It all started like this: It was 7:55am as I climbed the stairs heading into my office. Each step I took with my high 9cm khaki-coloured stiletto heels felt heavier. My knees were wobbling from exhaustion and anxiety. The knot in my gut was excruciatingly painful. A voice in my gut kept repeating: Get the hell out of here! This is not for you! I couldn’t take that visceral, integrity-pain of feeling out of place and completely off alignment anymore.
I went into the bathroom, called my mum sobbing, ‘I can’t take this anymore. I just stepped into the office and it made me cry once again. It’s really beyond my control.’
It was one of the many conversations I had with Mum over the years, where she would patiently listen to me repeating myself about how dissatisfied I was doing what I was doing. I was running on empty. My body was screaming at me of exhaustion.
I sat at my desk in muffled tears. I stared aimlessly at my screen. I attempted to reply to a client email. And in that unbearable dissonance, I made a decision. I picked up the phone and called my boss. I asked if I could have a word. A few minutes later, I barged into his office and stood in front of him. He greeted me with a lot of enthusiasm and praised me for winning that advertising pitch the other day, which made everything I was going to tell him even more difficult. I remained standing because moving my body was the only way I could stand up for myself and say what’s on my heart.
Me: Thank you, Boss. This is where my journey with you guys ends though.
The Boss: What do you mean?
Me: I’m like a fish out of water. I’m quitting. Thank you for everything.
The Boss: Did someone cross the line? Has anyone hurt your feelings? Were you disrespected by any of your colleagues?
Me: No. I just can’t stay.
The Boss: Look. You aren’t making any sense Chérine. You probably need a whole week off. Take this whole week off. Or take two weeks off. Or wait, listen—take a whole month off if you need it. Maybe you need to do something crazy like skydiving. There’s something you need to flush out of your system. Go do it. I’m not accepting your resignation.
I wasn’t expecting the way out to be so difficult. I was thrown into paradoxical feelings of being deeply moved by my boss hanging on to me. And, at the same time, I was nauseated to betray my gut feeling and intuition and to have to be accountable for another month for my final decision. It is my final decision to leave. Why should I wait for another month to confirm my decision? Gratitude and politeness took over me. And I replied…
Me: Thank you.
The Boss: Take as long as you need. You’re valuable to our team. Everybody loves you here. Just do whatever you need to do and come back.
Let’s rewind a few years back. I was a seemingly happy 28 year old woman working in this multinational advertising and branding agency. I was a brand strategist. I was a brand strategist with an entire team behind me. It was a high paid, dream job. I had a brilliant relationship with my colleagues and clients. I was getting promoted every four to six months because I was a high-achiever and a perfectionist. The ideal combination for a fast-paced, bottom-line driven industry. But on the inside, I was feeling miserable, dissatisfied, and on the verge of a burnout. I felt trapped. Not in alignment with myself. I wasn’t living up to my full potential. I wanted to leap and I was super scared. That indecision made me feel stuck and unclear for years. Self-doubt crept in and took over. I felt guilty for not feeling happy. Wasn’t it every self-starter’s dream back then to have a clear career path and a well-paid job in an international organization that respected you and acknowledged you?
No one saw how sad I was. No one even noticed me crumbling down from the inside. Because I was efficient nothing was reflected in my work. I managed to keep a smile on my face. Inside, my soul’s spark was slowly dying. All areas of my life were suffering. My excuse: there was no time or space for me to explore the activities that made my heart sing. The truth is I didn’t give myself time. I didn’t prioritise myself. Instead, I daydreamed about another life. Glimpses of it made my heart skip a beat. Sitting behind my computer, I dreamt of being location independent, expressing myself through art, and slowing down. I was longing for freedom, creativity, silence and to create an impact of some sort by sharing my philosophies with the world.
Those longings wouldn't let go. I could barely eat, drink or sleep. I was restless. My anxieties exacerbated by remaining where I was. That’s when I understood that deep desires can’t simply be turned off. And that's when I stormed into the boss’s office.
And one month later, I picked up the phone to give him my final decision.
Me: My decision is final. It’s a one-way ticket.
The Boss: Good luck. I know that whatever you’ll do—you’ll succeed. We will miss you.
FULFILLMENT IS A RADICAL ACT.