I’m 27 and unhappy.

A post. because it’s been a while, and I miss writing.

I’ve been at my current job since the end of March. That’s what my last post was about. I took the job mostly because I wanted the chance to work for my now-boss again, partly because I knew there would be opportunities to transfer internally within this company after about a year, and a very small amount because I wanted a bit of a life challenge (more structure, more using my brain).

The other things I said in that post, unfortunately, are also still true. It isn’t my dream job (I still don’t know what that is). It’s still in software development, but I’m now further removed from actual developers, teams, and interesting technology (I didn’t know I would miss those things, but I do–on good days). I originally said that I would wait a year and then look for something else if I still hated it. That timeline has been dramatically reduced. I knew within the first few weeks that I didn’t like the job, and after a month or so, I knew that it was very different than what was actually pitched to me during the interview process. Pretty soon, I came to realize that my boss had also been somewhat hoodwinked into taking her role, and that she had also grown increasingly unhappy during her time in her job. Fast forward to early August, when she left for a 2-week European vacation and came back with a clear head and reset life goals: she told her boss that she was quitting, even with nothing else lined up, because that’s how unhappy she was. Since then, she’s been able to re-claim her previous role (also internal at the same company), but with more responsibility, higher pay, and several new direct reports. Her last day as my boss is next Friday. I’m very happy for her.

However, this leaves me in a difficult position. I’m 6 months into a job that I hate, newly responsible not only for my own duties but hers as well, and teetering on the verge of handing in my resignation on a daily basis.

My 27th birthday was on Sunday, and in keeping with my sort-of-tradition, I booked a trip. I went to Minneapolis for a few days to explore and (mostly) to get the hell away from Charlottesville. The week off work was the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. I’ve had trouble sleeping for about a year now (maybe longer?), but every night of my vacation I slept like a rock. I even slept on airplanes, surrounded by total strangers. This is completely unlike me, but in the recent past I’ve come to be a person I don’t always recognize. I like it a lot.

I’m rambling a bit, but I’m trying my best to create an accurate record of my thought process over the past few months, since I don’t post updates here often enough to have it captured.

For the first few months I was at my new job, I daydreamed a lot about quitting and setting off on a cross-country road trip with the intention of choosing a few ‘spotlight’ cities to spend longer periods of time in, in order to gauge whether I could see myself settling there permanently. I’ve lived in Charlottesville for my entire life aside from the 8 semesters I spent at Virginia Tech, and I’m so far beyond burned out on this town that it’s ridiculous. I’ve known for a long time that I’m done here, but I haven’t had the guts to change that fact. I made a list of places I’d want to go, including the cities I thought I wanted to move to, and started looking for remote work opportunities as well as jobs located in each place. That sort of fizzled out, and I don’t remember right now exactly why.

Next up, I thought I’d apply to grad school (again). My life dream for so long was to be an architect, and I was actually accepted to a Master’s program in Architecture in 2010. I thought I’d give it another shot. What’s 3.5 more years of school? I’ve been in the working world and hating every minute of it for 4 years. It seemed like a good possibility. Then I borrowed some GRE prep materials from a friend, never opened a single one, convinced myself that I’m not good enough at math to pursue this, got stressed out by the thought of trying to cobble together application essays and terrified by the thought of asking former professors for recommendation letters, and promptly gave up on that path. Again.

So now, after my week away from the office and a small taste of freedom, I’m back to the road trip dream. I was 100% ready to give my 2 weeks’ notice upon returning to work today. I’ve been trying to find someone to rent out my house, and I’ve started telling people (mostly family) that I’m going to quit my job and finally take this trip. I talked about it with my sister this weekend, and she told me “Katie, you’ve been talking about this for so long that if you don’t do it, I’ll be mad at you. You absolutely deserve this.” It was really nice to hear validation from someone else that I am in fact deeply unhappy with my career path, the lack of any real purpose in my life, and the fact that I am still in my hometown. Another item of note is that my dad, who is the staunchest of believers that you NEVER quit a job without another one lined up first, has been fully in support of my harebrained idea for a few months now. I’ve been confiding in him about my plans for an extended trip + eventual relocation for a long time now, and he has finally come out in full support. “Just do whatever you need to do, and I’ll support you,” he says. The last person I really need to convince is myself.

So now, as soon as I can get my house rented out, I’m going.

