I Left My Job During A Pandemic & Chose Me First!
While many people were losing their job, I was planning the exit for mine. Job security is always high demand but so is your mental health in the workplace. Taking this leap of faith was the best mental security I could have gained.
Posted April 13, 2021
It has been a long time coming since my last blog. I fell off from writing since last year, but I needed the time to refocus my energy on what I want to share with you now. Being a millennial feels like a completely different beast from all the other generations that exist. We fall between a weird spectrum of the old world and new world. Tradition tells us to go to college and get a great job to afford a quality life. Reality shows us that is not as true as it once was because college is a predatory debt that does not guarantee you a job after graduating. But if it does, you may start off at a 30k-40k salary which in most states is the bare minimum to meet the cost of living. More times than not it can feel like we are being punished for only doing what we were told was the right thing to do. Just like many of my counterparts I was falling into the repetition of working to live which I always vowed to myself I would not do.
It is no secret by now that mental illness and I are no strangers. Bundle that with working in mental health as a case manager/therapist in crisis intervention and you just opened up Pandora’s box. I was great at my job and I showed up with 100% everyday until I just could not anymore. Dealing with crisis after crisis after crisis just to get off work and come home to my own personal struggles began to deteriorate my mental health. On the outside, I made sure to keep up my composure and dependability to my youth and families because they needed me. However, the more I serviced them I was doing a disservice to myself.
Everyone sees the compassion and necessity of being a mental health professional from the outside. However, it is not an easy job and many of us face burnout if self-care is not part of our daily routine. The honest truth for me was that when I graduated from UConn with my Master’s in Social Work, I envisioned my career being in community organizing, research development, and/or policy analyst. It was never my intention to develop a caseload of youth where my role in their life would assist in preventing them from ending up in either the child welfare system or the juvenile system. Regardless of where I thought my degree would take me, I committed myself to almost three years in the District of Columbia touching the lives of over 70 families.
I believe in purpose and timing and my reason for being in my position as a Family Engagement Specialist was just the introduction into the many lives, I would begin to positively impact. That same purpose and timing also brought me to a place where I knew it was time to walk away from my job. Even though ending up at that organization was not my ideal job, I gained long-lasting relationships with co-workers who are now some of my closest friends. I was forced to get over my fear of driving in DC (if you ever drove in DC being from another state, you understand why!) and now I can navigate up and down each ward from Uptown to Southeast. I found and developed my voice in how I connect with people in the most authentic way that they feel heard and seen. I bring all these accolades up to say that though my path was redirected I still was able to take away quality aspects of my
journey to carry me into the next phase of my life. (Screenshot to the right is a conversation with my former client's mom.)
You might be wondering, well what was the breaking point for me to go through with my decision? Simple, the pandemic! My job was never in jeopardy and I was gainfully employed all 2020 to the point I was working three jobs at once (blame the Jamaican in me). The pandemic was the best thing to happen to me because it slowed me down and gave me time to learn myself. In high school I was an ambitious, fearless person who literally went after whatever I wanted. As I entered adulthood that energy for life slowly diminished. It became more of a choir than first nature, but I wanted to be that 17-year-old all over again. I needed to find myself in a way that complimented the woman I am now.
By no means was this an easy decision. I was extremely scared of failing and making a huge mistake. Choosing to leave my job came with many sacrifices including a pay cut, ending my health insurance, and predictability is one big charlotte roulette. I was ready to give up a level of “comfort” to walk into the unknown. It was important that I trusted myself and my talents during this process. I learned that I feared failure so much it was holding me back from flourishing in many ideas that I had. If I was going to get back that courageous side of 17-year-old Brittany, then fear could not overshadow my faith. I know that I am creative, and I am great at helping people, but it was not until I started trusting my abilities wholeheartedly (and a whole lot of praying) to build up the bravery to say, “I’m going to do it”. I still do not have everything figured out and some days are easier than others, but autonomy of this journey gives me all the Eat, Love, Pray feels. Even coming out to family and friends about this idea was not always greeted with excitement but a deep level of concern because the “what if’s” reminded them of the times things did not worked out and how I responded. I knew everyone meant well but the more I defined my plan on freelancing and still working my remote temp job it provided all of us comfort. Everyone cannot always see your big picture but having them trust in knowing that you know what you are doing carries out that support.
With COVID being a huge impact on my decision the constant public deaths highlighted the importance of living that brought me to ask myself “If I was to die tomorrow, would I be happy with the life I lived?”. The more the answer became no I knew a change needed to me made. Believe me, I did my due diligence in trying to find another job prior, but I started to receive more rejection letters than my confidence was willing to accept. Just like many, I did the necessary work to position myself to be successful in the workforce. However, allowing my worth to be determine by a one-page outline of a 10-year work trajectory and a 20-minute conversation could never truly capture the essence of my abilities. It is hard not to take those rejections personal when you have invested years and money to prosper. My life and my future are very personal.
I had constant anxiety when I was assigned a new case or received a call from a client because I never knew what trauma or crisis was on the other side.
