On February 1, 2019, I turned in my laptop and security badge and walked away from my job at one of the biggest corporations in the world.
I shuffled out of the elevator with the entirety of my life’s belongings - one carry on and one rolling duffle - in tow and proceeded straight to the airport via the E train. Given my situation, subway rides to LaGuardia and JFK had become second nature. This time, however, was different. I swiped my scratched up monthly pass, hoisted my net worth over the turnstile, and never looked back.
Your first post-grad job is something that most people never forget, but rarely talk about. Maybe because it was just a box to be checked on the path to a dream career. It could be that you were underemployed or your interests took a 180. Perhaps you’re haunted with PTSD and wonder what on earth you were thinking. But hey, you could also be one of the rare people who nailed the bullseye on your first try. And to you, I send my sincerest congratulations.
But that wasn’t me.
I had an offer for a really good job in New York City after I graduated college, and I took it. It would be completely different from my role as an intern the year before, but in the same organization of people that I already knew and loved. I saw it as opportunity to learn something new, challenge myself, and live in NYC for a bit. And for a while, it was.
Flash forward a few months, and things changed. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty because I genuinely love and respect all of the people I worked with, and have nothing but gratitude for the opportunity, but it became very clear that this was not the job for me.
What wasn’t as clear, however, was why I felt so compelled to stay.
I’ll never forget the day that I received the fated call from HR.
“Hi, is this Grace?”
“Hello, Grace. Congratulations! We’re excited to extend you an offer of employment…”
I froze. The word that, for college seniors, had a connotation that equated to winning the lottery. That is, of course, if it wasn’t preceded by the word, “un”. My mind swirled as the recruiter finished her spiel, informing me of the benefits one by one. I subconsciously scratched them down on a neon pink post-it, thanked her, and hung up the phone. I didn’t even care that the job would be different than the one I did last summer. It was a job. A pretty darn good job. And I got it all on my own.
When classmates nagged about post-grad plans, it was a relief to let them know that I had something lined up. And when my parent's friends pried and peeped about my employment status, I was proud they could say that their daughter was gainfully and competitively employed. People would always tell me that I was the one that they knew would do big things. I felt immense self-inflicted pressure to never let them down, so I broke the news to John, packed my bags, and headed to New York City.
It’s funny how quickly you fall from cloud nine after graduation. From chatting about life with your best friends on rooftops into the wee hours of the night, to packing up your childhood life, getting burned by NYC brokers, settling into 200 square feet, and becoming closely acquainted with your Herman Miller, the high-end corporate office chair in which you’ll spend 10+ hours every day for the foreseeable future. This was my reality for the past 17 months, a reality that I would have happily grit through with determination and without complaint if I were following my passion. Instead, I spent every single moment of my stalled subway commutes, 10pm conference calls, and Sunday evening email sessions imagining what my life would be like if I did something that I loved.
A year into my job, I remember going online to check up on my 401k. After the initial panic from seeing that my chump change investments had already taken a sizable “L”, the real heart attack set in. All of a sudden, a box with a traffic light graphic flashed across the screen.
“At this savings rate, you will reach retirement in 42 years.”
I gripped the mouse, readjusted my glasses, and zoomed in. Yes, Grace, you read that correctly. Forty-two years.
‘Insert multiple sobbing-face emojis’
And that was all it took. There was no way I was doing 42 more years of this crap. Why the heck was I managing software and pulling my hair out over data points for reporting dashboards and swapping my Vans for pearled loafers under my desk when I was born to tell you about the hidden gems of Paris and how to get started with clean beauty and how you can make cookies healthy? Where was my outlet to explain what Glossier is or how to survive acne or why it’s okay to quit your high-paying fancy schmancy corporate job?
The world is asking something of you and you need to pay attention.
The world was telling me that I needed to get out; that enough was enough. From the tears shed on every midnight call to John in Los Angeles, to sleeping with my phone clutched to my chest for fear of missing an email, to living out of two suitcases in weed-smelling Airbnbs for three months because my lease was up, but I felt obligated to help my company with my transition, to dislocating my shoulder hauling said two bags around New York City. I was operating on auto-pilot, subconsciously steering myself along an unknown trajectory, all the while letting the world blindly dictate my story.
At times, I thought that fabricated narrative was an accurate projection of the life I was supposed to lead, but it wasn’t. Because with every life-changing adventure that I diligently saved for, to the dozens of recommendation lists I made for friends and family of the best products and hottest restaurants, to the hours that I spent pouring my heart out writing these posts and connecting with all of you, my soul was set on fire. And that is what life is all about.
Over the past year and five months, I woke up. Like really woke up. I woke up to the fact that I was doing everything that I thought I needed to do and nothing that I wanted to do, that I was doing everything for others and nothing for myself, and that I was worried what other people would think if I threw in the corporate towel and followed my heart. Well, I’m here to tell you to stop thinking and start living the life you’ve always dreamed of. I’ve done nothing that I thought I’d do by now, but I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.