I’ve gotten quite a few requests to share an update about life and work since leaving my corporate job in April.
I can without a doubt say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel happier, healthier (physically, mentally, emotionally) and more productive and accomplished.
I’ve learned that I’m not alone in leaving my job this year – many recent articles cite that up to 41% of workers are planning to leave their jobs – it’s being called “The Great Resignation.” More interesting articles on the topic here, here and here.
This data doesn’t surprise me. I think the pandemic forced a lot of people revaluate how they wanted to spend their time – I know many people who left their jobs for better opportunities with more flexibility, better pay and benefits or to pursue their own businesses. It has been a joy to witness friends and colleagues finding their next opportunity!
I sometimes wonder if I would have had the courage to make this decision absent of a pandemic and I’m not sure. I hadn’t been happy, challenged or excited about my work for the last couple of years, but I stayed because it was comfortable, secure, I loved the people I worked with and it allowed me to still have the bandwidth to work on my blog. But spending almost a year away from the office and then our entire department being brought back abruptly with nearly zero notice (plus a lot of other issues) gave me the push I really needed to seriously consider leaving.
It has been about two months since I left my corporate job to work full time on my blog and here are some thoughts and reflections on everything so far…
The first few weeks after leaving my job felt a bit strange because I was still dropping our kids off at school, but instead of driving to the office, I was driving back home to work.
I’m someone who thrives on routine so I start each day the same way to maintain a level of consistency. I wake up/get out of bed between 6:15/6:30 and get ready for the day – I always put on some makeup and depending on whether or not I plan to shoot any content that day, I will style my hair. Then, I get dressed – usually in leggings, a sports bra and a sweatshirt. I typically change when I leave the house for errands, but I like to wear my workout clothes so I can get a workout in when the mood strikes or because I have a workout class booked later in the day.
When I get home from dropping the kids off, I eat breakfast and make coffee. Then, I enjoy my coffee while checking some emails, posting on Instagram and scrolling a bit, reading articles, etc. After coffee, I brush my teeth and start my workday. Every day is different and I’ll delve more into how I decide what to work on later in this post. Most days I work and break for a quick lunch and then work again until the kids get home around 4 p.m. Occasionally I leave midday to run errands, attend a workout class or meet a friend for lunch.
Most days I’m on my computer a lot (and also my phone since IG stories and some things like editing photos are easier to do on the iPhone). I spend time answering emails (collaborations/partnership inquiries), doing graphic design, writing, curating items from my favorite retailers, etc. There’s also a lot of admin work, which is always my least favorite but necessary task.
FREEDOM & FLEXIBILITY
The most major change I’ve experienced is having the freedom and flexibility to use my time as I wish. That freedom comes with its own pros and cons, of course. I still always work on weekends – but it’s much less than I used to, because now I can shoot and write my content during the week and don’t have to plan my weekends around it. My weekend work mostly consists of stories and sometimes a try-on session if I get an order in on Friday or Saturday.
I’ve learned a lot about myself now that I’m outside of the “confines” of a 9-5 desk job. One huge benefit has been being able to be consistent with daily movement because I can do it when the mood strikes me. Sometimes that’s in the morning, sometimes mid-afternoon. I like being able to get away from my computer at a time where I feel most energized and motivated.
The other major freedom is eventually being able to travel for longer periods of time. My plan is to take the kids to Canada for a month next summer to see family & friends and have Kevin join us for a couple of weeks depending on how much time he can take off. That’s something I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of being able to do before.
I enjoy going to Trader Joe’s right when it opens to avoid the long lines, the Post Office during times it’s not busy and shopping in stores during the workday when they’re not crowded. I like attending a 9 or 10 a.m. workout class. If there are days where I don’t feel well, I also have the freedom to rest or take a break if I need to.
Sometimes, I feel a level of guilt over this newfound freedom. Like I’m not deserving of it or something? Or that people will think I don’t “work hard enough” (when truthfully, I’m more productive and creative now than I was for the last couple of years).
I guess imposter syndrome is real regardless of whether you work for a corporation or yourself. I have to continuously remind myself that I worked two jobs for over a decade to finally have this level of flexibility. There was so much work, energy, sacrifice and commitment involved in being able to get to this point – it’s OK to enjoy and feel thankful for it now.
A NEW WAY OF WORKING
I do my best work when I’m in a hyper-focused or passionate mode. I’m unproductive, distracted and avoidant unless I’m in this “mode,” so I’ve learned to allow myself to have the freedom to work on what feels right everyday, because that will always yield the best results. Some days, I’ll knock out several posts over a few hours because I’m in a writing mood (those are the days I’ll write longer-form content like this, too). Other days, I like to focus on more visual work like collages, photography, making videos, etc.
Initially, I had planned to have a content schedule, but after a couple of weeks, I realized that wasn’t an efficient or effective way for me to work. Of course I have deadlines on my calendar for various projects, but what I choose to write about or share day-to-day is totally reliant on what kind of creative juices are brewing that day.
I keep a list of ideas I have for content/blog posts/reels and I use that list to inspire what I work on each day – I just choose what I’m drawn to or “feeling” that day. Sometimes I feel “disorganized” because I don’t have a calendar with exactly what I’m going to work on each day – but the actual content I work on each day doesn’t matter – what matters most is that I work on something and give it my all instead of feeling forced to work on a post I don’t feel engaged with at that moment.