I could not share the same energy and excitement as some as my colleagues when discussing our work.
I preferred having the stress of finding a new job than remaining in that job.
My drinking increased to almost drinking wine daily (not dependent but that’s how addictions can start)
My job started to become a paycheck and I was only concerned in doing ONLY what I was hired to do. (I was quick to hit you with the “Well, that is not my job!”)
I felt stagnant and that I was not fulfilling my purpose. I had this strong feeling that I should be doing more but there was no outlet for me to do so.
I felt more like a body than an asset to my employer.
I felt like I was projecting my negativity on to others at times.
I had many moments of impulsivity where I wanted to quit on the spot but was talked down on several occasions.
Majority of my therapy sessions was revolved around the stress of my job.
I started to have no filter on my thoughts because I truly just no longer cared. (Talking about ready to risk it all!)
The most important sign of them all was that I PRAYED!! I prayed for months. I asked God to show me signs to the point he probably was wondering what more signs did I want? I prayed for him to show me that I could survive on my own if I decided to leave my job. He did show me! Whether your religious or just spiritual, know when God, Allah, your ancestors, the universe, etc. tells you to move, follow that voice. Trust that intuition! Sometimes we lose things to gain something better.
I took all of 2020 to plan out my transition. I originally planned on leaving my job in March 2020 whether I had another job lined up or not. I decided to stay because we were able to work from home (biggest relief ever!) to buy myself some more time. I used that time to save money, push my graphic design business (Artsyrella LLC.), got a remote temp job in August 2020 which allowed me to save faster, and mentally prepared for the biggest risk in my life.
On January 29, 2021 I betted on myself and resigned. I did give two-weeks’ notice because burning bridges leads to nowhere. Now, two months in and I have no regrets on leaving my job at all! Choosing myself and my well-being was the best decision I ever made. Since I left my job, I have not been stressed, depressed, anxiety-provoked, nothing! My aura has
changed completely to the point other peopled called me out on my happiness and tranquility. That is one of the best compliments I could ever receive because I have been searching for this level of peace in my life for years. I wish everyone gets the opportunity to feel this level of freedom at some point in their life. It feels like heaven on earth knowing and applying the fact that I do not have to accept a person, place, or situation that does not serve me.
I have seen many people on Facebook expressing the same feelings I once felt about feeling stuck in their situation and being scared to make that shift. There are people who will view my decision as careless because I have a mortgage to pay, etc. while others view it as an act of bravery because I made a huge sacrifice to maintain my peace. I cannot tell a person whether they should take that leap of faith to leave their job or not because that is a decision only you can make. However, I would challenge you to ask yourself the same questions, “If you were to die tomorrow, would you be happy with the life you lived”. If the answer is no, then you need to follow up with “What are you willing to do to change that?”. Everyone is deserving of creating the life that they want to live.
If you are a rock in a hard place trying to deviate what your next career move should be consider all your options. Here are a few ways I was able to achieve my transition:
The obvious tip is to save! Do not underestimate your weekly spending because there is always something you can cut back on to save a little more. I loved getting my nails done but that was easily $70-$100 a month I could save, and I did.
Consider your health insurance options. As I mentioned I struggle with depression and anxiety, so it was imperative for me to stay connected to health insurance for therapy and medication. I chose to apply for Medicaid. I did not get full coverage but the percentage I was given allowed me to have a good health insurance plan for $145 a month. I know some people who got on their spouse insurance, used COBRA from their employer’s insurance, or straight planned on thuggin’ it out with ginger ale.
I am on a student loan forgiveness plan (the infamous PSLF track). As you know you need to either be fully employed with a non-profit or government job. Since I have neither (temporarily), I made sure to plan my resignation after I did my employer recertification to keep my payments low.
Whether you are choosing to leave your job to take a moment for yourself or to be an entrepreneur, make sure you have another stream of income. I poured energy into my business in 2020 so that when I made the transition in 2021, I had a solid clientele that brought in steady income monthly. Between my business, tax season, stimmys, and my temp (contract) job all my bills are still being maintained. Won’t he do it!
Network, network, network! You know this already but let me remind you again NETWORK! You never know when an opportunity will present itself from a random brunch or Facebook group. The biggest success of my business has been word of mouth! Build genuine relationships with folks without the intention of what can you gain from them. Genuine relationships bring genuine blessings.
Last, if you are anything like me, talk to people who are doing what you want to do! They can be your mentor or just a stranger you follow on social media. There are more people out there willing to help than not.
If you stayed this long to read this long chapter of a blog, then I know my testimony is for you. Whoever you may be, your presence is important and because of that you deserve to show up for yourself every day. You must solidify your worth because the workforce will rarely see you for your worth value if you leave it up to them. Risks are scary as hell but that is the only way be break away from cycles. Accept the fact in life mistakes are inevitable so it cannot be a crutch to stay in a place of discomfort. You are responsible for you own happiness so go out there and go get it!