Friday, March 15, 2013

Another $%#@! epiphany: part one

Important note: I purposely have never stated where I work on Twitter or in this blog for reasons of self-protection. I do not wish to accidentally slander my company, nor get into any kind of trouble for my thoughts. My work and life are separate. Everyone reading this who knows where I work is being respectfully asked to keep it private for my sanity's sake. Thank you!

I've started this blog post many different times, in many different ways. I've started it with a joke. I've started it with a story. I've started it from the beginning. But no matter how I start it, the point I'm trying to make doesn't get any more lighthearted or less terrifying…..

I am unhappy with work and I've come to realize the 9 to 5 lifestyle is not for me.

I wanted it to be. I really did. When we first moved to Seattle, I was all about scoring an office job. Shitty lighting, water cooler jokes, a set schedule and a steady paycheck? By God, sign me up.

It wasn't that I didn't love my freelancing life. I did, but after everything went to hell for us and I spent 2010 and 2011 scared out of my mind, I was ready for stability and a routine. I was ready for a paycheck on payday rather than wrestling with freelance clients who are slow to pay and use every excuse in the book.

I was tired of fighting for what I knew I was worth. So I threw in the towel and decided to let someone else decide for me.

 I got the office job, and I liked it. I really, really liked it. It was a laid back culture without the strict dress code and weird HR policies. It was a start-up, and everyone was really young and fun. I made friends fast. My writing improved, a lot. I loved being able to explain what I did for a living without it taking 45 minutes. My parents loved that, in their mind, I was finally using my college degree. I was getting paid to write, damn it, and life was good.

And oh, the benefits. I had never known such benefits! Health insurance that allows me preventative care and massages? Paid vacation? Having those things when I never had was incredible. The first time I ever used a PTO day I felt like I had won the Lotto.

It had its downsides, of course. The salary offered was so abysmal I actually laughed when the recruiter told me over the phone, thinking he was joking (oops). But considering my income had dwindled to zero and rent was looming, I accepted it. I just figured I'd freelance on the side to make up for it. It was a start-up, he explained, so the pay was low. But the company was growing, and eventually the salaries would too.

And boy, did it grow. The company grew, and continues to grow, faster than anything I've ever seen and faster than the founders expected. I can't remember a day in the last two years when I've gone into work and haven't been stressed about my workload. Every time it starts to taper off, we get slammed with new goals, more work, longer days and more stress.

Unfortunately the salaries haven't grown. Because the company started charging us for health insurance this year, I make less than the day I started even though I'm easily doing twice the work.

And I've figured out that the reason some of these companies provide such good health insurance is because you need it. There is sickness all around me in that office. Girls barely out of college are contracting terrible stress-related illnesses, including auto immune diseases. I've been sick more in the last two years than I ever have in my life. I'm soft from lack of exercise. My pride and joy, my flat stomach, is gone because of cortisol caused by stress. Every time I treat myself to one of those $20 massages it's incredibly painful because my stress manifests in my muscles.

I'm not trying to sound ungrateful. I owe the company a lot for hiring me at the scariest time in my life, and there's a lot about my life that's awesome. But the fact is, no matter how healthy I eat, how much water I drink or how much I exercise, I wake up every weekday morning feeling like shit. I feel lethargic and hungover even when I'm not.

When I arrive at my office, a big ball of stress forms in my stomach. I spend the next 8 to 9 hours writing as fast as I can, eating lunch at my desk and getting annoyed with interruptions. By the time I get home, my brain is so dead from writing about clothes that the last thing I want to do is write creatively. And forget freelancing. I have two freelance clients right now, and I can barely muster up the energy to produce their content even though I actually love doing it.

I keep waiting for it to change, and it's just not changing.

I started applying for new jobs after the holidays. We have some really incredible companies here that are internationally known and they pay well. Writers that leave my company usually double their salaries. Except even when I was applying, it didn't feel right. I should have been excited about the prospect of a prestigious career with a well-known company. I wasn't.

I then fell into a deep pit of despair. Why wasn't the thought of climbing up this metaphorical career ladder exciting to me? I have no aversion to hard work—in fact, while I certainly need my vacations, I prefer to work. And while the job market is very competitive here, it's also decent. With opportunities all around me, I should have felt inspired, not heavy. That, combined with the guilty of having such a "first world problem" (oh wah, I'm not happy at my job and struggle to get by, when I've got a million privileges and I know it) weighed heavy on my heart.

Since January I've continued that cycle of dragging myself to work, scowling through my day, applying for jobs at night and getting no satisfaction out of any of it… until, finally, I saw the light. 

To be continued...


Stevie said...

Ooooh, excited to hear the rest! I'm so sorry you've been so stressed. I think it's wonderful that you've gained so much experience from this job - but at what cost, you know? If the rest of your life suffers then what's the point? I hope you've found, or are in the process of achieving some balance.

JessicaLee said...

Thanks Stevie! I'm sure working on it. :)

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