We’ve all heard the cliche, “Life is too short to ____.” Fill in the blank. Example: Life is too short to waste time worrying about things we can’t change. So focus on the positive! Recently though, a friend said to me, “Christina, life is also too long to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy.”
For the sake of context, she had recently quit a job she loved because she was overworked and under appreciated, and I had just left my safe, solid, well-paying job because I didn’t like what I was doing. I was constantly questioning my decision to leave — as did my family and friends. On the outside I had a great job, at a well-respected law firm working for two incredible bosses. And from the outside, all of those things were true. However, on the inside I was miserable.
While the work I did was challenging and I was learning a lot, I spent the majority of my days behind a desk with very little person-to-person contact, which as an extrovert, is crucial for my energy level and overall well-being. I lived for the couple times a week I had an assignment that took me out of the office, into meetings and interfacing with absolutely anyone. Those opportunities were few and far between, and when I asked my boss if those chances may improve he basically replied “outlook hazy unless you pass the bar exam” (Crazy 8 Ball reference hopefully not lost on you.) The idea of taking the exam while working full time again made me want to crawl into a hole and die.
At that point I had been at the firm for a year, taken the bar exam three times and failed by a point or less every time. In the few months prior to the conversation with my boss I wasn’t sleeping, I had regular daily anxiety attacks and burst into random crying episodes that would usually end with me calling my Mom. Finally, it dawned on me that I was spending a lot of time and money on the bar exam — the only point of passing which was to be able to do something I wasn’t sure would make me happy.
My exhaustion came from all of the extra energy I was spending trying to keep it all together, pretending everything was okay, and losing sleep over the honest fact that I wasn’t happy and as a result I no longer felt like myself. On top of all of that, I felt guilty that I didn’t like my job because it truly was such a great gig! It just wasn’t great for me.
My turning point came when for one solid week straight I had at least one panic attack, Monday through Friday. I told my bosses that as much as I wanted to be the person they needed, I couldn’t be. I told them that I would stay on until they found my replacement, but that we needed to start looking for that person immediately.
I ended up staying for 8 weeks after that conversation with my bosses. Then I transitioned my replacement for a week and left on excellent terms with the firm. As luck would have it, the day after my last day on the job I was flying to see some of my college girlfriends who I hadn’t seen in a year or so. It was exactly the retreat I needed after this whole ordeal. While catching up with one of them and telling her I had left my job, she hugged me and reassured me that I had made the right decision. That’s when she said, “Christina, life is also too long to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy.”
And I think that’s the millennials’ take on the tried and true cliche that “Life is too short.” Life is also too long. People are living longer than ever and retiring later. So the thought of spending 40–50 years doing something we don’t remotely enjoy is daunting, overwhelming and, for me, anxiety-inducing. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if we embrace our truth, give ourselves permission to proceed in our passion and simply make ourselves happy.
Christina is a networking and personal development coach and speaker who focuses on college and graduate students. To learn more about what she does, visit ChristinaCoaches.com or email her at Christina@ChristinaCoaches.com.
Originally published at medium.com