Seven years ago, I worked for an economic research firm as a public relations executive. I made excellent money, and I was good at my job. I even liked my boss. Every second I was at work, though, I wanted to shove a hot poker into my eye. When I would sit in bed at night, in those moments before sleep, the phrase “unfulfilled life” continuously looped through my mind. I still can’t tell you exactly what it was that was so awful; I was just in the wrong job, on the wrong path, and every ounce of me knew it.
Fast forward to the present. I don’t make close to what I used to, I work longer hours, and some days I’m downright awful at my job (see the comments to my Semi-Homemade Cooking post for proof). The difference is that I’m now in the right job for me, and at the end of every day I am thankful for this blessing. I get to write full time about a topic I love and interact with incredible readers and an amazing staff.
Somewhere along the way, my husband and I sat down and talked about what were the most important things in our lives. At the top of the list was our relationship. Also on the list, and in no particular order, were our family, friends, pets, food, shelter, spirituality, happiness, and being able to save money for our future children and our retirement. We agreed that we want careers, we are passionate about working, but believe that our careers should match our priorities and not the other way around.
My husband quit the job he had seven years ago and started a company. I quit the job that made me miserable and eventually started working at Unclutterer. Both of us manage staffs across the country, but telecommute from our home office. Our desks are literally seven feet away from each other. We ran the numbers, and this decision to work side-by-side results in us spending 2,200 more hours together a year. And, since our top priority is our relationship, our working arrangement is in line with that priority. Would I love it if someone wanted to give me huge bundles of cash to do my job? Of course I would. But, right now, a massive salary isn’t my top priority.
I’m glad that other people choose to live differently than we do. The world would be an incredibly boring place if we were all the same. (Additionally, I think many couples would hate it if they spent 24 hours a day together.) My point is that a person doesn’t have to remain in a job he or she hates just because the pay is good. There are always other options. Think about what you would do if you were downsized out of your current position, and follow that path. Consider a career that aligns with your life priorities. Apply for a job in a field that interests you intellectually. Or, if spending more time with your family is your priority, look for a job closer to your home so that you don’t have to make a two-hour commute every day. The change can be lateral, it doesn’t have to be for less money. But, if it is for less money, look for ways you can reduce your expenses. Only you know what changes you could make and how you would make them. Just remember that your career doesn’t have to be a punishment, and, if 40 percent of your life is spent working, it should at least reflect your life’s priorities.
If you have children, you may be interested in following the blog Zen Habits. Leo has six children and made a career change in much the same way I made mine. He talks about this decision on a pretty regular basis in his writing.
Also, if you need to stay in a job you hate on a temporary basis, you might want to check out the post How to Keep a Bad Job from Affecting Your Home Life that I wrote for RealSimple.com.
Speaking of careers, you also may be interested in my post today on RealSimple.com about the possessions of a long-haul semi driver. It’s titled, Simple living, trucker style.