Professionally I have always been an overachiever. I was the sole participant in my own reading group in kindergarten and only one of seven in the gifted program until junior high; I was singing on stage by age 8. I wrote, directed and starred in my own musical at age 10. I got a full-time job in my field before college graduation and was picked as a managing editor for my first “big” job out of college over hundreds of other applicants due to one line on my resume: Maintained a 4.0 major GPA while working a full-time job in college. It showed that I was an extreme multi-tasker, according to my boss. I’ve always had more than one job at a time for my entire adult life, sometimes upwards of six to seven jobs at a time, more for boredom’s sake than the paycheck (even though that’s nice).
I had always been the best. Until I wasn’t anymore.
After a string of jobs that looked good on paper but left me feeling slightly unfulfilled in my career, over a gradual course of about five years I started to lose my purpose. For someone who has dedicated her life to work, work naturally filters into your very being.
Then two years ago I took a work-from-home local editor position that was a breath of fresh air. I absolutely loved it. I had responsibility, autonomy and the freedom of not being stuck in an absolutely suffocating cube while the clock ticked by. I swore to never have an office job again and to stick with this company forever. And then … they didn’t stick with me. I was working 80-hour weeks, was having chest pains and heart palpitations due to anxiety and stress and endured bronchitis, mono, pneumonia and a hospitalization all in the course of a year. And they let me go. I ended up being the first in a long line of people getting the axe, but it made me realize something that I don’t think I ever realized before. I’m just like everybody else and hard work doesn’t always pay off. The normalcy of that feeling ate at me like nothing ever had in my life.
After a painstaking six months and ego deflation, I finally accepted a position at home in St. Louis. It was the perfect job for me, even with an office being involved, and I loved it. I was so thankful to have this new breath of fresh air creatively and to mean something to the outside world again. But, outside of work the normalcy of being a day-to-day average person still was tearing at my soul. Some said it was due to my current mental status. Some said it was because I was a Sagittarius—we are never at rest. Others just chalked it up to “that’s life” and pretty much told me to deal with it. But, life isn’t meant to just be dealt with, is it? Shouldn’t we always strive to be and do better and be our best selves?
I thought about volunteering, about singing in an acoustic duo, even about singing on a cruise ship for a while. Over the course of several months my either my networking efforts didn’t pan out or someone didn’t return my call—either way it was enough for me to give up trying.
In addition to this weird gut feeling, my personal life, at least in my own mind, was in the toilet. I had two failed marriages, a failed engagement and a line of failed relationships. I couldn’t handle the pressures of being in a relationship, but not having a support system at home and watching my friends happily marry off one-by-one in typical Midwestern fashion served three nagging-my-mind roles:
- Shouldn’t I be like everybody else and have 2.2 kids and a garage by now?
- Wait, I had that (minus the kids) 10 years ago and that’s not what I wanted. I felt trapped in that situation and got out. Was something wrong with me?
- None of my friends can/want to hang out as often as I want to. I see their “one big happy family photos” on Facebook and I tear up. I’m completely alone.
Even though I had great friends and sporadic time with them, it wasn’t enough. They had their own lives and their own families. My new “friends” were bartenders and my time out on the town by myself usually ended up with me crying, yelling at someone or just passing out in order not to feel the pain I was going through. I felt like I was living on another planet compared to my friends. I started to become my own best friend, going to dinner and movies by myself. My dog became my complete world. It’s not like I didn’t have exciting times or a life that others may want. I had plenty of things to be thankful for, and I knew that.
However, about a year into my new job and almost two years after my last relationship—I made a tough decision. I finally had force myself to make a change.