Well, I am on two tight deadlines that are kinda of own making today, so naturally it was a great time to surf blogs and make exorbitantly lengthy comments on blogs I'd never heard of until an hour ago. Still, rather than letting all that hot air go to waste, I thought I would reprint my comments here. This was in response to a question from this guy's reader, who had a job that was not-so-slowly destroying his soul and wanted advice. Now this is a topic I know a thing or two about. Below, my response.
I am another one who has been there. Last year I took a job I knew I would hate, because everything kept saying how awful the job market was, etc. I was, predictably, miserable. Coincidentally (or not!) I also developed a chronic inflammatory disease that has been linked to stress and which has been very expensive and time-consuming but thank god is treatable.
All I can offer is what helped me:
1. See a counselor, stat! Even if you don’t want to, you don’t think you need to, you can’t afford it…whatever. Just go. Does the crappy job have benefits? Find out if they include mental heath. If not, go anyway. Someone will work with you. Make it work. The Psychology Today web site has a good finder tool for therapists.
2. Lean on your peeps. I leaned hard on my boyfriend, my friends, my parents, my cousins. I mean I was a *mess*. But it’s true what they say, you find out who your friends are. If you don’t have a strong support network, see item 1. But have the guts to ask for help.
3. “One is not got out of the cave, one comes out of it.” I think Simone de Beauvoir said that. The only person who can save you is you. I think the fact that Mark wrote this email is a good sign that he’s workin’ on it.
4. Brainstorming your options. OK, so the traditional “send resume, wait for call” approach is not working right now. What else could you do? Leave no stone unturned. Could you move in temporarily with family or friends to save money? Have a roommate move in with you? Move somewhere where you don’t need a car? Give up cable? Do you have a skill or knowledge set that other people would pay to have access to that you could advertise on craigslist? For me, even thinking of really heinous options was oddly refreshing. Thinking about how much of a personal failure it would feel like to move back in with my parents was kind of motivating. There is always a choice, and there is more than one. Thinking that the only two choices are “be miserable or lose everything” is just false.
4. Taking care of yourself. Getting enough sleep, trying to eat right, trying to get some exercise. I realize when your job totally sucks you dry and when you’re really in pain, it’s hard to do anything but numb out with food/alcohol/TV etc. Maybe think of one thing you could do that would bring you some energy, or just some fun. I hate to admit it, but all that cliche touchy feely stress management stuff kinda helps – going for walks, taking a bath, calling a friend, writing in a “journal.”
5. Hear yourself: the job is literally killing you. It’s literally sucking the life force out of you. Save your own life, man! It is really risky and really scary to jump out of a burning plane. So you have to pick – scary jump with uncertain outcome? Or certain death by burning plane?
5b. That said, you don’t *have* to jump tomorrow. As tempting as it is to drop it like a hot potato (and I’m not convinced that’s *not* the best idea), you could also start small. Start plotting your escape. Add one good thing to your life each week. Or take one bad thing away.
6. You gotta believe. I know all too well how hopeless and impossible it seems when you’re in the middle of it. You just have to go on faith that a better future awaits and that better possibilities await. It really doesn’t seem that way when all you can see is the reality in front of you. But it really is true, i’m telling you. When you ARE in the right place (or at least headed there), you can tell.
7. Recognizing that it’s the work of a lifetime to find out your life’s work. Mark has a really good start because he already knows that what he’s doing… ain’t it. Cross that one off the list. Every person has something that they can give to the world – sometimes it’s hard to recognize because it’s right in front of you, a passion or a talent that seems like no big deal because it’s such a part of you that you don’t notice it. But to put it another way, the longer Mark stays in this wrong job the longer he is depriving the world of what he has to offer. If you can’t do it for you, do it for the rest of us who need what you got!
My life isn’t perfect or anything now, but it’s waaaay better than it was. I still look back on that time and cringe. If there’s any use for it it’s the ability to tell people “no, seriously, just get out. it IS possible.” Changing my life around felt less like a magic wand wave and more like crawling out of deep well using only my fingernails, but at least I was going somewhere.
Even just from his comments, you can see Mark has a lot going for him – he is articulate, apparently well-educated, good vocabulary. I’m sayin’, times are tough. No one’s saying it isn’t hard. It’s easy to get discouraged. But you gotta fight for your life, the good life, the one your soul is rebelling against not having. In some ways, this is bigger than you. Obey!