For those who haven’t seen Finding Nemo, right before the movie cuts to credits, all of Nemo’s beloved fish friends have successfully escaped the dentist’s office. But as they float in their plastic baggies on the surface of the harbor, they realize they have absolutely no idea what comes next.
That’s me, at this exact moment, writing this blog post from the comfort of my bedroom. So let’s backtrack. Before we dive into everything, what exactly was my job?
For the past 11 months, I worked with people who were looking to consolidate their credit card debt. We would call clients on the phone and try to get them to enroll in our debt settlement program. Debt settlement is when we work directly with somebody’s creditors to resolve their debt for less than the amount owed.
That doesn’t sound too horrible. So why did I quit?
For those who know me, this day had been brewing since I started. My passion is the polar opposite of selling debt settlement to difficult people. During my time with the company, my drive for success ended up turning into acute stress for falling short of expectations. I gave every ounce of myself that I had in order to excel here. I ate, slept, and breathed the program that we sold, knowing its every intricacy by heart. I made flash cards that I studied nightly, met with top-performing reps for one-on-one coaching, endured countless call reviews to perfect my pitch, and could recite the perfect responses to clients’ concerns like a Broadway actress reciting her lines. Like many people in Corporate America, I became my job.
But when your job is your identity and it is also performance-based, your self-worth is easily polluted when things aren’t going well at work. I couldn’t help but blame myself constantly when I went days without closing a deal: Why didn’t that client want to enroll in our program when they desperately needed to do this? What could I have said differently to have convinced them to enroll? Why is my coworker doing so much better than me when I pitch just as many people as she does?
What started as a means to an end ultimately decomposed me from the inside out, until I was a shadow of the person I used to be. I stopped writing. I stopped dancing. I hadn’t picked up my guitar in months. I had anxiety dreams about pitching people almost every night.
So why did the artistic hippie even apply for this job in the first place?
Well, part of it was that she was fresh out of college, feeling lost and desperate for financial security. The other part is that this job is commission-based and offered the potential to make exorbitant gobs of money–I’m talking bringing home in a month what any other recent grad could expect to make in a year. And I wanted to earn that kind of cash to be able to accelerate my dreams of free-lance writing, starting my own living co-op, and escaping the lifestyle of working a 9 to 5 job to pay for things we’re taught we need (but really don’t).
Nevertheless, I am so very grateful. Without that job, I wouldn’t have been able to move to Brooklyn and support myself singlehandedly at 23 years old. I also realize that being able to quit my job and pursue writing comes from a place of immense privilege. Although I never saw those kinds of paychecks, this job has allowed me to save enough money to support myself for a few months while I figure things out. Most people aren’t given that kind of opportunity.
To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure and that scares the hell out of me. I’ve been offered a couple of shoe-ins for similar corporate positions, but I know I would be just as unhappy. At this very moment, my life is a blank canvas. Instead of letting that intimidate me, I want to utilize it. I have the chance to completely change the trajectory of my reality. All I really know is that I want to write. And for right now, that’ll do.
image found on: http://gifs-for-the-masses.tumblr.com/post/20719547005