It's taken me ten years to find the answer
This was such a breath of fresh air. After 25 years in marketing tech, I was let go unexpectedly in March. I'd lost my mother a year before and my only sister, 3 months prior. I was so mired in that triple whammy of grief, I was paralyzed and unsure of what to do next. I only knew this for certain: I could not return to Corporate America in the same way I'd known it for most of my working life. It's still difficult for me to say "I'm finishing my memoir" when people ask what I'm doing. It feels so... mushy... compared to the work I used to do. And yet, it's the work I was meant to do. Freelance gigs here and there are keeping my financially afloat, and writing is keeping me alive. Literally. It's a beautiful place to be. Thanks for sharing your experience.
I left my teaching job, which I realized had completely consumed my life, and I had left little of me left. I can completely relate to the painful feelings you express here at your decision. I have never regretted my change of direction and just wish I had woken up earlier! I love your podcast and I am very glad you made that shift.
Thank you Sam. I’m in the midst of a job change so the timing for me was great. 👍🏻
Sam, I can't tell you how much I relate to this. Truly, feel this one deeply.
Love this piece! Actually wrote in my journal last night, “my job does not define me.” So right on time. I feel lucky my generation is starting to make that distinction and shift but your words are very poignant. Thank you for sharing!
"It wasn’t until I finally came up for air, a year or so after The Pool went down, that the truth dawned on me. Far from spending the previous seven years building a new identity, or even attempting to unearth the one long buried under designer bags and performance reviews, I’d been trying to resurrect the old one. Rebuilding a life that was all about meetings and spreadsheets and four hour daily commutes and endlessly worrying about other people’s expectations. Ironically, all things I’d been trying to escape when I’d left magazines. I’d just gone right ahead and recreated them. Every last one." This is so honest and insightful. I find it very helpful. I left a large organisation last year and you have very eloquently reminded me of the dangers of trying to recreate the "busyness" I felt (and didn't like, except when I did). Thank you.
I've been going through this for allllllllll of 2023. First, I quit my job mid-semester as a university instructor because I didn't think I could cope with angry students and plagiarism and AI and checked out administrators for one more second. Then, I got hired into a Fancy New Marketing Exec Position... and got fired five months later. Instead of taking a beat, I threw myself into learning web design and creating a branding studio and applying for jobs and on and on and on. I really thought the answer was to push through and that if I stopped for even a moment, I'd fall apart. And then I did fall apart-- and found myself hospitalized and getting a hysterectomy at 32. It's only through *that* experience that I have started to come to terms with how divorced I had become from my sense of self. I'm slowly trying to piece together who I am... or who I could be.
Anyway, thanks for sharing this! It feels comforting to know that I'm not the only person who has gone through it, and I'm grateful for your vulnerability.
Wow, I truly loved reading this, and relate a lot. This time last year I left a job and and industry where I'd spent 10 years climbing the career ladder, only to get to the top and discover it was filled with burnout and unhappiness. Until I made that discovery, I was so deeply passionate about my work that it was my entire personality. I didn't have hobbies, the only friends I had were people who worked for the same company, and all of my time was spent at work, or checking my work emails. By the time I left I was incredibly unwell. I've found the last 12 months harder than I care to admit. I've found little parts of myself again along the way, and am rebuilding the person and character I want to be. In fact, Substack is helping me to do that by getting my writing online, a true passion that I've never taken further than my notepads. Reading that it has taken you a long time to find yourself again is comforting, I have been so hard on myself for not JUMPING head first into the next obsession but actually I'm now realising I just need to live. Live a life that fulfils me, as me. My job or career does not define me. Thank you so much for writing this piece!
It is almost eight years since I was fired from my dream job, four days before turning 50! In these eight years I was rehired by the same people who fired me (with half my salary and in a lower position), I could move to an even better job than the one I had, but it wasn’t my “dream job”, I wasn’t happy. Last year I resigned and moved to Paris, in order to write and read (the cliché of a wanna be writer I supposed) I still couldn’t figure out what I want to do or where I want to be. But, I am definitely happy to be part of the Substack community. It is a great place to express oneself and to find incredible interesting people.
Very much resonate with this - the allure of the shiny job is a potent distraction from the uncomfortable-ness of being a person...
At age 48, I'm going through (another) such reckoning right now. And wrestling with the: "You failure. What's WRONG with you?" voices. All to say, thank you for writing this.
I really enjoyed reading this and can definitely resonate with some of the themes you explore.
Felt this on a visceral level, Sam. I wonder whether we have the capacity to learn it sooner? Maybe it's something that surfaces predominantly in one's 40's and 50's...I don't know. It's just that it seems that's the time many of us experience it. Do we have to go through life first to truly understand who we are and what our identity is? I'm pondering...
As someone in the midst of a midlife meltdown down and identity crisis - this was super helpful read. So much to learn from you and your experience. Thanks for so generously sharing. Always been a fan!
I had a Facepainting business that was severely impacted by government instructed lockdowns and I decided that rather than watch it go completely down the pan, I’d walk away voluntarily and pass all the equipment on with love to someone else.
I am a cared for my son with additional needs right now which takes up a huge amount of my time but still want more, but what?
That said, when people’s first conversation piece is “what do you do for a living?” It’s like an alarm telling me to stay away, that they’re not my type, too imagey.
Just read your Substack. Fabulous! Mine is ENCORE. Named after a stimulating article by David Brooks in The Atlantic 9/23. I've been “retired” for 20 years. I was way too young.
I could have written what you did! We have much in common. Thank you.