As of this today, I have officially been away from the corporate world for a full week. I’ve had many people check in with me this past week to see how/what I am doing-so here is an update.
I would say that the hardest part of this transition so far has been a loss routine. For the past 8 years I’ve had the same routine: wake up, go to work, watch the clock for 8+ hours, come home. Lather, rinse, repeat. To be certain, this routine wasn’t enjoyable by any means, but it was habitual and habits are always hard to break. I’ve still been waking up early, but now I have the freedom to decide how to spend the day. I’ve still been busy, which is good- idleness makes me stir crazy. I’m the type of person who has a hard time taking a sick day- I can’t just lay around in bed all day, I have the constant feeling that I need to be doing something, anything. So while I get my bearings, I’ve been doing my best to stay busy. I’ve also made a point to not turn on the TV once over the past week; I love a Netflix bender as much as the next person, but it is too easy to get sucked down that rabbit hole and emerge bleary-eyed, 10 hours later.
In addition to the loss of my routine, I would say that I’ve been undergoing a bit of an identity crisis as well. For as long as Brendan and I have been together, I’ve always brought in at least 50% of the household income. In a way, I’ve always considered that to be my biggest contribution to our marriage, which I realize is crazy. I’ve never looked at him and thought that his only marital input was bringing in half of the bacon, so why on earth would I value myself that way? I guess it goes to show that we put far more pressure on ourselves than we do on others. He’s been my rock through this process, offering me reassurance that I made the right choice and that my worth as a wife and as an individual is not based on my income.
I think in this day and age, women especially feel a pressure to hold their own in the workplace and maintain their financial independence . Don’t misunderstand me, the feminist in me is proud of how far women have come professionally in the last few decades. However, with careerism comes a mindset that our value as a human being is directly tied to our paycheck; and believe me, this is a VERY hard mindset to get rid of. If you are on an upward trajectory of a career that you love, by all means, lean in! But if you are like me and you keep asking yourself, “why am I still doing this?” and the only answer you come up with is, “because it pays well”, it might be time to shift your priorities.
Over the past 6 months when I was debating leaving the corporate world, I kept telling myself, “I don’t have a choice, I have to keep this job. We can’t afford for me to quit”. But you know what? When we took a hard look at our finances, we realized how much money we were
wasting spending on needless items. How many times did we order pizza instead of taking the time to make dinner? How many times did I stop at TJ Maxx on the way home from work because I needed to buy something to in order to forget a crappy day? How many unworn shades of MAC lipstick have been rolling around in the bottom of my purse for the last decade? For me, the cost of those small $20 and $50 choices was the feeling that I had no choice in the bigger issue: leaving a job I didn’t love because I felt I needed the paycheck. I had been wanting us to cut back on spending, this opportunity has forced us into action.
It is so easy to get caught up in consumerism and feeling like we need to keep up with the Jones’. Looking back on my first job out of college, I was making roughly half of what I made when I left my job last month. During those first few years, I still managed to pay my bills even though I was making far less. The only difference between then and now is that I wasn’t spending as much on myself, and I actually had to think before making impulse purchases. We need far less to get by than we think we do.
I do want take the time to acknowledge that I am fortunate. Extraordinarily fortunate. My spouse has a stable job that he loves, which has allowed me to take this chance. I am in no way discounting that there are many, many people with more financial burdens than we have. I realize that there are single parents out there who need to do whatever it takes to make ends meet; to them, I tip my hat and say that you are some of the strongest people out there. The point of this post is not to tell everyone to follow my exact same path- in some cases, this is just not possible.
My long-winded conclusion here is that our value as human beings has nothing to do with how much we make, or how much we spend. This is something that I am struggling with currently, so I recognize that it is not easy to unwind from this mentality. We have so much more to offer in life than our income. Ask any teacher out there: when you do something that you are passionate about, the money is secondary. Slowly but surely, I am learning this.