I never thought I would be doing something completely different from those I was closest to until I attempted to carve out a life for myself that wasn’t mine.
I moved to New York City because many of my friends from college did. I moved to a city that is large, exciting and sometimes daunting because I thought it was what I had to do: the next step of my planned life. I watched my friends succeed in careers that paid well and required long hours. I started working a “grownup” job that had a nice title, but in reality was one that was shallow and unfulfilling. I felt stuck but also felt like I was in the “in crowd”—where we complained about jobs over happy hour and anxiously awaited the weekend.
I was the least inspired I had ever been, and I wondered if I would ever figure life out. One day I decided to take the plunge and leave. I left a title, salary and desk to figure out the right step. I let go of the life I thought was normal to find one with meaning for me. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably been one of the hardest processes I have ever had to go through, but it’s one that has helped me grow into the person I am and want to be.
I started working at a coffee shop in my neighborhood, a charming place the locals loved. Although my environment was already better, I worried that my friends and family were judging me for not having a career. I was still uninspired, but this time was different. I was embarrassed of what I was doing and using my job as my identity. I dreaded parties and meeting new people because of the inevitable “So, what do you do?” question. I felt ashamed for not being like everyone else. I worked with my head down for months, and went home crying about what a disappointment I had become.
Then one day, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself and looked up. I saw familiar faces, smiles, recognition, and I started talking. I began to get to know my neighborhood full of wonderful people who understood my way of being. I learned about their professions, their passions, and how they got to be where they are. I discovered that a bump in the road does not mean failure or permanence. I began to grow into a person who listened and observed. I took the time to listen to stories, understand impatience and be content with where I was. I learned that just because I was not satisfied with my job did not mean I had to be unsatisfied with my life. I practiced yoga after months of neglect, I picked up my pen, and I came back to life. I knew I needed to be doing something meaningful and thought of ways to live mindfully. I decided to apply to get my Master’s in Social Work and move back home to pursue what I wanted to do. When I told my friends that I was leaving New York, they questioned my decision, suggested I was crazy for even considering leaving in the first place and tried to persuade me to stay. The thing is: New York was not for me and is not the place where I want to live my life. Determining I had a different path from all those I am closest to took a hit to my identity. But I realized that it’s my identity, not theirs.
I learned much more about myself than I ever would have if I hadn’t left my comfort zone. Getting out and experiencing a different life taught me more than I could imagine. Sometimes I still feel some anxiety and find myself questioning my decision. But I know now that this life is temporary and just because I do not have a desk job, am not starting a business and am not exactly sure of what comes next does not make me less of a person.
I know now that my job is not my identity unless I decide to make it that way. I can honestly say that listening to my intuition and knowing what is and is not right for me is much more valuable than listening to other people telling me what I should be doing. Taking the time to explore my deepest thoughts and question what I know is something I will never take for granted, and I am extremely grateful to have become so in touch with myself this past year.
Abiding to the path we think is leading us in the right direction may only block us from what we truly need. I know that sometimes I’ll question my path, but it’s my winding road of life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Author: Caitlin Hatch
Editor: Caroline Beaton