Updated: Sep 26
Recently, I had a past coworker message me about their feelings toward work. If you’ve been following my journey this past year, you know I am currently buckled in on the career change coaster. Some days, I’m scream-laughing all the way through the loop-di-loop and some days I’m white knuckling the chest restraint while enduring the inverted corkscrew.
I signed up for this rollercoaster, but I didn’t know how long it would be.
This coworker confessed to me how unfulfilled they are in their position, how frustrated, how much they want to spend their time, talents, and energy elsewhere. They felt the itch. The problem with the itch is once you scratch it, you can’t stop. This coworker admired my boldness in forging a new path for myself.
I don’t feel like I’m forging a path. I feel like I’m being dragged through a swamp of peanut butter and quick sand.
No one tells you switching careers is hard. I mean, people tell you but you never actually think you’ll go through with it. No one tells you that you might go to school for something you enjoy then a few years down the road realize you actually hate it.
The construction industry is a machine unkind to women, and this colleague told me how inspired they are by my situation. I racked my brain trying to think of what I’d said in public, what I’ve revealed in social media. I didn’t come up with a lot, but what I have said was enough for this individual to recognize unfulfillment when they saw it.
This coworker told me they submitted their resignation.
It’s the second person I’ve inspired to take action and leave an industry that no longer aligns with their values. Which, two isn’t a lot if you think about it, but it is weird that it’s happened twice, right?
I’m so proud of these people I’m helping. I didn’t think that sharing my story, being open, vulnerable, honest, would create a community that actually influences others to take action. I’m amazed, and slightly jealous, that these people are out there, forging ahead, making moves, and living life on their terms, and I’m still in the industry I hate.
And I found myself asking, “How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? Or am I right where I’m supposed to be?”
Remarkably, I am.
There’s a book I’ve been working on for 7 years now. A friend started it way back in high school and gifted it to me and let me flare it up and make it into something new. I got about 400 pages into writing when I realized something was off. Some element was missing. The rhythm was wrong, maybe I’m missing an instrument, the vocals are all over the place; the beats just weren’t quite in sync.
So I went back to the drawing board. I got about 200 pages in and tore those apart, too. Picking, inspecting, trying to understand where I was going wrong. I restarted this story again and again and again. I have rewritten and edited and revised the work so many times that I don’t even know what plotline to follow, what antagonist to focus on, what these characters want or need to experience in order to grow.
And I am so done. I am so tired. My wheels are sloshed with peanut butter and I am just ready for the quick sand to fill my lungs.
And then a coworker, who I barely know, thanks me and tells me I helped them.
I am going to figure out this story if it is the only body of work I ever publish. I am going to get out of this peanut butter pit by clawing with my bare hands if I have to. It may take a lifetime for me to switch careers in a way that works for me, mentally and financially. But I am going to do it.
I am going to edit my life. I can tear it apart and put it back together. I can rearrange the plot, change the setting, meet new characters until it clicks. As much as I am inspiring others, you guys are inspiring me.
You can revise your life. Your life doesn't have to have one purpose. You can have several.
I’ve been an artist since, oh, I don't know, six? Five years old? And I'm talking, like, legitimately an artist. I did a flower, this huge piece, out of pastel chalks and my mom hung that up in her classroom for years. I think she still has it.
My senior year of high school, I was 16 years old and chose to study Mechanical Engineering because I didn't think I could make money as an artist. I had a teacher who was offered a job with Pixar and turned it down to be in the classroom. He asked me one day what my plans were, so I told him, and he nodded for a while and in this quiet voice just said, "You should really consider pursuing art."
Okay. Weirdo. Fast forward a few years, I changed majors to study Construction Management and realized that the way to combining my love of art and construction was to work for Walt Disney Imagineering. But, I knew it wasn't gonna be easy.
WDI is one of the most sought after and competitive companies and my wise old professor (who used to enter class everyday saying "Good morning, sunshines," and I would grumble back, "Hello, raincloud") told me I should find a general contractor who works with Disney through the backdoor.
So I did.
I connected with a wonderful SoCal company, interned for them twice, was offered a full time position, and I was livin' in LA. Word spread that I was the Disney girl and we had a Project Manager working on Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and guess who got to go there while it was being built? This girl.
I had to sign an NDA, didn't really read it but I was willing to give my unborn children to see that long coveted land, and we set off. I was escorted backstage, put on my hardhat, and marched through the dirt. (Also, please don't come for me Disney; this picture was not taken on property . This is from a completely different project.)
The magic wasn't lost from seeing the bones of a building; It was enhanced. Knowing, seeing, and understanding how these iconic places and facilities go together like Legos increases the appreciation of the craft. That day, I was an Imagineer working for Walt Disney Imagineering and had reached my life's goal.
I was nineteen.
I am now twenty-three and couldn't care less about the politics of construction. I've been writing since high school but it wasn't until I moved to Arizona last year that I recognized I want to do something with it. Now I'm looking forward to reaching published author status and moving onto the next goal.
I love exercising and hiking and playing water polo and call me crazy, but I love airplanes! Who's to say I don't go get my pilot's license? Not me. Because anything's possible.
What you do is not who you are. Your job title doesn’t go on your tombstone. You can walk away if something isn’t serving you.
It doesn’t matter what you do. Painter, writer, teacher, entrepreneur, hair colorist, Chipotle line worker, mechanic, farmer - it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it matters to you.