When I was a little girl growing up in California, I had 3 wishes for when I grew up.
I graduated from the highly-ranked New York University Stern Business School with a job in hand at a top 5 management consulting firm in NYC. I was ambitious and excited.
I was in the city of my dreams with the job of my dreams. I had also met the man I wanted to spend my life with during business school, and we were engaged to get married.
As I started my career in NY as a management consultant, I traveled by plane, train and car to different cities and worked at Fortune 100 and 500 clients with senior executives. I stayed in top hotels and dined at Zagat-rated restaurants in every city. It was glamorous and always challenging.
I was gone from home and my then husband for 4 days and 3 nights a week. I didn’t mind it. I loved the consulting lifestyle. It was fast, busy and never boring.
One day, I happened to notice that no one EVER left by 5 or within that hour. If anyone did, they were looked at by colleagues like they didn’t care about your work. Even if they had come in early, completed their work and/or were working later.
I started seeing glimpses of a few other things at work that were subtly ingrained in the culture. . .things that were started to wear on me, leaving me stressed and uncomfortable.
For example, during my day, I would have a minimum of 5–7 instant messaging windows open, all with urgent requests that needed to be completed “right that second.”
Work was a constant state of “fire drills” and immediate client deadlines; my heart would beat at what felt like almost double the speed it should have been beating.
Every evening, I received and sent dozens of emails between 9pm and 1am from my hotel bed. Those were “normal” working hours.
The following morning, the hotel gym would be packed with fellow consultants at 6am before getting to work around 8am!
On top of regular client work, which was a 40–50 hour week minimum, there were expectations to be involved in firm-related activities, proposal development, and regular performance evaluation activities.
These always flowed into the weekend, and were “mandatory” to be promoted to the next level, which was ALWAYS top of mind for me and other colleagues.
I was ambitious and this was the only road I knew to get ahead. This lifestyle is all I knew — and it’s what everyone around me, in my circle of friends and colleagues, was living.
One day, something happened that changed my trajectory.
My husband was at home with our two kids, our then 4-year old son and 3-year old daughter, as I traveled one January. He was preparing to take them to school and then go to work.
He took care of them the mornings and nights I was gone and his support was a big reason I was able to have to lifestyle I had.
There was a blizzard while I was away. My rental car was literally covered from top to bottom with snow, and the hotel staff helped me shovel it out while I stood watching in my work heels and Tumi work bag
At home, my husband had to shovel out the car on his own, get 2 kids ready, and take them to school. Until he found out that their school was called off, so he had to take another day off of work.
It was the third day in 2 weeks that cold January that he had to take off work to care for the kids when their school was off.
That week, I still was not able to return because I had a meeting that I needed to attend.
When I finally returned home that week, it hit me.
I couldn’t keep working in a career where I barely had time to come up for air, where my days were constant fire drills, and where stress was the norm.
I couldn’t keep putting myself second — my health, my happiness, and my family.
I wanted to be able to pick my kids up from school once in awhile, and from the bus stop when they got older. I wanted to help them with their homework after school, at least some days.
It took a blizzard to open my eyes, but they opened wide. Success to me no longer meant that I felt stressed and busy all the time — because I was sick of feeling that way.
I didn’t quit my job. I really didn’t have a choice — we had school loans to pay off and two kids in daycare that cost as much as kids in private college. I had goals about the life I wanted to lead and the impact I wanted to make on the world.
I did two things. While I had been working in my demanding job, after I had kids, I had a lot of weight to lose. I had created a system where I changed what I was eating, learned exactly what to order when I ate out, and as a result lost 40 lbs. in my busy lifestyle, without spending a lot of time going to the gym.
Many other professional women were curious and asked me again and again how I did it.
So I explored how to make money on my own, and I soon started my own business on the side coaching high-performing women on how they too could lose weight, get healthier and regain control of their bodies, using the system I had created.
Meanwhile, I transitioned my demanding consulting career to an internal business development role where the priorities and role were less intensive and more flexible. This also meant my potential for promotions and high-pay raises disappeared, but I was ok with that, especially given the income I was able to generate on my own.
Three years later, I’ve doubled my income and I have kept the 40 lbs. off I lost while becoming more toned. I sleep for 7–8 hours a night, eat healthy, and feel amazing. Stress is starting to feel foreign to me, which I never would have believe was possible before.
I plan my schedule, have more predictable yet still interesting days, and fire drills happen once in a while, instead of constantly.
I’m able to pick up my kids from the bus stop, and help my 7-year son with his reading comprehension and my 6-year daughter with her spelling. We even have energy to go hiking, skiing and skating on the weekends!
It’s possible to have a life where you thrive from your work and take care of your wellness and loved ones. I had to walk away from the burnout culture to get it.
Now, that fast sports car is all that’s left on my list.
Originally published at medium.com