I went back to work today and told my boss that I’ll be tendering my resignation soon. I didn’t do it today (although I so wanted to), because I know it would be foolish to run off into the sunset with a mortgage payment, no income, and no itinerary. She gave me a lot of great suggestions about how to set myself up to leave this job on the best terms possible, a list of people I should get in touch with before leaving for remote working opportunities, and a still-growing list of cities I should visit. She’s been nothing but supportive of this travel dream for a while now, but I don’t think she realized until today how serious I am about needing to leave everything behind, and what I’m willing to sacrifice in order to do it.

So as of today (and this could very well change by tomorrow), my dream is to work until the end of November or a bit into December, try my very best to line up some sort of remote work opportunity, get my house rented out, and then hit the road in January after spending the holidays with family. I envision heading south for the winter, slowly making my way across the US, with home being literally wherever I find myself that day. I realize that it sounds insane, and that I might quickly come to hate such a nomadic lifestyle, but after 4 years of hating my various desk jobs, it’s time to try something new.

I hope to be back here more often with updates. I miss using my voice.

Spring Cleaning

I’ve had a major itch lately (and for most of my life) to just do… something. I think I have a chronic nostalgia, but for what? I’ve never been able to figure it out. 26 years now.

I haven’t written here for over a year, mostly because I’m not very interested in blogging anymore. There are a handful of design blogs that I still read daily, but I learned a long time ago that my personal blog was never going to become a hot-spot for traffic. But today I feel like writing.

Spring is finally starting to arrive. Today, at least, it’s 79 degrees and sunny. Just a few weeks ago it was snowing. I’ve learned in the past 14 months or so that I’m not a winter person. When I was younger, I complained endlessly about being hot or sweaty. Now I know that there’s nothing more miserable to me than endless snowfall and shoveling and being homebound due to crappy road conditions or a car that just can’t hack an icy hill. Also several weeks of sub-freezing temperatures. There’s nothing fun about it.

On that note, my car has been dying a slow death for the past several months. I’ve been casually shopping for new ones by browsing online. There are a few contenders, but I haven’t felt ready to pull the trigger until very recently. Three months ago my goal was to find a quality used car for no more than $8,000, and to buy it outright. I was talking with my dad while in the gym a few nights ago, and he said something along the lines of “None of us knows when we’re going to die. It’s important to save for later, yes, but it’s also important to do some living now.” I walked around the lot at a dealership yesterday and now I’m ready to take the plunge on a car payment.  I’m not even sure who I am anymore.

On another personal note, I’ve been single for over 8 months now. I have almost zero interest in dating and I can’t figure out why. I’m 26 – approaching 27 – and I keep having the realization that I’m now nearing the age where there’s a chance that I’ll truly be single forever. The thought of that makes me a little sad. Gynecologically speaking, I’m already past my prime child-bearing years. I have zero maternal instinct and no dreams of future children, so this isn’t something I’m worried about, but I’m approaching 30 and it would be nice to have found that life partner by now. I just have no desire to date. I wish I could just skip all that and land in the part where it’s already comfortable and easy with someone.

Now on to the biggest part: probably the reason I felt like blogging today. I quit my job. Friday is my last day, after 2 years and 4 months there. I have felt trapped in my career ever since I started on it, really, and it finally feels like time to do something new. Unfortunately, I’m not breaking out entirely to pursue a life-long passion or to do something heroic. But I’ve lived with complete mental atrophy for over 2 years now and it’s time for a change.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have a job with more personal freedom than is imaginable: I can go in late, leave early, take well over an hour for lunch, wake up and work from home just because I feel like it whenever I feel like it, and I have unlimited paid vacation time. Those are the things that have been nearly impossible to walk away from. But as I mentioned, I’ve been bored out of my mind 40 hours a week for over 2 years, I have no personal relationships with anyone I work with, and there’s no room for upward mobility in a company of only 25 people. So I’m moving into a new role in a much larger, much more established company starting next Monday. I hope it goes well, but I’m also approaching it realistically.

I’ll be giving up all those time-related luxuries, but I’m hoping I’ll gain new relationships and some new skills. I negotiated for extra vacation time, and my new boss is someone who I have previously worked for and admired. There are pluses, I just have to keep reminding myself of them. I don’t expect this to be my dream job: it’s still the same field and I’m still not passionate about it. But I’m looking at it as an opportunity to do something new for a while. If I hate it after a year, I can find something else. That’s my mindset.

This is a pretty big change. But I’m knowingly taking it on in an effort to get out of the life rut I’ve been in for so long. Even things like being in the office earlier (I’ve settled into a routine of going to work at 9 and being one of the first people there) and having to accrue vacation time are things I’m trying to view as new and exciting challenges, rather than pure annoyances.