Learning more about ADHD and how it manifests has helped me a lot in my work. Because I have the freedom to work on what I’d like to everyday, I no longer feel so paralyzed. I used to go into work each day with a sense of dread and unable to get my day truly started because I became overwhelmed at all of the “boring” or uninspiring tasks I didn’t want to do, but that are part of everyday life and business. Now, I can really hone in on what feels organic each day, which makes working enjoyable.
Sometimes, I get inspired to work on something at 3 p.m and just go all in on it. It’s so strange because at the office that’s usually a time of day I’d feel totally drained and “done,” but at home, I usually get a random burst of mental energy at that time.
I’m a very outgoing and social person by nature. I try to make friends everywhere I go. My greatest joy is making someone laugh, even if it’s at my own expense.
The downside of working for yourself is that it can feel lonely and isolating. I really crave and thrive on face-to-face human connection, so I’ve been focused on making weekly plans with friends – whether it’s lunch or dinner, to maintain an active social life. Even going to a workout class has been a fun social experience because I get to chat for a few minutes with new people.
I prioritize time with friends because it rejuvenates me – I love conversation, laughter, togetherness. I also need time away from my phone. When I go out with friends, I don’t touch my phone unless it’s to take a quick snap of our amazing food. I do this intentionally because I’m on my phone so much for the work that I do. Oftentimes, when I’m out with friends, it’s the only time I truly get that break. I sometimes wonder if I should share more about those parts of my life, but I also love not thinking about capturing a cute photo for Instagram when I’m out with friends. My social life is more full and active now than even before the pandemic and I’m really grateful for that.
I could write a novel on this. By the time I actually resigned from my job, my anxiety was managed by medication and I was seeing a therapist weekly, but the difference in how I feel now versus then is like a total 180. Like a weight was lifted.
I no longer feel a sense of dread when thinking about work. I did love my previous job for many years and excelled at it – but in more recent years, it just wasn’t the same and being able to be free from that environment and culture is a total shift for me. It allows me to have a new perspective about work, personal fulfillment and my goals.
Leaving my job did significantly improve my mental health, but I still have good and bad days just like anyone else. One thing I’ve never particularly liked about being self-employed is that there isn’t a consistency in your income month-to-month like you have at a corporate job. However, there is also much greater opportunity for growth when you’re not limited in what you can earn and it has also been incredible to experience that. My mental health has improved because I believe in myself now. I made a hard choice and I’m succeeding and that is really validating and had increased my confidence.
I’ve had some strong feelings of “why didn’t I do this sooner?” and I beat myself up about it sometimes. I think about the “what ifs” or where I’d be if I had made this decision sooner, knowing full well I can’t change the past – I can only more forward and make the life I want NOW.
WORKING FROM HOME
I thought working from home would mean that I’d have my house more in order all the time. Laundry done and put away, all rooms picked up all the time. Truthfully, it has been far from that.
Two things I’ve learned is that I’m excellent at organizing our home but horrible at maintaining the systems I put into place. That’s why you’ll see me endlessly taking on the same projects (like cleaning out our pantry or junk drawer). I’ve accepted that this is how my brain works and that try as I might, I (and my family members) can’t always maintain those systems.
My saving grace is that I’m not able to work when there’s a mess around me, so my main living areas stay relatively clean and uncluttered. It’s what’s behind closed doors and cabinets – that’s where the chaos lives. I do have more time now to take on a spontaneous home project because I’m actually at home – so that’s been nice – but I don’t always have the motivation to do the extra projects, haha.
I enjoy working from the comfort of home, not having a commute, eating lunch at home and working wherever I want to. When things are totally back to normal, I can see myself working at a local coffee shop a few hours a week to have a change of scenery, but I do enjoy being at home, even if it’s not the perfectly organized oasis I imagined.
We didn’t put our kids in after-care this last school year since Kevin and I were working remotely, so we picked them up at 3:30 everyday. We’re continuing this routine during their summer childcare as well. It’s nice to have the kids home earlier and they love it too. I’m also happy to have the flexibility to occasionally keep the kids out of childcare to do something fun during the work week.
It has also been really wonderful to be home with Teddy all day. He’s so snuggly and just sleeps next to me while I work.
Our family went from seeing each other in the morning before school and a few hours at night to Kevin and I being home all day (although he is on a lot of calls/in virtual meetings upstairs so I don’t see him a ton) and getting more hours with the kids since they come home early too. It’s been nice for life to feel a little bit slower.
When the kid’s activities get back to normal, I’m also excited to be a little less stressed about having to book it home from the office to pick them up and drive them to their activity. I like that I can book them in an earlier class time and not have to stress about “how it will look” to leave work early and over Houston traffic. Overall I know this change is super positive for our family life – not just because I’m happier, but because we all benefit from this choice.
I’m grateful for every part of my career journey and work history because it led me to where I am presently. There are things I learned in the corporate world that greatly benefit me now and there are things I learned though blogging that that benefited my previous employers and potentially future employers. Working for yourself has a lot of benefits, but there are downsides too, just like in any job. Thank you for reading these reflections and for your continued support and kind messages – they mean so much to me!