Back in Elementary school when I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t think about becoming a veterinarian or an astronaut like most of my friends.
No, my dreams weren’t very… hmmm… normal for a 10 year-old child.
So, what did I dream of? Well, I dreamed of being in advertising.
At my young age, I wasn’t sure exactly what that business entailed but I knew enough. I knew that I wanted to sell Barbie Dolls on billboards and when television commercials aired, I’d think of different ways to sell the products that were being marketed towards my family and I.
I distinctly remember the scene I’d loop on repeat in my head — I pictured myself in a burgundy pantsuit strolling down the streets of New York City, swinging a briefcase, and heading up to my cubicle in a sky rise office building.
As I grew up, the goal of becoming an Advertising Rockstar never changed.
I declared my major as soon as I entered college and I silently pitied those who were “undecided.”
There was never any doubt in my mind during those four years as an Undergraduate that I wasn’t on the right path.
I didn’t immediately find a job in the field post-graduation but rather, it was about a year after that I started meddling in social media professionally. I was working for a small clothing boutique in Nashville and the owner had asked if I could help them out with their social channels.
That experience was the first time that I was truly able to put my education to use in the “Real World” and needless to say, this experience hooked me. I loved being able to take what was going on at the stores and effectively communicate it out to the community using social platforms in a creative yet business savvy way.
I took the excitement I felt and I ran with it far beyond my time in Nashville.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself at one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in the world. It was everything that 10 year-old me dreamed of.
I worked long days that began with copious amounts of black coffee and ended late at night, on my couch with my work laptop. I dreamed about hashtags more times than I’d care to admit and during the morning commute, I’d wrack my brain trying to concoct the best way to achieve my client’s goals despite the Facebook algorithm.
I worked with some amazing clients, I went to some great agency shindigs, and my coworkers truly felt like family. Now, this may have been because we saw each other more than we saw our own family and friends but in that moment, I didn’t care. These people understood me and the challenges I faced day in and day out.
It was about one year into being in the fast paced, high-stress agency life that I began to fall apart.
I began having nightmares about missing important calls from my boss and I had permanent bags under my eyes. I would lose patience and snap at my friends and family over nothing. I didn’t care about the things that once made me happy, such as writing, but rather I found myself watching mindless tv during the free moments I had.
All of this was tolerable until a few weeks ago when I awoke at 3am from a vivid nightmare about a project I was working on. It was so intense and it shook me up so badly that I had sweat through my clothing.
I couldn’t get that night out of my mind and I began realizing that the prestige, the salary, and the experience wasn’t worth it to me anymore.
This left me feeling guilty and confused.
This career was everything I wanted and dreamed about my entire life. Most people in the business would do terrible things to have the opportunity to work where I did and on the accounts that I managed.
I spent days trying to discover why I was so miserable — The agency, the account, the brands, the coworkers, etc.
I looked for any and all reasons as to why I was unhappy because the realreason for how I felt seemed unfathomable: I just didn’t like advertising anymore.
I realized that I didn’t like what I was doing every day and I didn’t like what my boss was doing every day. For me, the endgame wasn’t something I felt passionate about and it’s hard to give a career your everything when you lack a yearning to move up in the business.
While this career choice seemed like a “dream” to me for over half of my life, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something better for me out there.
The problem is that, I didn’t know what that “something” was.
This is all I’ve ever wanted and there was never a Plan B, C, or D in my mind.
So, what do you do when your dream job doesn’t turn out to be your dream?
Well, I’ll tell you what I did and for a few very obvious reasons, this plan isn’t for everyone — I quit and I quit without another job lined up.
I knew that my happiness and my mental health were worth more than the paycheck I was receiving.
I knew I needed to get back to living a life I enjoyed, not one consumed with newsfeeds and hashtags.
Once I understood that leaving my “dream” would allow me to find my real dream, I took the giant, scary step towards living a life I could love, not one that was tolerable.
I don’t have all of the answers yet and to be honest with you, I’m terrifiedmore often than not when I think about the fact that I’m unemployed and mostly direction-less at 28 years old.
But at the end of the day, I truly believe that having the courage to say, “This isn’t the life I want to live” is more important than settling for an impressive job title and a big paycheck.
It’s up to us to fill our days with joy, happiness, and satisfaction. Sure, every day won’t be easy nor will it be enjoyable but it’s up to us to ensure we’re tipping the scale in favor of getting us to a life we love.
Walking down this foggy path towards happiness won’t be easy but I have to believe it’s worth it.