Who Would I Be If I Didn’t Care What Anyone Thinks?

It’s exhausting to spend your entire life trying to be someone you’re not. Even if you are failing left and right and you’re not convincing anyone, it still takes a ton of energy to convince yourself that you are doing things the right way – that there are no other choices – that you must be successful in the sense that you are self-reliant and have a job that is fancy enough not to merit any questions related to “what the hell are you doing with your life?”

Growing up with two narcissists for parents has put me into this situation, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get out of it. I hope. And, in some ways this chasing after being successful has added value to my life — at 20 if I set out to “find myself” I’d have no savings cushion, no safety net, and a whole lot more fear (of not being able to pay the rent, for example) and a much greater risk of having to ask for help. That’s not to say that I couldn’t blow through $500k in savings in the quest to find myself today, but it’s unlikely as long as I’m not too stupid.

Still, I’ve been in a rut for 12 years now and I can’t handle it anymore. The way my boss looks at me with this mixed angry-empathic glare of “how on earth did you convince anyone you belong here and deserved anywhere near the salary you’re paid” is not a delusional gaze, it’s a good question.

Taking the summer “off” while interviewing for jobs and traveling a bit isn’t going to solve any of this. It will be good to step away for a while, not think about work, and access what really makes me happy. But – I still need to make money. Maybe not six-figure salary money, but I need to earn a living… and I enjoy working at times. I’d be equally miserable not having a job for the foreseeable future – but perhaps that is part of the problem. I need to find meaning in life outside of work, so I can give my best self to work when working, and still have a life of my own.

I’m still torn about whether I should go back into a similar role (albeit at a lower level and lower paid) or if I should just call it quits and really focus on trying something new… even if it requires years of education (i.e., get a post-bachelorette certificate in counseling and then a PsyD 7 years later…) or, get a graduate degree in television and documentary production and become an editor for a news channel, which sounds like an ideal career outside of knowing that I’d be in my late 30s/early 40s working the night shift in a third-tier city in order to earn my credentials and work my way up, all for very low salary (and somehow manage to have and raise children through this time.) It just seems impossible.

Perhaps the logical thing to do is to stay in my current career but attempt to find a better culture fit, an easier role, a simpler position. Or, do I just take a leap of faith and go for something entirely new? I really don’t know what to do. Regardless, I’m working on an “unemployment” budget to figure out how to not dig too far into my savings during this transition period, and then I’ll have some time to figure this out.

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2 thoughts on “Who Would I Be If I Didn’t Care What Anyone Thinks?”

  1. What level are you at? I assume director or VP. At a larger company marketing managers (mostly senior managers) can make close to what you make ($150K+ all in: salary, bonus and RSUs) so I don’t think that getting an individual contributor role in the range of salary that you make now is out of the realm of possibility. That may be a good next step to consider to give you a chance to focus only on your own work (and not the work of others that you manage) and a smaller role scope while also learning under a more seasoned leadership team/leader. That might be a good next path and give you some breathing room (1 step back two steps forward). Just my $.02.

    1. I agree. However, larger companies do not consider me for these roles. Everyone sees my experience as “startup-relevant only.” I apply for large companies day in and day out and they do not call. Startups call me in a heartbeat because my biggest value is that I can do everything “good enough” — I’m not really that great at any one thing, but when they need one person to do everything, they call me… until they can afford to hire more people and then they don’t need me anymore. Then the cycle repeats itself. I’ve never had the opportunity to specialize, therefore I’m not even at “manager” level for a big company, which is why they don’t call.

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