It was around this time last year that I was seriously contemplating quitting my comfortable, secure nonprofit job in New York City. I loved where I worked. I loved the people I worked with. But I was 23-years-old and the pull of adventure was weighing heavy on my heart.
I thought about it for a long time. I talked to my parents. I talked to my best friends. I weighed my options and looked at my financial situation. Was I really about to quit my job?
May 31st would be my last day at my full-time, salaried job that I had spent nearly two years at. It was hard to leave but it was a decision that, by the time I made it, I was very confident in. A few weeks later, I would leave for the #SmileProjectRoadTrip, an adventure I will always be proud of.
When it came time to tell others about my next move, I was nervous. I knew everyone would have an opinion and I found myself nervously explaining on repeat that I was leaving my job to drive across America spreading Kindness.
In general, people responded overwhelmingly well. They wanted to know how they could support and follow the road trip. Their excitement inspired me. Maybe I was on to something.
But then someone looked at me and said, “Wow. This is a really, big change. Interesting really. I just thought that you cared about your career. But I guess we’ll see how this goes for you.”
It took me a moment (while I tried to laugh it off) before I realized this person wasn’t joking. And they meant well, truly they did. But at that moment, something felt a little, well, off. I smiled, shrugged, and lacked the confidence to back up my decision.
Sitting here now, removed from the road trip and the subsequent travel that followed for many months after, I am able to formulate what I wish I could have said in that moment.
“Yes, I do care about my career. But do you know what I care about more? Human relationships. The deep connection I have to my family and friends and the larger community. I care about volunteering and kindness. I care about having fun. I care about my job and my career, absolutely. But I am 24 years old and my “career” will always be there. Today, I care about leaps of faith, trusting myself, and doing the things I’ve always wanted to do. There will always be a nonprofit organization in my community that is hiring. But right now, I care about making my own path.”
I’m not encouraging everyone to quit their job tomorrow. Trust me when I say this decision took a lot of planning, patience, and sacrifice. But it is a decision I would make over and over again should I find myself in a sort of Groundhog Day scenario.
What I am encouraging everyone to do is find identity outside of what you do. You are more than the company that signs your paycheck. Not every job will be your dream career. Sometimes you’ll have the “this pays rent while I work on my side project” jobs. Those are okay too. But please, don’t allow yourself to get hung up on other people’s expectations of what you should be doing or when you should be doing it. The only person who gets to make those decisions is you.
Yes, absolutely, please care about your career. But care about your Happiness first.