At first, I didn’t let the discontentment get to me. After all, how many people can honestly say that they love their job? I had told myself that work isn’t something you do for kicks, it’s a means to an end. And unfortunately, whether I liked it or not, it came with the territory of being an adult.
It really wasn’t that hard, in the beginning, to push my true feelings down. Like an actor playing a role, I dove headfirst into my character. I wore the right clothes and I looked the part. I said all of the right things. I took the concept of “work ethic” and wore it on my sleeve like a badge of honor. I was good at my job and I was rewarded for it. The promotions and pats on the back should have been enough, would have been enough for someone else. But not for me.
Things started to unravel so slowly that at first, I barely noticed. I’d be sitting at my desk and my thoughts would drift off for a few moments. It was like entering into a mini trance of sorts, my mind floating off to some unknown destination. Abruptly I’d be snapped back into reality, usually in the form of a ringing phone or a coworker stopping by to chat.
It didn’t take too long before things started to progress. Soon I began having daily headaches that had no apparent cause. Stomach pains started to follow. I was tired, irritable and anxious. My normally upbeat mood was replaced with a heavy sadness that I carried around with me despite my outward happy appearance. My red lipped smile was like a sticker I could put on when I entered the office, that I could finally tear off at the end of the day.
Weekends were my respite but on Sunday nights my symptoms would start to return, coinciding with the start of the new week looming ahead. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling, the feelings of dread would wash over me. “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow”, I’d think to myself.
Immediately I began making a mental list of possible excuses to not come into work the next day. Car problems? Possibly. The stomach bug? Surely no one would want to catch that. An allergic reaction to shellfish maybe?
Eventually I came to my senses and would roll over and go to bed. The next day going to work, business as usual.
Lunch hours were a temporary solace but they went by much too fast. So I started to figure out ways to have extra mini breaks during the day. I had a huge water bottle that I’d refill diligently thoughout the day. I chugged crazy amounts down under the guise of keeping myself hydrated. Juvenile as it sounds, in reality it was so I would have to take multiple bathroom breaks during the day.
On one particular day while I was in my ladies room oasis, I happened to glance up at the mirror. Staring at my reflection, I felt sad for the girl looking back at me with her pleading eyes. She was begging me to make a change. I had pushed her too far.
I realized in that moment that all of the symptoms I had been experiencing were actually gifts. My Inner Guidance had been nudging me, pleading with me with me all along to listen up. Leaving me tiny clues that something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t deny the truth any longer. My job was draining my spirit and it wasn’t okay anymore.
Leaving my job was like becoming part of an experiment. It took me a few years (and a few different jobs) to figure things out. But I made a promise to myself that I would never again deny my feelings. I would instead use them as a compass to guide me. I would only do work that was fulfilling to me. Work that would light me up, feed my soul and that I actually wanted to do. I felt stronger and more empowered than I ever had before. The previous ailments that had plagued me became a distant memory that served as a powerful reminder of just how connected the mind, body and spirit actually are.
In some ways, that job was the best thing that ever happened to me. It taught me how important it is to take care of myself – inside and out. It taught me that feelings weren’t something to be swept under the rug. Instead they are there to guide me and let me know when I’ve somehow veered off course. Most importantly, it taught me that I matter. That I’m worthy of happiness, fulfillment and all of the other things that life has to offer.
And as for my smiley face sticker? These days I don’t need one anymore. It’s been replaced with an actual smile, one that spreads from ear to ear.