It’s 5 am, and I find myself tossing and turning, willing myself to go to sleep and get what little rest I can before my alarm goes off. I haven’t slept much all night. I’ve been thinking about all the work I need to get done – all the work maybe I should have already gotten done but I just haven’t because … well, because to me, it’s draining, unexciting, unfulfilling. It leaves me empty. It leaves me blank.
The insomnia isn’t new. It’s an old friend by now. Or enemy. A companion of some sort whose motives are yet to be determined. At any rate, I’m used to it by now. I’ve learned to function with little sleep. Or at least, I tell myself I have.
And just as my mind has started to calm and I’ve drifted off to sleep, the alarm goes off. It’s the kind of cruel timing you can’t help but both laugh and curse at. I snooze the alarm. A few times.
I drag myself out of bed with enough time to make myself look presentable and head out the door. It’s a long commute. Enough time to think about all the things I need to get done. Who needs caffeine when you have anxiety to wake you up.
I get into the office and stare blankly at my screen. I’m surrounded by colleagues who seem so genuinely excited to wake up every morning and get back to work. They are happy. They are fulfilled. What’s their secret?
But more importantly, what’s wrong with me? Why am I devoid of that excitement? Why can’t I find that motivation? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’m doing? They pay me generously. They give me amazing benefits. What the hell is wrong with me?
The day ends. It was long. I’ve gotten work done. I’m not sure if it’s enough. I’ll add that to the list of things to agonize over at 5 am.
Sometimes you start by stopping
It’s incredible how easily we let things become a routine, how effortlessly we define something as unavoidable.
“That’s just the way things are.”
“It’s a necessary evil.”
And this fabricated sense of inevitability ensnares us. Sometimes, we pry those jaws open and make our escape. We find another job, another company. Maybe we get a better title, a higher salary. But it’s not too long before we see that all we’ve done is dashed into a shiny, new trap. And that higher salary, those amazing benefits, that prestigious company merely become extra teeth in the snare. Because how could you possibly give all that up?
I followed that bait for years. Maybe all the years, if I’m being honest with myself. And if I’m being really honest, I built that trap and sharpened those teeth myself. I let prestige, money, title, what others might think of me ensnare me so tightly, I’m not sure where the trap ended and I began.
And then I realized I was asking myself the wrong questions.
It wasn’t: What is wrong with me? Why am I devoid of that excitement? Why can’t I find that motivation? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’m doing?
It was: What is wrong with me? Why haven’t I just walked away? Why don’t I explore that exciting unknown? Why do I keep following that path so clearly marked ‘here be traps’?
That’s what I should have been asking myself. And so, I finally did.
And it became clear that the escape did not lie in prying open that trap and moving forward, only to step into another snare. It required chewing off my foot and stepping … well, in any other direction.
Yes, gruesome, I know. But that’s what you have to do to escape that sort of trap. You will need to chew off that piece of you that you held on to for so long. The piece of you that obsessed with having that fancy job title. Or working at that big company. Or getting that corner office. Or just making a shitload of money. It’s that piece of you that you allowed others – and your own ego – to build up. It’s that piece of you that you thought was all of you.
And that is why you have to chew it off.
Start by starting
Which, at last, brings us to the happy part of the story because – PHEW! – that was heavy, right?
Today is the last day at my job. My high-paying tech job. And my next job is … yet to be decided.
I am hobbling off to explore that exciting (and slightly scary) unknown. I am letting myself wander into uncharted territory. I am navigating new seas.
Okay, okay, enough with the poetics. What does that really mean?
Well, it means that I’m taking time to reflect and reset. More specifically, it means I have a laundry list of careers I’ve always been curious about – even daydreamed about – but don’t really have much experience in. These are professions I may very likely have to start back at the beginning for, so I had convinced myself that it was too late to try.
But as cliché as it is, it’s never too late to try. You just have to start.
Because it’s better late than continuing to be miserable in your job.
Better late than always wondering what could have been.
Better late than feeling empty. Blank.
Better late than blank.
Better late than ________.
(oh hey, look, we got to the title of the blog!)
I’ll share more details in my next post, but for now, just know that I’m full of excitement … and fear. Mostly excitement. But that little bit of fear will probably always be there. I’ve chewed off my foot and feel free from its weight, but I know the sensation of that phantom limb will surface every now and then.
And that’s ok.
A note from the author: This post will resonate with some of you, and for others, not at all. This blog is in no way, shape or form meant to be prescriptive. It is merely a reflection of my own personal thoughts and experiences. Thanks for reading!