What I Learned From Doing a Job I Hate

02/13/2015 10:33 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015
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It was one year ago today. I was huddled tightly in the fetal position on my bed crying. You see, a few months prior I had applied for an opportunity that would change my life. And in this moment I had just learned that my application was denied, which felt as though I had finally exhausted all my options when it came to the success of my business.

"Mom," I sobbed into the phone, "What am I going to do?!"
"Well, seems as if you should put in more hours at your job," she offered.

Ugh. My job. It was a job that I had performed for nearly eight years. My first job in the real world. A job that I had said "yes" to for the pay, benefits, and security. The worst part was that I was good at the job! Ok, I was more than good. It came so easily that I could accomplish what most people did in half the time with better results. But even in the moment I took the job, I knew that it would never be a job I loved.

"But I can't!" I paused to let a few sobs escape and switched from my dramatic lament to a somber seriousness. "Mom, have you ever done something every day that makes you want to die?"

The severity of that statement didn't register right away (had I really just compared my job to slow suicide?). I had always justified staying at my job for the paycheck or the other (now forgotten) perks of the job. On the phone that morning with my mom was the first time I had ever fully admitted my real feelings about the position.

After that, I found that I couldn't hide from it. Every time my phone rang for work. Every time I had to turn on my work laptop. Heck, every time I even looked at the laptop I was filled with resentment, hatred, anger, and a myriad of other emotions. All negative.

My job performance plummeted. I was perpetually behind. I spent more time and energy avoiding the job than actually doing it. Nearly every phone call I took was full of excuses as to why I had forgotten to submit a report or why I had missed a deadline. With each passing day, I prayed for it to just go away.

Four months later my wish was granted. My employer had clearly caught on to my excuses and politely let me know that my employment situation had been reevaluated. My initial response was to go through the stages of grief. Denial briefly overcame me before I transitioned into anger. Then in my bargaining phase I actually asked my employer to reconsider his decision. I spent the month of June oscillating between depression and acceptance, until I finally came out on the other side in July. It was then that I was able to fully embrace the experience as a blessing in disguise and process the silver lining in the situation.

Here's what I learned:

  1. It's not worth it. I compromised my passion, optimism, authenticity, creativity and energy in the process. All of the negative energy expended on the job took away my productivity and creativity from what I wanted to be spending my time on. My mind was so occupied with the unhappiness of my current situation that there was no room my designs to blossom. And on the rare occasion that one did, I was so tired from fighting with myself over my job that I couldn't do anything about it if I tried.
  2. It's not worth it. Living out of alignment with your dreams sucks. There's really no other way to put it. It is a terrible feeling to wake up every day to face a life you don't want to be living.
  3. It's not worth it. Not only was I severely unhappy, but I was making everyone around me severely unhappy. I wasn't serving my clients, as I had sworn to do, and my actions were affecting their lives in an unintentionally negative way. I put my employer in an uncomfortable position. My poor mom took countless phone calls to listen to my despair, dry my tears, and all the while was completely unable to help me. My friends heard me lament constantly and I was a huge drag to be around.
  4. It's not worth it. No amount of money can buy happiness, health, and general well being. The main reason I stayed so long was the paycheck. It was pretty much the only thing that I liked about the job. It afforded me so much freedom and security, but compromised everything I live for -- none of which can be bought.
  5. It's not worth it. I hadn't realized how much space my job was taking up in my life. And not just in the hours I was working, but also the energy I put into the unending mental anguish. Letting go of the job and the headache that went with it allowed new opportunities to unfold. My phone is constantly ringing with new offers. I have an abundance of new and valuable contacts entering my life and people are seeking me out asking to work or partner with me. A girlfriend recently observed, "All of the best opportunities in your life arrived after you ditched that job. I don't think that's a coincidence."

While my life has been slightly uncomfortable since becoming unemployed, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have unlocked my undeniably passionate spirit, allowed space for great opportunities, and truly begun to enjoy waking up every day. Living a life in line with my purpose is definitely a life worth living.