James J. Kriegsmann, Jr. Headshots, Patricia Steffy, Contact Sheet

Seven Years Later (And a Tiny Bit Wiser)

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James J. Kriegsmann, Jr. Headshots, Patricia Steffy, Contact Sheet
Untouched headshots by James J. Kriegsmann, Jr.

In April, I celebrated my seventh anniversary of leaving my stable, corporate job. It was a job I held for nearly 17 years. It was also a job that was taking a bigger and bigger toll on my health and my state-of-mind. I saved money. I planned. I hoped for a change that would allow me to stay. And when that didn’t come, I took a leap. Seven years later, my life couldn’t look more different than it did when I quit my job.

When I was contemplating quitting my job, I had a lot of conversations with my parents. I figured if anyone would talk me out of walking away from a stable income, it would be them out of concern. Instead, I was so fortunate to have them be supportive of the idea. As my mom said, “If you stay, you know what every day will be like. If you leave, who knows what the future holds.” It was that hope for a better future or at least one that I didn’t dread, that helped me make the move.

Seven years ago, I worked every weekend, most nights, every vacation, and started checking my Blackberry at 4:50 a.m. every day. It was the kind of life that involved panic attacks or deep funks on Sunday nights, and zombie-like plodding through the weeks. Creativity was being killed off, and while I was in demand, I never felt particularly valued or like what I was doing really mattered. I had no time for anything else. I’m a homebody (or a couch-body) anyway, so trying to get me to socialize with my schedule was pretty difficult. I never dated (though that was as much LA’s fault as the job’s). Now, I actually see friends. I have a social life. I can work at the beach, and my schedule is my own.

And I got married in May 2017. Yep, I wasn’t kidding about my life looking different now.

I’d love to say that I was a brilliant success from the day after I quit my job. It hasn’t been that easy. I wrote a book. I filmed a pilot for a web series I wrote. I wrote a feature film script. And I became a travel writer. All of this means that there are daily financial and motivational challenges that I had never faced as an adult. I have had to create a support network with friends and my husband in order to keep going. I have had to learn to network (something I am terrible at still). I have had to learn to ask for help – something that makes me queasy whenever I do it. Despite the struggle, I wouldn’t go back.

Will I ever have the financial security I had back then? I don’t know. Success is somehow defined differently now, although I’d like to think financial reward will be part of it. This life is now filled with my choices. And some of them have been terrible, “what were you thinking?” choices. But those mistakes were mine, and I learned from them. I’m thinking of sharing some of those with others who are also contemplating taking the leap towards something better in a “Quitting Your Job” series.

This blog was born out of the need to celebrate the little wins and to stop saying “someday I will” and get to the “today I am” part of life. I’m not going to lie — that’s been the toughest part for me. Quitting the job was my first step.

 

[Note: The photos are part of an untouched contact sheet. Headshots were taken by James J. Kriegsmann, Jr. in New York and represented my first real headshots. Talk about “Those Someday Goals!”]

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