At the start of 2017, I took a huge and scary leap: after nearly five years at my corporate, full-time job, I decided to work for myself as a freelance content creator.
Truthfully, I didn’t choose to leave my job. I was laid off. My main project was wrapping up and my company was restructuring; I was one of hundreds of casualties. Undeterred, I assumed I would freelance for a little while and eventually land a new full-time position. Besides, I was ready for more creative freedom, and to take my skills to new levels.
But as I began navigating job postings and going on interviews, I realized something in me was shifting. I wondered: Is this full-time in-office thing really the best idea for me right now?
For one thing, my life looks different now than it did the last time I was job hunting back in early 2012. Three years ago, I left New York City and moved 60 miles south to the Jersey Shore — a two-hour commute in each direction. Also, I’m no longer single and freewheeling; I now have a partner, pets and a home to take care of.
More importantly, last fall, after a lifetime of pushing down my traumas and soldiering on, I finally put myself into treatment. I joined a local mind-body wellness center where I began attending therapy sessions and taking small-group, women-only fitness and yoga classes. These days, during my lunch hour, I am at the center. It’s a positive, safe place where I am empowering myself in more ways than I ever thought possible. For the first time, I am learning what it means to thrive, rather than to merely survive.
The idea of leaving my wellness center behind and commuting into the city five days per week didn’t sit right with me. At my old job, I’d built trust over time and negotiated a flexible, work-from-home schedule. My position was largely results-driven, and even though I was required to be available and on-call for my supervisors at certain points throughout the day, I wasn’t chained to a desk. I was able to work when it made sense to me, which kept me happy, productive and constantly delivering the best possible product I could create.
But the positions I was applying for weren’t like my old job. They were with new employers who didn’t have any reason to trust me, and often insisted that I be on-site, regardless of the fact that the majority of the work I do is remote-compatible.
Each time I went for yet another interview and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a work-from-home contract, I felt a little more deflated.
I lamented the situation to my therapist. I told her I couldn’t bear the thought of spending twenty hours of my week sitting on an uncomfortable train. Further, I certainly wasn’t ready to give up my much-needed time at the center — a place where I’d built strength, boundaries and community — for an office-based position.
I knew deep down that I had to prioritize myself, my treatment and my well-being, or there would be nothing left to give an employer anyway. And no number of nap rooms, ping pong tables, or free lunches could convince my heart that a corporate life was the right fit.
Finally, I decided to follow my gut and go it on my own as a full-time freelancer. Working for myself would allow me not only creative control over the projects I took on, but also give me more control over my time and health.
At first, I was overwhelmed with where to start. But as I continued to follow my career vision and trust my instincts, something beautiful happened: I blossomed. Dreams that once felt out-of-reach now seemed possible. I started doing projects that really resonated with me. I found a calling in telling women’s stories. I submitted my first story for print in a magazine. And I’m proud to say I did it all while prioritizing my own needs and well-being.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my career started falling into place once I truly invested in myself and stopped trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
I recognize that not everyone can afford to make the choices I made, and I'm lucky to have the flexibility right now to make it work. I’m not saying I’ll never again work in an office or full-time environment, but for now, it feels truly revelatory to break free. And I have to say, that’s a great place to be.
Read more from Your Brain on Work, Levo's new series on our emotions, feelings, thoughts, mental health and states of mind as we navigate our careers. If you have a story you'd like to share, drop us a line at email@example.com.