So in a nutshell: I’m making some changes, I fully expect them to be difficult at times, but I’m ready for it because I’m choosing it. In a year, I want to know that even if I hated it, at least I tried. That’s what matters.

Commit

Today’s A to Z post topic is Commitment.

I’m pretty certain that I’ve written before about my life-long habit of missing out on most of my present-day life due to dreaming about the future. I have a terrible tendency to freeze in indecision, bury myself away in doubts or insecurities, and generally let opportunities pass me by. As a result I wind up feeling that my “real life” or my “future” is just around the next corner, and that then I’ll be truly happy with everything I have, and I’ll be able to settle in and live it up. But the fact is: this is my life. Including all the many pieces I’m not completely happy with.

So my goal for the rest of my 20’s is to commit. To commit to my life, my choices, and my activities – because this is the one and only chance I have. Whether this means *finally* taking the leap and quitting the job that isn’t “the one,” trying to start up my own business, moving away from my childhood town, or even just owning all my decisions and not sweating the small stuff, I need to commit. Because failing to do so results in stagnation, and there’s nothing worse than wasting all the precious opportunities that life brings and being left with nothing but nagging thoughts and countless lonely Saturday nights.

How about all of you out there? Have you mastered the art of commitment? Are there areas of your life that you’ve learned (with time) to take ownership of, in order to feel fulfilled?

Blogtember

Just like I was late in discovering Jenni’s Blog Every Day in May Challenge , I was also late to the party on her new Blogtember challenge. I came across it last night, and I’m going to join in!

Blogtember

Her goal is to get back to the basics of blogging. Writing every day, just for fun. Sounds like a good enough reason to me.

Today’s prompt:

Thursday, September 5: “Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered.”

I’m going to cheat a little bit and use the same quote I used during the Life Lessons post from the May Challenge…

Probably my all-time favorite quote:

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

-George Sheehan

It’s still at the top of my daily to-do list, because I like to see it every day. Sometimes I forget, and I slip into taking a pretty passive role in my own life. But then I remember that it’s me and no one else who decides who I’m meant to be, and only me who can get me there. If I have a goal, I have to have the courage, determination, and will to see it through. I have to be the force that makes things happen in my life; otherwise, I’ll stagnate.

Life’s Too Short

I’ve been thinking lately. (I know, I know. No jokes, please.)

There are 168 hours in a week.

For 40 of those hours, I’m at work. Just under 5 hours a week are commuting to and from work. That’s 26% of my time during the week (assuming that I don’t stay late or get stuck in traffic).

Let’s call it 56 hours dedicated to sleeping, 7 hours for showering/grooming/starting my day.  At least 7 hours are spent on mealtimes. That’s 70 hours for human maintenance tasks, which is another 42% of my time.

And then there are the decidedly-not-glamorous-but-still-necessary things like grocery shopping, doing laundry, running errands, paying bills, preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning the house, etc. I’ll be extremely generous and call that 5 hours a week.

After all those things, I’m left with 49 hours–or 30% of my week–for my own use. And as everyone knows, it’s never 49 uninterrupted hours. It’s an hour or so here and there, between doing all those other things.

Now, I’m notoriously bad at math, but even I know that these numbers tell a story.

In my case, they tell the story of a girl who’s 3 years out of college and still hasn’t figured out what she wants to do with her life, but has enough unsatisfying job experience to know that it’s definitely not what she’s been doing for the past 2 years. It’s the story of a girl who has 13.5 months until she turns 26 and has to start paying for her own health insurance. It’s the story of a girl who had a crystal-clear realization recently that every day she spends at work is another day of life opportunities she’s missing out on.

These numbers say that I’m unhappy (and wasting my precious life) every day that I set foot in my office, and that the clock is ticking for me to figure out just what it is I’d rather be doing.

I’ve realized that now is the most perfect time I will ever, ever have to quit my job and make the best use I can of these last 13.5 months of free health insurance (thanks, Dad!) + one year’s salary in the bank.

Last week, it hit me: my life is too short and too important to waste doing things I hate.

I’ve spent the ensuing days trying to decide whether I’m brave enough to stop doing those things, and to find new ones that I love. Now’s my time. I’ll never have such a perfect chance again.

brain dump

I feel like I haven’t been around much lately! But I’ve actually been busy. I think.

This past weekend, I was in Farmville for a wedding. P was in the wedding party, and it was a really good time. Nearly all of his college friends were back in town (as it was one of them who got married), and I always like to see them get back together. They all act like college boys all over again, which is more endearing and less annoying than it sounds. (Perhaps by the time we’re 30 it will be less acceptable.) I don’t know if a single photo of the two of us exists from the weekend. He wore a tux and I really wanted a picture. Oops.

