I think it is fair to say that everyone has experienced a breakup at some point in their lives. For most people I think that breakup happens with their boyfriend or girlfriend at the time. And it hurts, and you feel awful, and your life seems a little down for a while. But something happens to pick your life back up again; you meet someone new, you find a new hobby, move somewhere…no matter what that experience is, it sets a new stride for your new life.
I am going through a breakup right now. A career breakup. I’ve been with my job for about three years now. It’s been rocky at best. When I think about the good days versus the bad days, the bad days have taken over by a landslide. When I think about the struggles and the time and energy I put into trying to make it work, I feel exhausted all over again. I think it is time to cut the cord. It feels like the relationship I have with my career right now is toxic–you can’t get away even though you know it’s the best thing for you. I have a knack for doing that. I know deep down I would be happier leaving and doing something else, but the idea of walking into a new and unknown life is far scarier to me than staying. It’s like the horror movie where the girl walks up to the dark, open door, and you’re screaming, “Don’t go in there!!” even though you know she will walk through to see what’s on the other side. And you know it’s bound to be something horrifying. But in the end of most of those movies, doesn’t our hero emerge happy, having overcome a great obstacle?
When I started my job three years ago I felt very lost and unsure–not necessarily all because of my job. I just was unsure of everything. I thought for a while that I was going through a quarter life crisis and I had to fix everything. I started reading a book called “20 Something 20 Everything” by Christine Hassler to try to help bring some guidance to the way I was feeling. I never finished it. In fact, I barely started it. I got a few chapters in and decided I was being silly. My parents were telling me it was just a transition period, and I should relax and try to establish myself in a new city, and a new real “big girl” job. So I put the book away, deciding that I was being ridiculous, and that all new beginnings are difficult, and I just had to be better at what I was doing.
Well, three years have gone by now and I feel no different than the day I went to the Self Help section at Barnes and Noble. I don’t talk about it, because I’m just happy to have a job. Some of my friends don’t even have a job, and who am I to complain? In reality, I have it so good. I have my own place, live independent from the bank of mom and dad, have a paying job with great benefits and am living in one of the “youngest” cities in Wisconsin. And yet here I am.
As this year goes on, I have picked up that book again. Opening it has been difficult, but this time mostly because of fear. I fear letting down my family and friends. I fear letting down my other colleagues, who I have really started to make friends with this year. I fear letting down Jeremy, who has been so supportive throughout this whole process. I don’t want to screw up our future together. I fear leaving and never finding anything to replace what I have. Most of all, I fear being labeled as a failure. Perhaps I have failed, but I tell my students all the time, “failure is the only way we learn. If no one ever failed, no one would ever have learned they were doing it wrong.” It’s harder to believe when you’re on the other end, but I keep trying to remind myself.
This fear though, I think, comes from this feeling that I’m done. I’m done with this job, and I’m done trying to force myself to be something I am not. This fear that I know I have to start over. I am still unsure of my decision. I go back and forth all the time. I think where I am now, though, I am ready to say that this career relationship is over.
I think the world has other plans for me. And I’m both excited and nervous to find out what they are.