I had worked all my life for this. The hours of studying. The long hours at work. Dealing and putting up with all sorts of personalities.
And for some reason…I decided to walk away from the permanent corporate job life. At least for now.
Some people thought I was crazy. Why would I leave a six-figure job with full benefits and paid vacation? But to most of my family and friends who know me well, it wasn’t a shock. I had expressed my unhappiness over the years at a dream that was no longer coming to fruition.
So I made the bold decision to walk away from my (with two weeks’ notice, of course) with no other permanent job lined up. I know it’s something that a lot of people dream of doing but it took careful planning and preparation along the way. I didn’t just wake up and decide to quit. So if you are thinking of taking the same course of action, here are reasons I had to consider when deciding to leave my job.
My health was starting to suffer
Stress-related illnesses are a real thing. Working in a high stress environment can take a toll on your body and your mind. Throw in a chronic illness that flares up under stress and you have a recipe for disaster. With my autoimmune illness Hashimoto thyroiditis, additional external stress can severely limit the amount of the already limited energy you have to get through the day. The stress level at work was causing me a lot of inflammation pain throughout my body, tension headaches, increased fatigue, and even hives. I knew that if I stayed much longer, I would be in serious trouble with my health. Having left, I am no longer dealing with those symptoms and I can focus on taking care of my body to make sure I am operating at my optimum level.
The tradeoffs of having a corporate job vs freelancing were not worth it to me
For many people, the idea of a steady paycheck, paid vacation, healthcare, and other employee benefits are appealing. But then you get laid off – or watch your colleagues get laid off. Benefits start getting reduced or becoming more expensive. Pay increase freezes. Not being able to take the 15 precious days of PTO (typical for many US employees who have been at a job less than 5 years) when you want to or worse – being on-call during your vacation and having to wave your family on ahead while you deal with an issue. Over the years, I have watched corporate jobs become less and less appealing based on what I have experienced. I would rather bear more of the cost – especially healthcare – in return for flexibility and control. It’s not that you necessarily work less hours – it’s that you are able to work how and when you want to.
I’m not cut out for the traditional corporate world
All of my life, I have just wanted to fit in and blend – not stick out or rock the boat. But as I reflect on my life so far, I realize how I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. As much as I have always wanted to fit in, I also seem to have a knack for doing things my own way. I tried being a part of corporate life and fitting into the standards but found it less than rewarding for me. I was constantly switching companies (before it became acceptable to do so) to find a better fit for me. In the end, I realized that it’s me that doesn’t fit in.
My life goals have changed
When I first started my career back in 1999, I had visions of climbing the corporate ladder and being in the top of my field (accounting). But so much happened in the world with respect to accounting and business over that time – tech bust, Enron and the fall of Arthur Andersen, the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley, the financial crisis of 2008, health care (need I say more?), Amazon’s effect on how we do, well, everything. The landscape has changed dramatically, in ways we couldn’t have predicted.
Now that I am in my 40s, my priorities have re-focused and become laser clear. I want to be able to spend more time with my friends and family. I want to be able to have the freedom to pick and choose the projects I want to work on that are meaningful to me and not someone else’s agenda. I want my life to be focused on serving other and make a difference in this world. These are all things I have valued my entire life. It’s just that now I know what I need to do in order to live my life through this lens.
I had set up myself financially so that walking away was feasible
Walking away from a job is something that I couldn’t have fathomed a decade ago. I was debt into debt, little savings, and struggling to pay my monthly bills. Then I had a come-to-Jesus moment that meant I needed to decide if I was going to keep living the way everyone else does or I was ready and willing to make a change that would pay off in the future. My now-future self thanks me for making the latter decision.
After struggling through job loss, foreclosure, and finally becoming 100% debt free, I was able to put myself in a position that allowed me to have options. The ability to choose whether or not I wanted to live in a high cost of living area. The ability to pay for things with cash and being able to sleep at night, knowing those purchases weren’t being increased with interest. And the ability to walk away from a job and a career that was not right for me without being trapped with financial obligation. Getting my finances in order was the only way that I was able to make that decision with confidence and without worry.
Do I write this post as a way to pat myself on the back? No. Am I saying that everyone should just pack up their corporate jobs and become freelancers and entrepreneurs? Certainly not! What I do hope that you get out of my story is that taking the time and the effort to work on your financial life is worth it in the end. It can allow you options beyond your wildest dreams. It can literally change your life. All you have to do is take the first step, one dollar at a time.