The weekend before that, I headed to Rehoboth Beach for a bachelorette weekend for my college roommate. She gets married on June 29th, so P and I will be heading to Blacksburg for a wedding on my college campus! Again, I don’t know whether a single photo was taken to capture the weekend. We were also there during Tropical Storm Andrea, so we didn’t even see the beach (except for about 5 minutes after leaving a bar at midnight, when the bride-to-be declared “I want to put my toes in the ocean!!”).

Anyway, I worked today and am taking the rest of this week off. I’m pretty excited, as I’ve got some big things lined up, but I’m still not quite ready to share. (Hint: This is all part of the crossroads I’ve been dancing around in for two years now.) Hopefully sometime in the next week or so, I’ll have made some big decisions and will be feeling secure in them.

For now, you can find me pacing. My stomach has been in knots all day, and I’m a wound-up ball of anxiety. I feel like I’m simultaneously late for something really important and also forgetting about something major I was supposed to have done. I don’t like feeling this way, so hopefully things will shake out soon.

Life Lessons

Day 23 of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge is “Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you.”

BlogEverday

Whew. This is a great topic. I’ve learned more about life since college than I probably did while I was in college.

On personal development…

After I finished undergrad, I had about one month before I started grad school. I went straight into a master’s program in Higher Education. I was only 21 years old, and I started studying college student development. I was still essentially a college student myself. I spent a year learning theories on adolescent development and reading about the effect of college on students. Some of it was interesting in theory, and some of it was interesting because I was still experiencing it in practice. Somehow, reading that it’s now the norm for young adults to have no idea what they want to do with their lives made it okay that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Want to take a gap year? Fine. Change your career 10+ times before retirement? Totally normal. No one ever told me those things. It was nice to know that there are researchers out there who have scientifically proven that my generation (and those who have come after me) are more resistant to growing up than any generation that’s come before. It’s not just me. It’s everyone.

On relationships…

I was also in a relationship from the summer after my sophomore year of college until the spring semester of my grad school year. It lasted 2 years and 9 months, which is a heck of a lot longer than it should have. The emotional wreckage that ensued was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. After that breakup, I learned more about myself through the process of putting myself back together than I think I’ve ever learned. I learned what it takes to make me happy. I learned never to compromise my own happiness for someone else’s. I learned to love someone new. I learned that I could bounce back from anything. That’s a powerful lesson.

On finances…

When I finished my Master’s program, I had about $29,000 in student loan debt to repay. I entered my repayment period in November 2011, and I decided that I wanted to double up on my minimum monthly payment, and have my loans paid off entirely in 5 years. I’ve been paying twice what’s required every month since then, and I’ve got it nearly halfway paid off. It’s nice to log in to my account every month and see how far ahead I am on payments. This month, my reminder states “Your next payment is due May 21, 2015.” Financial responsibility is something my dad has always instilled in me, and I’ve learned to (and been fortunate to be able to) get way ahead on tackling my debt.

I remember reading on Devon’s blog that “Rich people tell their money where to go. Broke people wonder where it went.” (That’s probably a Dave Ramsey quote.) It stuck with me. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be “rich” to be in control of your finances. It’s just a matter of living within your means. “Rich” means something different to everyone. I’m still struggling to figure out exactly what the magic number is for me, but I’ve certainly learned that it’s not quite as big as I once imagined.

On happiness…

This one is huge. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing adventure in my life. I’ve written a lot recently about struggling with professional and personal decisions. I think I’ve also mentioned that a lot of clarity has come with the epiphany that I don’t have to and will most definitely not be in my current position for much longer. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to separate my work life from my personal life, and to put a lot of care into my life outside of work.

I like to read. I like to travel. I like to drink wine. I like to spend time with P. I like to run. I love animals. I like adventures. I like interior design. I’ve come to really enjoy blogging. For a long time, I didn’t know many of these things, and I certainly didn’t make the effort to pursue them. Lately, I’ve been very specifically focused in on ways to enhance my happiness. And I can tell you: it’s well worth it.

In closing…

Probably my all-time favorite quote:

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

-George Sheehan

I don’t even remember anymore when I first came across this quote, but I’ve had it displaying on the top of my daily to-do list ever since. It’s never faded in meaning or power for me. When it comes down to it, it’s me and no one else who decides who I’m meant to be, and only me who can get me there. I just have to have the courage, determination, and will to do it. And in the past few years since leaving school, I’ve built up each of those things in droves.