would be picking up where I left off… This time, I wasn’t having ANY of that. No two weeks’ notice, minimal instructions, I just walked in one day, dropped my laptop and keys onto the desk, grabbed my last couple personal belongings, and walked right back out.
I have never felt so free and optimistic in my life.
No fear, no confusion, no feeling torn, just elation and the sense of a huge weight being taken off my shoulders. I felt brave and strong and, for the first time in ages, in control.
While it’s true I did have a few support structures vaguely in place before I left, finding income sources or a reliable paycheck really isn’t my priority anymore. There’s always a way to pay the bills, if you work hard (and I’m no stranger to hard work) but there are so many other things in the world that I want to prioritize. Along the way I’ll be sure to generate some cash flow; that isn’t a concern, that’s just a side goal.
The primary goal is to stay free, and to stay where the happiness is. That’s the life I want to live, and that’s the life I’m GOING to live. In fact, that’s the life I have BEEN living for the past couple months since I walked out. And there are so many wonderful plans in place to continue living free and loving life.
Happiness is a choice – how will you make it?