After many months, I can’t believe I’m finally sitting at my desk, blank page in front of me, and typing a new blog post. Today is day one of a new chapter in my life. It’s the first day I’m officially ‘funemployed’ while I figure out my next steps. I did something I didn’t imagine happening for a long time—I quit my job. And I did it to put my mental health first.
It wasn’t an easy decision by any means and I was too scared to quit for two reasons—financial security and guilt. For the past six months, I was grappling with this overwhelming guilt and confusion. I had started a job in the middle of the pandemic. I was—and in many ways I still am—so beyond grateful to have found work during such a difficult time and have financial security. How could I even fathom the idea of leaving, when so many others (including my own friends and family, and myself at the beginning) had lost their jobs. But after a couple months my loved ones started pointing out I didn’t seem happy. I was in total denial at first, making up excuses to overlook how I really felt.
It was over the holidays that I went into a full depressive episode—one I hadn’t felt so intensely since high school! Deep down, I knew what was wrong, but I was too afraid to face it. I was one of only three women, the 1% minority at my workplace, and the constant othering and micro-aggressions had triggered old trauma in me.
It got to the point that I was crying every single day. From the moment I woke up in the morning to when I went to sleep at night, I had crying spells. I’m pretty emotional by nature, but this was next level and definitely not okay. I was consumed by anxiety and would lay in bed for hours in the morning, filled with dread. I didn’t want to, and physically couldn’t, get up. Getting up, going to my computer, and somehow mustering up a happy voice on calls became my one and only daily accomplishment.
I lost all my creative drive and stopped blogging, vlogging, and creating content in general. I was playing mental gymnastics every day. On the weekends I was still anxious, and felt nauseous every time I got a phone notification. I was too mentally drained to properly advocate for myself and try to find another job. I was gaslighting myself at this point, invalidating my own feelings and truth.
As a woman of color who has earned her seat at tables, I am not afraid to voice my ideas. But I also know when they’re not wanted and to keep my head down and quietly do my work. But then to get gaslit and repeat the cycle over and over is not cool. There were instances of singling out, being gate-kept from projects, micro-aggressions, and othering. The worst was when I only took two days off in seven months, to spend with my family for our cultural holiday (literally my biggest holiday of the year) and got threatening emails, telling me my work is lacking.
The Breaking Point
One day I was mindlessly scrolling through my phone, and went through my Instagram story archives from last spring. I had been laid off then and was living back home during the pandemic, but I was so happy. I was creating content, connecting with my community, and even giving back by tutoring students online in writing. There was a constant smile on my face. I looked at myself in the mirror in that moment and saw how hallow and lost my eyes were. Something in me snapped and I hit a breaking point. I was tired of feeling that way and wanted out.
I knew I needed a greater mental health resource though—to tackle the trauma and help me accept my own feelings without guilt—and found a wonderful new therapist. Therapy has been incredible, and although it confirmed what I was afraid of (I’m now diagnosed with depression), I feel much better. Day by day, I worked on getting better and my exit strategy. With no full-time job lined up, I figured out my budget for the remainder of my lease. I wrote a date on my calendar for when I’d put my two weeks in and my final day. Slowly, I wasn’t dreading getting up in the mornings. I now accept my feelings and let myself take breaks from anything—no matter how mundane—that are too overwhelming.
Following My Truth
Today, I feel a sense of calm, I’m smiling, and my creative juices are flowing again. I’m now freelancing, career coaching, and creating new content while I figure out my next steps. Putting my mental health first was the best decision I’ve made for myself in a long time. It’s easy to fall into a ‘failure’ mindset in this situation, but I refuse to see myself that way. We need to remember that it’s okay to put our own health and wellbeing first. It’s okay to not be married and be a homeowner by 30. It’s okay to go back to school and start over in a new career on your timeline. And it’s okay to leave a toxic job, even during a pandemic.
2020 was hard enough on us all. Not just with the pandemic, but the movements and reckoning of truths that heightened throughout the year. In 2021, you cannot just say you’re an ally to any marginalized community without checking your privilege and putting in the work to unlearn internalized racism. You cannot ignore the fact there is a lack of representation at your drawing board. Up until the last day, my name was misspelled on the company website. The best lesson I learned, was how to not treat my own coworkers, colleagues, or employees in the future.
Quitting a job is not easy by any means, and for many it’s an only source of income, or their families rely on that job for support. In 2021, the traditional work-life model doesn’t really hold up and we shouldn’t shame or judge others for having alternative career paths. Let’s advocate putting our mental health first instead. Working is a part of life, but we shouldn’t waste time in environments that steal our happiness. Whatever your current situation, I hope you remember how valuable you are and do what is best for you.
Wishing you the best,