She was so excited because usually, my mouth is a bloody mess. The hygienist asked what I’d been doing differently but nothing had changed – same toothbrush and brushing method, same flossing schedule.
Except one thing had changed: I’d quit my job in August to become a full-time writer. I am happier and less stressed now. She got even more excited when I told her that: “maybe that’s it! You’d be surprised what stress can do.”
It’s funny to think that my old job may have made my gums bleed. But the more I think about it, the less funny it is because that wasn’t my only problem. I was almost constantly nauseated, fatigued and agitated. And when I quit? Suddenly, not so much.
Around my 30th birthday, I reflected on how much time I spent at work: 40 hours a week with people I didn’t really like, completing banal, unfulfilling tasks, getting ticked off about things I could care less about. I was so bored I would sneak to the bathroom and play Yahtzee on my iPod, and hid a notebook on my desk so I could write when my boss was gone.
I asked myself if this was how I was going to spend my life – bossed around, my every minute between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.dictated by someone else’s whims, my salary determined by budgetary concerns. I didn’t like being an employee ID number – faceless, meaningless and expendable.
Time Magazine last week listed five reasons people’s jobs make them miserable. These reasons seem obvious: people only go to work for the paycheck; unfulfilling work makes you sick; work stress makes you gain weight; workers already have one foot out the door at all times; and overwork is deadly.
Not a recipe for a happy life, right? But sometimes, it seems like a bad job is as assured in life as death and taxes.
I write this from my home office. My dog is lazing on the floor behind me; I have a nice view of my backyard; and I am wearing sweat pants. Why didn’t I do this earlier?
Many of us don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing the ideal career. We have college loans, or kids, or other responsibilities. That’s the tough part about life – it inevitability creates obligation, and we have to rise to the occasion.
But sometimes, maybe we do have a choice. And the sooner that choice is made, the easier it will be. So think hard before you pick your path.
To anyone facing college graduation and the uncertain landscape of adult employment, ask yourself this: What kind of life do I want to lead? What actually matters? What kind of lifestyle is important to me?
If you rethink the kind of life you want to lead, maybe you don’t need that job, the one that pays great but makes you want to tear out your eyeballs. Maybe what’s really important is the freedom to call the shots on your own destiny, not the size of your paycheck.
Maybe it’s more important that your job makes you happy, and doesn’t make your gums bleed.
JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.
She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.
She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.