I’ve always been a hard worker. I got my first job when I was sixteen as a Courtesy Clerk (ahem, grocery bagger) for Safeway. I quickly took on clean-up responsibilities for the bakery, deli, meat, and seafood depts after they had closed for the day. Picture me spraying off a saw covered in fat and meat parts – it wasn’t glamorous, but I didn’t mind.
My high school offered a program called “Running Start” for qualified students to take classes at the community college for full credit (for free). My Senior year of high school was primarily spent attending college and working 20 hours or so at Safeway. Sometime around then, I was moved up to Seafood Clerk.
I picked up a second job working at a friend’s mom’s newly opened ice cream shop. After a few months, I was asked to take on a manager role there and decided to take it and quit Safeway. The ice cream shop went out of business a year or so later. I still had my connections at Safeway and took a position in the Service Meat department of a new store.
At this point I was in college full-time and working full-time (40 hours/week). For a little extra money (and to help a family friend) I started working for a candy company making chocolates on Saturdays. I learned how to work on the conveyer belt that enrobes the candies in chocolate, decorate them by hand, and then pack them furiously at the end of the belt. After some time at my new Safeway store, I was promoted to managing the Service Meat department. This was a good-paying Union job and I was only 20 years old. I had three majors in college and graduated with my bachelor’s degree.
I was busy. I don’t remember feeling stressed. My point in breaking down my early working and college years isn’t to say, “hey, look at me, I’m so great.”
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how I got to this fork in the road.
How did I go from being 110% into my job, working to get promoted, to wanting to walk away from it within a matter of 12 months or so? How did I get here?
What I grew to realize about myself is that I tended to go with the flow almost to a fault for this reason: I wasn’t always in control of the flow. Whatever was in front of me would get 100% of my effort. It’s both a strength and a weakness of mine, in my opinion. A strength because I’m a hard worker; a weakness because I would end up advancing through jobs and careers that may not be what I want long term.
A few times, I found myself far down a road and had to go through the process of surprising my friends and family with a change: the career at Safeway that ended when I moved to California from my home state of Washington; marrying and divorcing my high school sweetheart; working as a restaurant manager at an oceanfront resort and then moving to San Diego to start fresh; and my last position as a Senior Sales Manager for a thriving software company.
Maybe this year’s shift was my final breaking point.
My body and mind saying, “Enough. You need to slow down. You need to enjoy what you have right now. Stop going full speed down these paths.”
Maybe you’ve found yourself far down a path you’re now unsure about, too. What I just desribed above is about twenty years of me trying to figure out what I want in life. But guess what? I’m thirty-five and finally feel like I’m starting to figure it out.
I wouldn’t be here without the process of trying things, working hard, and listening to my intuition about if it felt “right.”
Even if it feels scary to change your mind about something, if you know in your heart you need a change, push through that feeling. If you do it thoughtfully (that piece is key), it will be worth it in the end.